By the Light of the Silvery Moon

by-the-light-of-the-silvery-moonJohnny Welles believed the only thing he had in common with his father was a name. The elder John Welles, although present in body, was deficient in every way possible in his youngest son’s life. His father left the parenting of Johnny and his three siblings to their stepmother, Collie. While Collie’s influence in their young lives kept them on the straight and narrow path, their father’s absence had a negative impact, especially on Johnny. The effect would have far-reaching consequences and make Johnny question as an adult which was stronger in his life: nature or nurture.

John Welles the elder’s downfall was the result of his predilection for alcohol. His poison of choice, moonshine, also known as white lightning, hooch, homebrew, mountain dew, white whiskey, and white liquor, is a high-proof, distilled spirit often produced illegally from unlicensed stills. The liquor, rarely aged in barrels and coming in at 190 proof, is typically made with corn mash.

One source stated that the term moonshine came from moonrakers, used for early English smugglers and the clandestine nature of the operations of the illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey. Another stated that it was due to the fact that distillers always worked at night. I suspect it’s a little of both.

Despite its illegal status, or perhaps because of it, John Welles the elder managed to make just enough money to indulge in his favorite addiction to his own detriment and that of his family. So why was moonshine illegal then and still today? Per Michelle Tsai’s 2007 post, Why is Moonshine Against the Law?:

Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine. Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and $.05 cents for a can of beer. No one knows exactly how much money changes hands in the moonshine trade, but it’s certainly enough for the missing taxes to make a difference: In 2000, an ATF investigation busted one Virginia store that sold enough raw materials to moonshiners to make 1.4 million gallons of liquor, worth an estimated $19.6 million in lost government revenue. In 2005, almost $5 billion of federal excise taxes on alcohol came from legally produced spirits.

If it weren’t for the harmful effects the high proof and often poorly produced liquor has on people, I’d vote in favor of the moonshiners as our government has done such a pitiful job of handling our taxes and doesn’t deserve any more of our money.

Train Ride in My Kitchen

 

Last year, Will and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in August. My brother, Heath, and his wife, Michelle, celebrated theirs in December. As a treat for the four of us, Michelle purchased tickets for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Ales on Rails trip in October. It was a surprise for me and Will. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had sampling delicious food perfectly paired with ales we had never tried.

CVSRThis year, in commemoration of our splendid trip and our twenty-first anniversaries, I recreated the outing in my kitchen. My brother and sister-in-law thought they were simply coming for dinner. They had no idea what I had in store for them.

I began my search for the ales the minute I noticed the fall beer selections popping up in the grocery store. Woodchuck’s Pumpkin Cider was high on our list of favorites and the first purchased. It’s seasonal so you’ll want to pick it up now before it disappears. Same with Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale which disappears shortly after Halloween.

AlesNext was Well’s Banana Bread Beer and Victory HopDevil, a lovely IPA. I’ve seen both throughout the year. Even though you can get them regularly, I wouldn’t drag my feet trying them. Nor should you hesitate to try Smuttynose Robust Porter and Vunderbar Pilsner, the last two rounding out our beer menu.

A special ‘Thank You’ to Jason Wigley, Brandon Snyder, and Peter Egleston, all of Smuttynose Brewing, who responded promptly to my request for the Vunderbar Pilsner. Their efforts ensured that I found it in a grocery store close to home. Fabulous customer service, gentlemen!

We received glasses etched with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad emblem on the original trip. We used them again this past Saturday. I recreated the menu, slightly tweaked for our tastes and increased to dinner portions rather than hors d’oeuvre size.

Train TicketsIn keeping with the train themed party, I made tickets for the trip, which I punched as our guests came in. We were serenaded by the Andrews Sisters’ rendition of Chattanooga Choo Choo and lulled by the big band sound of Glen Miller. I had to laugh at one point as the four of us swayed to the music and my sister-in-law commented, “I can feel the rocking of the train just sitting here.”

Our food and ale menu included:

Buffalo Cheddar Cheese Dip and Pretzel Chips paired with Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider

Mixed Greens with Cranberries, Goat Cheese, Sunflower Seeds, and Raspberry Vinaigrette paired with Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner

Sweet Italian Sausage with Sautéed Onions served with Victory HopDevil IPA

German Potato Salad paired with Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Turtle Brownie paired with Smuttynose Robust Porter

Extra Aged Parmesan Cheese with Honey and Black Pepper and Toasted Almonds served with Wells Banana Bread Beer

Beer and Cigarettes

I think I might be a terrible mother. (Somewhere my mother is nodding her head Yes.) Ever since our son, Joshua, was born, I have tried to make good choices for him until he was old enough to do so for himself. For those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking This is going to be one of those stories where she believes she’s been too hard on Joshua, but we’ll reassure her she did the right thing. It’s not.

It started the day we took Joshua to B.A. Sweetie Candy Company in Cleveland. Our baby was going to be a freshman in a few days, and we wanted to give him a treat before he started high school. What better way to ensure our baby remained a baby than by taking him to a gigantic candy warehouse?  The usual complaints of are we there yet didn’t even phase us as we made the long trip. We had to endure them because our destination was a surprise. Imagine the look that would appear on Joshua’s face when we arrived. I did.

I dreamed about the three of us leisurely strolling every aisle, choosing candy with the same care a diamond buyer would give an uncut stone, and greedily wiping out over half our stash on the long trip home. It would be perfect. And it was with the exception of one small glitch:  Joshua spied the gigantic Jelly Belly dispenser upon entering the building. He rushed over and began reading flavors on the front of each sleeve of jelly beans. No, no—this is not how we do it. Joshua, you completely passed the bins of old fashioned candy over here. We must do this in an orderly manner so we don’t miss anything or overspend. Of course, I didn’t say any of this to him.

“Mom, they have Pomegranate.” (His favorite flavor in life.) “And look, Cappuccino. Can I have these, Mom?”

“Well, Jelly Belly Beans are very expensive. Why don’t you make sure this is what you want before we take them out? We can’t put them back like wrapped candy.”

“Okay.”

What a great kid. He endured my plan of touring the building and found other things he wanted. He enjoyed it, too. I was secretly pleased when he chose a few old fashioned candies that pre-dated me. Tootsie Pops and candy cigarettes had been favorites among the candy in my Halloween pumpkin. However, the Jelly Belly Beans were his goal and exactly where we ended up. That’s fine. I tactfully pointed out that he needed to weigh the beans to about a quarter of a pound so we didn’t go over our candy budget. Like the trooper he is, he did.

It was no surprise when he chose Pomegranate and Cappuccino. Then he found a flavor that wasn’t exactly, how should I say this, savory?

“Mom, look—Draft Beer.”

“Uh, yeah. What about Mint Chocolate Chip or Mango Chili?”

“Can I have these?”

“Why?”

“I want to see if they taste like beer.”

“And how would you know? How about Sizzling Cinnamon? Those are great, Josh.”

He smiled halfheartedly and shoved his hands in his pockets, but he didn’t move away from the dreaded flavor. My inner mother braced for a confrontation. I stepped closer to appraise the offending candy. It was actually quite pretty; a soft golden jelly bean with a pearlescent coating. So innocent looking.

“All right, but just a few.”

We paid for our ridiculous quantity of candy and went home a happy, satisfied family. Internal mother reared her head again, so only one item each was sampled during our drive. Joshua did not choose the Draft Beer beans. That happened a few days later.

He sat cross-legged on my bed with his bag of beans. I could tell he wanted my approval for having chosen them and now eating them. He placed one in his mouth and chewed. The expression on his face was priceless.

“Ugh, they do taste like beer.”

“Again, how would you know?”

“Here, Mom, try one.”

How to describe the taste? Really, really cheap beer that ends on a sickening sweet note. What were you thinking, Jelly Belly? What’s worse, the flavor lingered on my breath. I believe these things would get a person in trouble with a cop in the event that said person was pulled over for speeding.

“Aauugh, this awful. I can’t believe I let you buy these.”

Joshua was quite entertained at this point. He wanted something else from the pile and grabbed his candy cigarettes. That’s when it hit me.

My precious baby sat there with a bag of Draft Beer jelly beans and a candy cigarette elegantly positioned between two fingers. He held it like a pro. Images of out-of-control college parties swam before my eyes.

“I am such a terrible mother. I let you buy Draft Beer jelly beans and candy cigarettes.”

An ornery grin spread over Joshua’s face, lighting up his eyes, before he said, “What kind of parent are you?”

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