My grandfather used to tell me, “just do the best you can, till we can do better.” I love how he subtly reminded me that I was not alone, that help was coming, “do the best you can, until we can do better”. That was always comforting. Do your best, even when that is not enough, but don’t be content. The goal is to be better. To learn through the doing. Sometimes, you find yourself using a wrench to hammer something, Yeah, it is the wrong tool for the job, but you have to work with what you have got. Here is the key, you only do that until you can get a hammer, you accept hardships, you accept less than ideal conditions, but only until you can do better. Whatever it takes to get the job done. I like that. I take comfort in the idea that we should always strive to do better, but sometimes good enough is good enough. In that spirit I ask that you join me now as we stand and make, the original Strawberry Daiquiri.
Yesterday, we made an improved version of the Grasshopper and I feel we are all better for it. Today we are regressing. I shared an improved version of this drink last weekend that was truly stunning in its simplicity, so for counterpoint, today we are doing the classic blender version. Is it as good, as the one we made last time, nope. Is it harder to make, yep. I am not gonna try to sell you on this, I will just say that you should take the time because the drink is good…well, good enough.
No point beating around the bush, let’s get to building. This one calls out to be topped with whipped cream, so let’s do that first. There is a time and a place for canned whipped topping, but this is not it. Save that stuff for the bedroom or your backyard quarantine wrestling pit, although, to be fair, there are better, less sticky options for those applications as well. The point is, you should make your own whipped topping, because it is easy, it’s the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it. You already have your blender there, so toss in 1/2 a cup of heavy cream, a bar spoon of vanilla extract, I used Simplify Pure Madagascar Bourbon; 1/4 ounce of dark rum and some sugar. The measurements are a bit nebulous, because I like to play with the sweetness and make it to taste. I figured this drink is sweet already, so I went light on the sugar, you may want it sweeter, but that’s on you. Fire up the blender and in moments you will have fresh homemade whipped cream. Just blend and stop and look and taste until you are happy with the consistency. My intent was to make a really light, very liquid whipped cream that I could build a cloud layer out of, but I turned to grab the strawberries out of the fridge and get a knife, etc. and when I went back, that light, creamy ship had sailed. Another 10-15 seconds and I would have passed right through whipped cream and into butter. If you have never done that before, over-whipped whipped cream becomes butter. If that is something you want in your life, skip the sugar and vanilla extract and the rum, probably, maybe throw a little salt in there and you have something that will be wonderful in your Cream of Wheat or on toast. With that out of the way, scoop your rum-infused whipped cream into something and set to the side, clean your blender cup and now we are ready to make the drink.
Start with fresh strawberries, always. Grab 5-6 and wash them, remove their frilly little green caps, core them if you want to or don’t, I literally could not care less. Once they are prepped, I like to slice them in quarters, mostly because I love the smell. Toss the quartered strawberries into the blender cup and add 2 ounces of light rum, I went with Cane Rum 12, because it was handy. At this point I blend for about 15-20 seconds, just to really break up the strawberries and marry their flavor to the rum. We are going to be drinking this through a straw, so I want to make sure we don’t have any big berry chunks in there, plus, once again, the aroma is amazing. Once you have done that, add 1 ounce of simple syrup, 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice and 8 ounces of crushed ice. Pulse a couple of times to incorporate everything and blend till smooth. Pour into something that accentuates the drink’s legs, I went with one of Great Uncle Doc’s footed pilsner glasses. There is just something so nice about these glasses being used again after 74 years of waiting. Garnish with a sprig of freshly slapped mint, a carved strawberry rose on a cocktail pick and some whipped cream piped rosettes. These garnishes are completely optional, I would not have them if Laura were not amazing. In fact, one of the reasons we made this drink tonight was to give her an excuse to carve a strawberry rose, what can I say she’s the best. Pop in a paper straw or a sippy cylinder as Liam says now, and serve.
There is no question, this drink is good. Really good, actually. There is a reason it is a ubiquitous poolside cocktail. Is it as good as the one I made last week, no. But that is ok, sometimes good enough is good enough. As Robert says, “Not every job worth doing is worth doing well.”
I guess that is also part of what Pa meant, when you can’t do better, don’t give up. Yesterday, I had a lot to say about the abdication of leadership and I haven’t quit thinking about that. How the folks who are passing the buck during this pandemic spent their whole lives trying to get into the positions of power they now hold, only to fail the true test of leadership; whether or not you can take care of your people. I am reminded though, that nature abhors a vacuum. That these problems don’t disappear when our leaders refuse to act in a meaningful way. There is a big difference between saying something needs to happen and coming up with a viable plan to make these things happen. Telling the folks downhill that things need to be a certain way, or else, is not leadership; it is governance by passive aggression. So, what do we do when our leaders fail us? How will nature fill that vacuum? It turns out that Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Thorstein Veblen all had something to say about that.
Economists. Why did it have to be economists? Well, it did not have to be, but in an absence of leadership, folks tend to look out for themselves. It is a natural reaction to uncertainty. Economists spend their lives examining how people and systems react to uncertainty, how and why self-interest drives them. Every business in the country has been forced to respond to these “unprecedented times”. Depending on geography and temperament, some have railed against the “draconian dictates of over-reaching tyrants and despots” while others have been left to navigate their way through these waters with nary a lighthouse or beacon from their government. We should not be surprised that through it all, the almighty dollar prevails. It is not like this is a new concept, in his 1776 “Inquiry Into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations” Adam Smith wrote
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
To put it more succinctly, “there is no free lunch”. The market provides services you need, not because it loves you and wants you to succeed, but because it survives on the money you give it for providing those services. This doesn’t mean the market is evil or that it wishes you ill, it just acknowledges the simple fact that business is business and you should expect it to do what lies most in its interest, namely profit. Without profits, businesses cease to be, it is their lifeblood. So, when a business makes a decision that could be viewed as controversial, you know they have thought about it. It is, generally, not good business to be controversial, as Wyatt Earp would say, “There’s no money in it”.
So when you walk into a business that requires you to wear a mask or use one way aisles or maintain proper distancing, you can be assured they have thought about it. Granted, these things should not be controversial, but it is what it is. The great majority of them really, really wished that state or local governments would have mandated the use rather than “counting on our citizens to take care of each other and do the right thing”. Under a government mandate they could just shake their heads along with the disgruntled and say “Well, what are you gonna do? Dadgum guv’ment! Them sorry sons a bitches.” That would have been way easier, uncontroversial, better for business. But in the vacuum left by a lack of governmental leadership, they have had to stand up and do what is best for themselves, their employees and their profits. Wal-Mart, Dollar General and Tractor Supply Co. know all too well that a significant portion of their prime demographic is opposed to their “restrictive mask policies” and this “assault on constitutional rights”, but they also recognize that they have to protect their employees and customers. It is sad that America’s boardrooms have probably spent more time considering this than our “leaders”. In spite of repercussions, they have recognized that the best way to protect their people and profits is to get the economy open as quickly as possible and that being proactive in response to this virus is the clearest path to that free trading future, providing opportunities for both Keynesian secondary consumption and Veblen’s conspicuous consumption. I am constantly astonished that the folks who are most vocal about getting back into AppleBee’s and getting this economy opened up are also those least likely to take even the simplest measures to actually move us in that direction. I could show several examples of solid theory here, but we all know that even the devil can quote scripture for his purposes, so I will leave you with this quote from Veblen that appears to justify the selfishness of those who do not want to be inconvenienced to help others, “It is always sound business to take any obtainable net gain, at any cost and at any risk to the rest of the community.” Of course, that quote is out of context, and you might not agree with the rest of the statement, but twill suffice and life is easier if you don’t bother to learn too much.
Economics is boring, and I lost a lot of you when I listed those economists and did not go straight into Meyer’s Law, but it straight up affects our lives on a daily basis. Today, the Commerce Department announced “Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020.” Now that is shocking, but, technically, not as bad as it sounds, because it is an annualized rate. The actual quarterly drop was only 9.5%. “Only” a 9.5% drop in real Gross Domestic Product for the quarter. That’s not theoretical, that has already happened. While we were all arguing about whether masks and social distancing works nearly ten percent of our economy just evaporated. You may not have noticed this news today, since folks are too busy arguing about the dangers of alien DNA in medicines, that Ol’ Devil Semen and the president is tweeting about fraud and whether we should “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
This is where we are. The folks who begged for the opportunity to “make the hard calls” and protect you have passed the buck and businesses have had to step in to try and save lives and our economy. Who’d have thought that laissez-faire economics would lead to this? Well, basically every economist, market forces and the invisible hand and all, but besides all of those recognized experts who actually study this stuff, who else could have imagined this? Maybe Gordon Gekko was right and “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” I’d hate to think that. Wal-Mart and Target and Home Depot and Lowe’s and Tractor Supply and Aldi and Starbucks and Dollar General and a hundred others are not the heroes we need, but perhaps they are the heroes we deserve. It is what it is. Our situation is like this blender Strawberry Daiquiri, it is not ideal, we know how to do better, but since we have not been able to come up with a real plan, it is good enough. If that is what we are willing to accept, then maybe this is what we deserve. I sure hope not. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.
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