Thursday, July 26, 2007

Definitive Catholic bathroom book

John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak's The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey & Song is a hoot. If you look up "snarky" in the Catholic dictionary, you'll find a picture of this book. You'll find the answers to questions like:
  • Why do Kentucky whiskeys bear the name of the famous French royal house of Bourbon?
  • How did pisco become the national drink of Peru? (See answer below)
  • Is vodka Russian or Polish in origin?
It's a random walk through the history of Christendom, viewed from an epicure/enophile perspective. Thoroughly Catholic in its attitude and orthodoxy, chock full of recipes (Matychowiak is a chef), Guide to Wine takes the givenness and goodness of creation and physicality seriously. It's a funny celebration and will leave you chuckling and gabbing with friends. Highly recommended.

Oh, and about that pisco:
[Catholic clergy] march[ed] through the country on foot[,] learning a dozen languages to preach the Gospel without the benefit of gunpowder. . . . When the priests saw the conquistadors robbing the country of everything not nailed down, and enslaving the natives to work in silver mines, they started defending the Indians' rights and organizing them on farms. Jesuits taught the Indians to grow grapes and ferment them. . . . Enraged Iberian vintners — don't cross these people, trust us — rioted for their right to soak the colonials, and in 1614, the ever-meddling Spanish Crown outlawed the sale of Peruvian wine.

The ever-crafty Jesuits applied their scientific training to invent a new drink which fit neatly through a loophole in the law — a brandy that was soon named for the earthenware containers which held it, piskos. . . . "[P]isco" soon caught on throughout New Spain, and gave the long-suffering Indians an industry they could count on . . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Theresa Duncan, R.I.P.

The New York Times reports that Theresa Duncan took her own life earlier this month, apparently followed in suicide by her boyfriend Jeremy Blake.

Theresa Duncan was my colleague at a New Media startup in DC in the mid-90's. She and Monica Gesue were the creators of Chop Suey, a CD-ROM entertainment that was brimming with wit and whimsy. Theresa was sui generis: smart as a whip, ambitious, with a biting wit and a commanding presence. She was an outsize personality in every way -- a constant edge and a twinge of sadness. I remember being startled to find that a wisecracking fashionista was also a devotee of Martin Heidegger. It saddens me to think I'll never bump into her in NYC and have another startling conversation. Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE: Theresa Duncan created this charming clip below. Enjoy:

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