Friday, August 12, 2016

Victorian Age

It’s time to curl up with a good book again – we’re celebrating annual national “Book Lovers” day here at Boxes and Booze (technically it was on August 9, and hopefully you didn’t wait an entire year to celebrate!).  Right now I’ve managed to get my hands on the family copy of the new Harry Potter, my children having finally relinquished it.  I’m particularly fond of “potions” class, you know.  Last year I featured a great book puzzle box by Bill Sheckels and paired it with the Boukman’s daiquiri, a delicious variation of that classic rum cocktail.  This year I have another book puzzle to peruse on book lover’s day, which has also proven to be quite difficult to read.  Appearing as though it were plucked from the shelf of an old library hidden away inside the musty mansion of some secret society, the “Victorian Book” puzzle box, by Jesse Born from New York State, exudes an instant air of mystery.  

The Victorian Book puzzle box by Jesse Born

Jesse set out to design an old tome reminiscent of centuries past and has done an incredible job.  The layers of fine detail on this book are incredible.  Every inch is covered in hand carved flourishes, much of which was created on a lathe.  The book has striking concentric circles on each face and the spine, which are accented by beautiful buttons of spalted maple.  The pages are also hand carved to appear as irregularly stacked old parchment.  Jesse worked hard to perfect the finish, which lends the book an ancient looking patina. Made from cherry, curly maple, and spalted maple, this incredible book doesn’t stop at being stunning to look at – it’s a great puzzle box too.  There’s a surprising secret hiding here, which leads to a separate unique and very tricky opening mechanism, for those with the book smarts to deduce it.  There will be no speed reading here!  Inside is another treat – the interior is beautifully finished as well.  I may or may not have also found, secreted inside, an unpublished manuscript from Charles Dickens himself, titled “Great Expectations 2: A Cocktail of Two Cities”.  Ahem.

This is some seriously dense reading material

Speaking of Dickens, and cocktails, I think we should pour ourselves something apropos of the Victorian era to imbibe as we settle in with this formidable tome.  Dickens famously described a few of the celebrated tipples of the day in his “American Notes for General Circulation” from an 1842 visit he took to Boston.  There, he marveled at the “Gin-sling, Cocktail, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle, and other rare drinks.”  The Sherry cobbler is a great example of the simple pleasures which were state of the art at that time – exotic sherry wine mixed with sugar imported from the tropics, citrus, and ice.  Don’t overlook the ice – that was exotic too, imported down from frozen lakes in the north.  This frosty and refreshing drink was so astounding that Dickens took it with him and added it to his next novel.  A famous ‘cocktail’ scene from “The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit” (1843) portrays an astonished Chuzzlewit drinking the glass dry in one go with a look of ecstasy on his face.  

Port Wine Sangaree circa 1842

We’ve already featured the cobbler, and sadly, no one knows what was in a Timber Doodle (which would be the perfect cocktail for a wood worker, don’t you think?), so here’s a classic port wine Sangaree, a perfect accompaniment for the Victorian Book puzzle.  This one survived the test of time and we see it all the time nowadays, as Sangria.  Originally it was made with madeira, or port, and just like the cobbler, simply sweetened with sugar and diluted to frosty perfection with ice.  Some citrus could be added, and it was crowned with the ultimate touch of class for the day, grated nutmeg.   Let’s settle in then, friends, with a good book, and toast the tales they tell, let’s “taste of Bacchus’ blessings now and then”, and never want for friends, or a bottle to share with them.  Cheers!

Time to settle in with a good book

Port Wine Sangaree:

4 oz port
1 teaspoon sugar
2 thin lemon wheels (optional)

Shake vigorously with ice and pour unstrained into a favorite glass.  Garnish with grated nutmeg over top.

For more about Jesse Born:

For last year’s book lover’s post, please see:

For other book puzzle boxes, please see:
Story Time  (featuring another beautiful design by Jesse Born)

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