William Faulkner’s hot toddy recipe



Twitter was so excited about William Faulkner’s mint julep yesterday that it seemed wrong, especially at the holidays, to withhold his cure for anything from “a bad spill from a horse to a bad cold, from a broken leg to a broken heart.” (So said Dean Faulkner Wells.)

I’ll stick with Kate’s hot toddy, personally. But here, as told to The Great American Writers’ Cookbook by Faulkner’s niece, are directions for making his version.

Pappy alone decided when a Hot Toddy was needed, and he administered it to his patient with the best bedside manner of a country doctor.

He prepared it in the kitchen in the following way: Take one heavy glass tumbler. Fill approximately half full with Heaven Hill bourbon (the Jack Daniel’s was reserved for Pappy’s ailments). Add one tablespoon of sugar. Squeeze 1/2 lemon and drop into glass. Stir until sugar dissolves. Fill glass with boiling water. Serve with potholder to protect patient’s hands from the hot glass.

Pappy always made a small ceremony out of serving his Hot Toddy, bringing it upstairs on a silver tray and admonishing his patient to drink it quickly, before it cooled off. It never failed.

See also Rosie Schaap’s glogg and gingersnaps, Eudora Welty’s recipe for “Charles Dickens’ eggnog,” Faulkner’s bourbon trolley, Kate Christensen’s food (and life) blog, Ford Madox Ford’s Provencal chicken, and my winter cold Rx.

Portrait of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten, via the Library of Congress.

Better science through sci-fi: Stephenson & NASA


My most recent New York Times Magazine mini-column concerns Neal Stephenson’s — and NASA’s — efforts to encourage scientific and technological innovation through speculative fiction.

See also Stephenson’s “Innovation Starvation” speech, NASA’s partnership with TOR Books, Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions for the future (made in 1964), Isaac Asimov’s Visions of the Future (he starts speaking at 6:45 of part 1, above; here are parts 2, 3, and 4), and Asimov on the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

When the place outlives the preaching

The Crystal Cathedral of “Hour of Power” fame is the subject of my latest New York Times Magazine mini-column. Not so long ago the most lavish symbol of U.S. Protestantism, the building sold in bankruptcy last month to a Catholic diocese.

Although the congregation has agreed under the terms of the deal to vacate the premises after three years, pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of founder Robert H. Schuller, assures her flock, “lest you think that it’s too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you and remind you that it is not too late. There is still time for God to step in and rescue Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

Bonus reading: Joseph Clarke’s “Infrastructure for Souls,” on the “parallel histories of the American megachurch [including the Crystal Cathedral] and the corporate-organizational complex.”

A secret chord that David played

My mini-column for last week’s New York Times Magazine is on poetry and song. King David viewed them as natural companions, but these days they’re seen as distinct, unrelated arts.

Accepting Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Letters recently, musician and poet Leonard Cohen implicitly took David’s view. He spoke of learning a progression of six flamenco chords from a mysterious young Spaniard who soon killed himself. “It was those six chords,” Cohen said, “it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music… Everything that you have found favorable in my work comes from this place. Everything. Everything that you have found favorable in my songs, in my poetry [is] inspired by this soil.”

And he expressed unease over the honor. “Poetry comes from a place that no one commands and no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

Related: Christopher Ricks, Jonathan Lethem, and Lucinda Williams on the case for Dylan as poet; PEN New England’s new prize for excellence in song lyrics, judged by Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Paul Muldoon, and others; The Village Voice’s jokey list of contenders for the award; and, courtesy of my friend Michael Taeckens, Rimbaud and Jim Morrison. And, just for fun, Roger Miller and Dave Hickey on Hank Williams’ hooked-up verse.