Jonah / Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

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This week’s recipe: Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

The story of Jonah is well-known. God commands Jonah to go to the city of Niniveh, where the people are sinning, and warn them that their city will be destroyed unless they repent. Jonah instead attempts to run away, boarding a ship to another city. When God sends a storm to toss the ship, Jonah reveals to his crewmates that the storm is punishment meant for him, and insists that they toss him overboard. God then sends a whale (technically, a large unspecified sea creature, but commonly translated as whale) to swallow Jonah. Jonah prays and repents for three days and three nights, at which point the whale spits Jonah out onto dry land and he goes to Niniveh to fulfill God’s commands. The people repent and everyone is saved. Yay!

Except the story doesn’t end there. There’s a lesser-known coda in which Jonah, angry that God forgave the people of Niniveh despite their many sins, is resting and waiting to see what will happen to the city. God causes a plant to grow over Jonah, giving him shelter and shade. When Jonah wakes up the next morning, he finds that God has sent a worm to kill the plant, leaving Jonah in the hot sun. Jonah is furious that God would allow the plant to die, and God essentially responds, “Look at how upset you are about the destruction of a plant that you didn’t tend or water, that only existed for one day. But you would ask me to destroy a city full of tens of thousands of people and animals, all of which I created?”

Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, is a holiday about reflection, repentance, and forgiveness. We are supposed to apologize for our sins against God and our sins against each other, and contemplate how we can do better in the next year. It’s always a powerful and meaningful day, but especially now, especially this year. There are so many people who are full of hate. There are so many people who are purposefully, even gleefully, hurting other people. There are so many people who want to deny the rights and the humanity of others. It’s hard to forgive that kind of behavior. But it’s especially hard when they’re so convinced that they’re right that it would never occur to them to ask for forgiveness. We live in a country where you can commit treason and start a bloody war over your right to own human beings, and 150 years later, people will (sometimes violently) argue that you deserve to be honored in perpetuity. There are plenty of Jonahs warning us about our sins, but too many people refuse to listen.

But then there’s the story of the plant. The sins of Nineveh aren’t specified, but clearly they were significant enough that God was willing to destroy an entire city. This was their last chance, and they took it—a rare instance of redemption in an Old Testament filled with ancient blood feuds, stiff-necked peoples, and implacable enemies. Every year, we get the same chance at redemption, even though there will be those, like Jonah, who feel we don’t deserve it. It’s easy to get carried away with your own righteousness when you’re sure you’re right, but it’s hard to know what’s actually in people’s minds and hearts, the circumstances of their lives that brought them to where they are, and whether or not they’re capable of change. Only God can know that, but people—including me—can try to be like God, instead of like Jonah, who couldn’t forgive. We can try to speak out against and, if necessary, punish evil and injustice wherever they exist, and also recognize that change and repentance are always a possibility. Chatimah tovah.

So anyway, here’s a cocktail. We’re now officially a week into fall but it’s still warm out, so if you want to celebrate the last of the summer weather, this cocktail is for you. It’s very easy to make and very tasty to drink. You can substitute vodka for the gin or, if you’d rather make it non-alcoholic, just use water instead.

Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

Adapted from Delish Knowledge

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, (plus more for garnish, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemonade juice
  • 3 tablespoons gin

Instructions

  1. Cube the watermelon and place in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze, at least 2 hours. Keep frozen until ready to use.
  2. Place the sugar, water and mint in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until reduced and sugar is completely absorbed. Let sit for at least 15 more minutes off heat so that mint can be infused into the syrup. Before using, remove the mint leaves.
  3. Place all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender (if you use a regular blender, you may need to add the frozen watermelon cubes in batches): frozen watermelon cubes, mint syrup (with mint leaves removed) and lemon juice. Puree until thick, then slowly add in gin until a thick and creamy texture develops. Depending on the strength of your blender, you may need less or more water.
  4. Divide into 4 glasses and serve!
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1776 / Rhubarb Sour

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This week’s recipe: Rhubarb Sour

1776 is the second-greatest musical ever written about the American Revolution. Yes, we all know what the first-greatest is, but Thomas Jefferson is the only character in 1776 to overlap with Hamilton. (Mostly: George Washington appears frequently by missive in 1776, and John Adams appears in the lyric, “Sit down John, you fat mother******” in Hamilton—a lyric that is in fact an homage to 1776.) But 1776 has much to recommend it. It has Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World as John Adams, unsung hero of the Continental Congress. It has dirty jokes. It has, to my knowledge, the longest-ever break between songs in an American musical. It has a truly chilling villain song about the hypocrisies inherent in the Triangle Trade. It has Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom in an incredible dress that I want for my wedding. It has what is maybe the best summation of our politics today in the line, “Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.”

But most importantly, it deglazes the mythology from the Founding Fathers. The movie ends with the Congressional delegates posed similarly to the famous John Trumbull painting, as the Liberty Bell rings. But by that point, you know that the men posed like heroic statues at this solemn historical moment are just humans, with all the human weaknesses and pettiness. They’re snobs and insult comics; brawlers and cowards; horndogs, fatties, and alcoholics. (Even the brilliant Jefferson can’t get it together to write the Declaration of Independence until Adams arranges a conjugal visit for him.) And that’s just the protagonists. The movie’s main villains are more sinister, evincing a deeply cynical attachment to the privileges afforded to them by the status quo. To work with them, the heroes have to sacrifice and compromise, and the stuff of those sacrifices and compromises— racism, state’s rights, regionalism, who qualifies as an American—are the seeds of so much of what is wrong in today’s politics.

Still, I come back to a memorable exchange where Adams tells Benjamin Franklin that if they strike a reference to slavery from the Declaration, posterity will never forgive them. Franklin replies, “What will posterity think we were, demigods? We’re men, no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence, America. If we don’t secure that, what difference will the rest make?” 241 years later, what difference has it made, if we’re still fighting over the same shit? It feels like our country is very sick. We have self-styled “patriots” calling the Declaration of Independence trash because the references to King George remind them too strongly of their Dear Leader. We have TV personalities filming commercials that call for true lovers of liberty to gun down their opponents in the streets. Things feel less safe and less stable than they have in my lifetime. It’s nice to think that the Founders went through the same struggles and arguments that we’re going through today – hopefully we can come out of it as well as they did. Happy July 4th 5th.

So anyway, here’s a cocktail. Every year, a friend and I watch 1776 on or around Independence Day, and since she doesn’t like wine, I take it as an excuse to try a cool new cocktail. There was some nice rhubarb at the farmer’s market last week so I decided to make the rhubarb sour recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Date Night In. It was the perfect mix of sweet and sour, and the nutmeg adds an unexpected twist. I liked it so much that I told my sister about it, and we tried to make it at our aunt’s house on July 4th, except our ingredients were limited and we had to substitute vodka for the gin and Newman’s Own pink lemonade for the lemon juice. It made rather a different sort of cocktail, but still yummy!

Rhubarb Sour

From Date Night In

Serves 2

Rhubarb Sour

  • 3 ounces of gin
  • 3 ounces of rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
  • 1.5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon peel (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Rhubarb Syrup

  • 1 pound chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Additional flavorings: cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, vanilla bean, or citrus peel

For the syrup: Place the rhubarb, sugar, water, and your choice of flavorings into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently for 15 minutes, or until it is reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. When cool, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer the syrup to a storage container with a lid. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

For the cocktail: Combine the gin, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into two glasses and garnish with lemon peel and nutmeg, if desired.