Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Game is Afoot!

Puzzlers usually have a rich sense of humor.  We like to laugh with and often at each other.  It can be pretty funny to watch someone struggle to solve something, especially after you have mentioned it’s a particularly “easy” one … and don’t mention it took you weeks to solve!  Akio Kamei, the puzzle box master of the Karakuri Creation Group, appears to share that wicked sense of humor, which he lets loose in his “Ouch!” puzzle box.  

Ouch! by Akio Kamei

The design and concept of this puzzle, according to Kamei, originates with a common, frustrating occurrence in Japanese homes.  Because shoes are not worn inside, it is apparently a shared cultural experience to stub ones little toe on the corners of furniture or low shelving.  I’m not sure how often this really happens, but it’s certainly easy to imagine.  The “Ouch” box intends to turn your frown upside down and make you laugh at the pain in a playful way.  And it does – it’s very amusing and makes you smile.  The box also showcases Kamei’s tremendous skill and artistry.  The puzzle is beautifully crafted, smooth and accurate, in the shape of a perfect small foot.  On the Karakuri Group’s website there are some impressive photos chronicling the creation process for the Ouch Box which provide a rare opportunity to see one of these works from development to fruition.

Incredible craftsmanship ... you might even say it's fancy footwork

Now, how does one pair a cocktail with something named “Ouch” that looks like a foot?  It may not immediately sound plausible but in fact the challenge was picking one of many good options.  For example, there is a drink called the “Ankle Breaker” which combines overproof rum and cherry brandy with either lime or lemon juice and a little sweetener.  The name stems from the excessive alcohol content in the drink, so perhaps its best to try that one while sitting down.  

The perfect way to enjoy a Painkiller

Another choice and a close call was one of my favorite tropical island drinks, the “Painkiller”.  This delicious combination of rum, pineapple, coconut and orange juice is best enjoyed while sitting at the Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost Van Dyke where it was invented.  You’ll understand the bar’s name better once you get there.  It’s on a tiny beach in the British Virgin Islands.  You arrive via the Caribbean Sea, and there’s no dock.  But don’t worry – there are painkillers waiting.  

The Dunmore Cobbler

But I decided to go with an ounce of prevention over a pound of cure, and call in the cobbler.  In this case, the “sherry cobbler”, a drink that defined an era of American history.  The sherry cobbler rose to popularity in early to mid 18th century America and became a symbol of American prosperity.  Sherry, a fortified wine, was an exotic European import.  Sugar and citrus were being transported up from South America, and Florida was soon absorbed into the United States which made it even easier.  Finally ice, that simple commodity we take for granted, was being harvested from New England lakes in the winters and sent south year round.  Refrigeration wouldn’t be invented for a century, making this component of the cobbler rather luxurious.  That simple combination of sherry, sugar and ice, with a citrus wedge, was the height of sophistication.  Now it’s retro cool again, and this modern take by Ryan Fitzgerald and Todd Smith from ABV in San Francisco is a fantastic variation.  It might not prevent you from stubbing your toe, but you might not mind.  Cheers!

The game is afoot

For the Dunmore Cobbler recipe:

For more about Akio Kamei:

For the creation of the Ouch box:

For more Kamei puzzles please see:

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