Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Curious Case of Marshmallow Wine

I just phoned my sister Norma to ask if she remembered when our older brother Tom introduced the Carter household to marshmallow wine. She didn't but added she wasn't surprised to hear it.
Huena with her brother Alex. (I'm pretty sure)

In the house that Norma, me, and the rest of the Carters grew up in, a lot of stuff got drunk.

The marshmallow wine appeared when I was pretty little; under 14 for sure if Tom was still living at home. Somebody was visiting, Tom offered them a glass of wine, went to the kitchen and returned with something dark and winey-looking.

Afterwards, my mom--her first name was Huena-- asked Tom what he'd served the guest. He said the marshmallow wine was the only thing he could find. She'd never heard of marshmallow wine.

Tom got the bottle to show Huena and turns out what he actually served was some sort of medicine that had to be kept refrigerated and started with m and had some a's and some l's in the name.  I'd phoned Norma to see if she remembered the actual name of the medicine.

The point is, marshmallow wine, in Huena's universe, could have been a thing. Huena tried to brew everything, at least once.

Regular beer, root beer, ginger beer -- Huena was a craft brewer a half century before they got trendy. She also made--Norma just reminded me--something called banana champagne, two words that when typed right beside each other actually made me laugh.

It was the unscheduled popping-off of banana-champagne corks that scared the crap out of a workman my dad had hired.

My father Tom was a one-man combination welfare office/John Howard society, hiring all kinds of guys right out of jail or off the bus from the east coast, and many of them ended up sleeping in our basement.

somebody actually does make marshmallow wine!
The day of the great banana-champagne explosion, one of my dad's recent hires was napping in the cellar when something went terribly wrong with mom's batch of home-brewed banana-champagne and all the corks blasted out of the bottles. The hired man, recently arrived from Ireland or maybe Newfoundland, jumped awake, hightailed it upstairs and out the door, only to explain to Huena later he thought it was gunfire that woke him up.

More frequently than champagne, Huena brewed root beer. I remember it being sort of flat and, rooty tasting.  Huena's root beer shared as much DNA with A&W's delicious product as I do with Joe Carter the pro baseball player.

Ditto ginger beer. I think I was in grade 12 when I first tasted store-bought ginger beer and thinking, "Wow! This stuff 's delicious! How can that be?!"

Then there was Huena's signature brew: Dandelion wine.

And although I was technically too young I'd be lying if I said I didn't try it and a question just occurred to me: Might Huena have concocted her dandelion wine to look and taste the way it did in an effort to have all her kids swear off drinking for life?

Oh well. E for effort.

Finally, I bet you're dying to know where she got all the dandelions.

GREY MATTER NEVER SLEEPS: Huena was always brewing something
Our house was on a north-south hilly street called Eyre. Two and a half blocks south of our place, at the end of Eyre, is the protestant graveyard. (The property marked the end of another Eyre, too. The land was once part of the farm belonging to Frederick Eyre, who our street was named after. The cemetery is Fred's final resting place.)

That graveyard was where a lot of the dandelions for mom's wine came from.

I used to wonder if the wine would have turned out better if it was Catholics that were buried there.

One more lovable thing about Huena and dandelions.

She once pointed out that a lawn full of dandelions after they'd gone to seed looks like a grassy field full of little old ladies.

Think about it.

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