Scratching my itchy feet

For most of us, travel since mid-March has largely been restricted to outings for groceries and booze. As the warm weather has finally arrived, those trips have been extended to garden centres for plants, seeds and everything else we need to get our home gardens going.

We’re saving money on gas and chalking up points in the efforts to slow climate change, but I’m sure I am not alone in finding the lack of travel a bit imprisoning.

I normally travel a lot for work. Pre-pandemic, it was not uncommon for me to be gone four or five days of the week. Often, I would be in more than one place over the course of those days; travelling whenever possible by train, but sometimes by car. In some places, I stayed with friends, which became an important part of my social life. In others, I stayed in hotels, taking advantage of evenings alone to get ahead on my writing.

Did I at times wish I did not have to travel quite so much? Yes, although what I really wanted was an orderly travel schedule that would allow me to make regular plans both at and away from home. Now, I have nothing but order and time at home, and I am restless.

On the road again

One of the many joys of being self-employed is having some control over when I work. A couple of weeks ago, after several weeks of long days at my desk, I decided to take a day off. A break, I figured, might be as good as a holiday.

But what to do? I worried that if I stayed at home I would wind up working at my desk or finding some other task around the house (those kitchen cupboards still need tidying and cleaning) rather than relaxing.

My partner and I decided a day trip to Prince Edward County would be just the ticket, and we were right. Friday of last week dawned sunny and warmed up quickly. We loaded up the car with drinks and snacks, not sure whether we would find any take-out food options, as well as toilet paper, because we assumed public washrooms would not be plentiful, and threw in a couple of joints — after all, this was a holiday!

We drove along the north shore of Lake Ontario to Adolphustown, where we took the ferry (no motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians or leaving our car allowed) to the County for several hours of meandering about.

As far as our eyes could see

Tulips greeted us at every turn, although the cool spring meant that lilacs, normally in full bloom by late May, were not yet in flower. The horizon presented a beautiful yellow-green haze from the unfurling leaves on all manner of trees. Beaches were closed, but we found a sunny spot on the side of the lake where we had our picnic lunch and enjoyed a view of the water.

It’s easy to get used to just looking up close for those of us stuck at home in the city, but our eyes need time to stretch by looking at a distant horizon. Our day trip allowed us to do that, and we took full advantage of the opportunity by gazing across fields, vineyards and the lake.

We made a few purchases: fresh and still warm doughnuts, some Mexican pottery garden pots and, in honour of my new obsession with cocktails, a professional cocktail shaker.

We were home in time for a restaurant take-out dinner, which sounded an excellent closing note on our mini-vacation.

Oh my, mai tai

Of course, a new cocktail shaker requires breaking in, and I decided to christen mine with a batch of mai tais.

You can take your pick of the many stories about when, where and by whom this cocktail was invented. The name may have come from the Tahitian word maita’i, which means excellent, but even that is not certain. Likewise, the ingredients vary from bartender to bartender.

Rum is the one constant, and often spiced rum. While I could have gone to the liquor store for this, I decided to make my own with an unopened bottle of Ironworks Distillery’s Ship Wrecked Edition Rum that had been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years.

The craft distillery ages its rum in barrels on its boat, the Black Beauty, in the Lunenburg Harbour, giving the rum the humidity, consistent temperature and constant movement it needs during the ageing process. In January 2018, the boat was torn from its moorings by 120 kilometre an hour winds during a major winter storm. After a rough ride around the harbour, the boat eventually came to rest on the shore. It suffered some damage, but the barrels of rum were intact, and the distillery decided to bottle the rum as a special edition.

What better occasion than a pandemic to use that rum? I loosely followed a recipe for spiced rum, but substituted coriander seeds for the allspice berries I didn’t have and used more ginger and orange peel than the recipe called for. After four days of brewing, the rum was delicious.

David Wondrich, of Esquire magazine is of the opinion that “it’s better to have two pleasant belts than one knuckle-duster,” when it comes to cocktails.

I am of the opposite view: I like one very strong drink to kick me into the evening, followed by a good meal and perhaps a joint at bedtime. This Oh My Mai Tai gave me the perfect kick.

For two Oh My Mai Tais, I used 6 ounces spiced rum, 3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice, 3 ounces pineapple juice, 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 ounce simple syrup (or to taste).

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake away. Pour into two cocktail glasses, drizzle in a bit of maraschino cherry liquid, and garnish with a piece of pineapple and a maraschino cherry.

Find a sunny spot — a balcony, deck, backyard or sunny window — for sipping your cocktail and you just might be able imagine that you are sailing the seas with a full load of rum under your deck rather than being trapped at home in a pandemic.

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