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Dewars bottle

Pestle with a punch on the inside.


We are nothing, if not adaptable, by the time we reach the middle ages. We’ve adjusted our flow meter to “just go for it!” We navigate our midlife crises with aplomb and mettle that is unique to our generation. We’ve learned to turn our heads away from ageism, and we strive to live out this chapter with vigor.

But there are some things that should not be messed with. Some things that must remain intact as foundation for our adaptability. The leave-as-is, the indefatigable. Like our lucidity; our vivacity. Our awareness of the passing of time; our confidence.

And crushed garlic. Mortar-and-pestle-crushed garlic. Garlic that is pummeled and pulverized, along with oil and other herbs until it’s pasty; its aroma sulfurous. It has a swallow so pungent, it can push your inner cheeks to your teeth.

It was the flux between adaptability and the crushed garlic called for in this Radish Salad with Anchovy Sauce from the foodie Web site Food52 that recently forced Julie and I to grab a quarter-filled bottle of Dewar’s White Label by the neck.

Just a couple of days before The New York Times ran this piece on mortars and pestles, which included the quote, “I insist on it for certain things, like garlic …” from Marc Meyer, an executive chef and restaurant owner in Manhattan, Julie and I were cooking for a party we were throwing. We were working in a kitchen that was lightly stocked. We didn’t have the basics. Or a mortar and pestle for the radish salad.

“Insist.” Like Mr. Meyer, that’s pretty much what Julie inferred when I tried to talk her into adapting the garlic – just slice it!, dice it, smoosh with a mini ricer, let’s try the immersion blender, how about a fork? (I believe I also suggested donning sneakers and stomping on it ala Lucy and the grapes.)

After all attempts failed to do what apparently only a mortar and pestle can do, we hit the bottle. Our row of alcohol on the set-up counter bar included an old bottle of Dewar’s whiskey that has been hanging around in the pantry for decades – no one ever drinks the stuff, but it is always put out at parties. It’s shaped like a big pestle.

So our pile of garlic got hammered on that bottle of whiskey.

And hence the radish salad was sublime – a riot of garlic, salt, and radish pop-and-tickle – all a result of midlife aplomb, mettle, confidence (the indefatigable), and a bottle of whiskey.