Less than a week until Easter and my children are going through the annual ritual of exposing my complete inadequacy in explaining the basics of Christianity. Seriously though, no one knows what Easter Monday is, do they?
But I do know how to match a cocktail to a holiday and this week, would like to introduce you to my new friend, Angel Face, which due to alphabetical determination, you’ll find sitting almost at the top of the list of The Unforgettables in the IBA list of Official Cocktails.
You’ll need equal parts of Calvados, Gin and Apricot Brandy. Shake or stir with ice.
Here’s a tip; when you’re reviewing a cocktail and you do it at a bar, take your cocktail photos before you take your cocktail.
Because I didn’t have this wisdom last week when I had dinner with one of my weirder friends, I’m using a photo of the Angel Face from the IBA website since I figure they owe me a break after all the tips for improvement I offer them on these pages.
Anyway, my friend told me a great story about Calvados.
First, the boring stuff.
Calvados is an apple brandy from Normandy in France. It’s classified as a cider brandy because the process to make it involves harvesting fruit (and it’s not uncommon for said fruit to constitute more than 100 different varietals of apple and pear), pressing it into juice, fermenting that into cider, distilling that into spirit, then ageing that for a minimum of two years in oak casks.
Anyway, blah blah, we’re not interested in the finer points of booze production, we like a rollicking yarn with our tipple here.
Back in 1944, on a Tuesday in June, my friend’s then 16 year old father was one of 156,000 Allied troops involved in the largest seaborne invasion in history, when they landed on beaches in Normandy on D-Day.
We’ll call him John, since that was the most popular boys name for babies born in England in 1924 and that’s close to 1928 when he was born.
John was 16 and his job was to drop open the front of the Landing Craft Assault so the troops inside could run out, then he had to head to the back of the boat and fire the machine gun to give them cover.
Again, for clarity, he was 16.
John told his son that he thought that harrowing first scene in Saving Private Ryan was actually a fairly good representation of what it was like. I don’t know about you, but I emerged from that movie feeling like I needed counselling, and my experience of D-Day involved popcorn and air-conditioning.
Fast forward a couple of days (post D-Day, not when I saw the movie), and 16 year old Johnny and his surviving mates were given a day off. They wandered into the nearest village, where they were greeted by a grateful community who offered them Calvados.
And because he was 16, he got hammered. They all did.
There’s no cruel punchline here, they weren’t killed by Nazis when they passed out, but clearly there was a lot more crappy stuff ahead of those young men, so I’m happy they had the Calvados moment and whatever comfort it provided.
Now the great thing about this story, is as well as giving us all something awesome to raise our glasses to every time we have a Calvados, when my friend told me about the other small spots of comfort for these guys on those scary days and nights, it gave me the religion I will convert to if I ever stop being an Atheist.
Quakers have been around since the mid-1600s and essentially believe in equality and tolerance and niceness and looking after the environment.
In 1963, the Quakers published “Towards a Quaker view of sex” which espoused a positive view of same-sex relationships, making them more progressive than any other religion I know and most Governments.
Here’s how they – and their religious peers – encouraged their members to vote in last year’s Marriage Equality postal survey in Australia.
Quakers are also pacifists, which brings us back to war-time John.
Quakers were told that they needed make individual decisions about how to reconcile their religion with the war. Many of them served in the Friends Ambulance Unit, which placed them close to the front without engaging in fighting.
Some of them – often the older guys – would go to the battlefields and try to provide comfort to the Allied soldiers in the form of cups of tea. Many of the Quakers got their heads blown off as they offered soldiers – and yes, let’s remember that 16 thing again – a cup of tea and a biscuit. And that’s something that John remembered 7 decades after those awful days.
Others were involved in getting children out of Nazi-occupied Europe, they were among the first into Belsen after the British liberated it, providing comfort and support there, others have helped establish Oxfam and Amnesty International.
There’s a heap of other cool stuff to like about the Quakers.
They don’t drink, so that’s a problem for me, as is their belief in a God. Also, they don’t do Christmas or Easter, both of which I really like. But other than that, I think we’re a good fit.
So knowing that they wouldn’t join me, but also knowing that they wouldn’t judge me cos’ that’s not their bag, I’m going to toast the Quakers who delivered a cup of tea to my friend’s father, a child in a hideous place, with an Angel Face.
And with a neat Calvados, to John.
And you should too.
Whether or not you celebrate Easter for religious reasons, have a good one.
PS I can’t talk about the cricket yet. But we will.