The pains of research

At times I am quite forthcoming in this blog; at other times I strive to be obscure. This post will be one of the forthcoming times.

I had mentioned some weeks ago that because my characters partake of the Absinthe Ritual in my novel-in-progress, I felt obliged to do so as well, strictly for the ability to write clearly about it of course. You can read more of that adventure here.

Alas, a writer can never rest. It happens that my two characters also share some brandy, and since it is a drink I had not tasted before, I felt an obligation to give it a try as well.

I was in one of the southern United States recently, and like most Midwesterners, I held the usual misconceptions about the U.S. South. An alcohol drink other than beer or bourbon didn’t seem possible there, yet my companions successfully ordered Margaritas, so I asked for a brandy (for my research, as you know).

This didn’t prove to be an easy order for the restaurant to fill. It turned out that they hadn’t served brandy in so long that the open bottle they had was infested with fruit flies. (In a sealed bottle? I didn’t think it paid to try to imagine that scenario.) The waiter apologized and said they had another bottle, and he named the maker as though that would make clear that I couldn’t possibly want to drink the swill.

Having an obligation to be thorough in my research, I told the man to serve me this brandy, in a proper brandy snifter. The glass known as a snifter is designed to allow the warmth of your fingers as you’re holding it to make the drink within more aromatic, thus enhancing the experience. Alas, this restaurant/bar had no snifters, so they served my brandy in a conventional wine glass.

“Brandy” is from the Dutch for “burnt wine.” It tasted like gasoline. Again because of my research obligations, I felt I must drink the entire glass. Perhaps it got a little better as I finished more of it, but I don’t think my conversation got more witty or convivial as it had with the absinthe.

I suspect that I didn’t sample a quality brandy. I’ve researched the brand I was served, and the company is known for making “flavored” brandies; thus I may not have sampled a more pure version of the drink.

And so I guess I must try again

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Sleep of Reason

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One Comment on “The pains of research”

  1. Roderic Vincent Says:

    Paul, thanks for your comment on my steam room post over at Strictly Writing. I came over here as a result and enjoyed your piece. Let’s push that research to the limits. Everything our characters can do, we can do better.


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