Thursday, September 24, 2009


Why is nothing easy for me?

So the other day I was watching television and found myself in the middle of some cooking show with this guy named Anthony Bourdain, who I guess is some type of celebrity chef. He happened to be doing a show from Lebanon while the Israelis were bombing it during the last war.

The only interesting thing about this episode was him ordering an Arak while dining in some Beiruti greasy spoon. The native guide told him that Arak is typically taken by mixing it one third Arak to two thirds water and then adding ice. It is typically not drunk straight. Adding water causes the anise oil in the Arak to form a cloudy suspension, which like with absinthe is called louching.

I've only had Arak straight, and I found it to be too strong. But this sounded interesting. I figured I'd buy some and try it.

So, the next day I make my way to Hungarian Kosher and to my surprise, they are sold out of Arak. However, the guy tells me that they do have some high end Arak in the back @ $44 a bottle. For that kind of money I can buy a pretty nice bottle of single malt scotch, so I said "I'll wait for the $15.99" Arak. This is Thursday night.

My plan is to go to our friends' house and ask them to borrow their bottle of Arak so I can conduct the louching experiment/taste test. However, when I announce my intentions to my wife, she vetoes the idea. Apparently, the protocol when borrowing food is to replace the said borrowed food when you return it. So if you borrow a cup of sugar, you are supposed to return a bag of sugar, or something like that. I wasn't planning to buy them a new bottle of Arak, so I decide to wait.

Friday, my wife comes back from Hungarian with a bottle of $15.99 Arak. Apparently, they have no idea when new shipments come in. It was my lucky day - or was it. As I am about to open the bottle, I notice that it says "Molasses flavored neutral grain spirits". At this point I get paranoid. What if this is not real Arak, but some kind of molasses flavored vodka. What if it won't louche? I decide to not open the bottle yet. I return it.

After Shabbos, I go on the Internet to research Arak. It looks like there are much more authentic looking kosher Araks - but not sold in Chicago. I'd have to order online. I think my curiosity is overwhelming my cheapness. I may splurge on the $44 Arak.

At the last moment I notice that the $44 Arak is 100 proof. Now, I think maybe it is a mistake to buy it. I want the regular 80 proof Arak. What if the 100 proof version doesn't louche right?

I hold off the purchase. On Rosh Hashanah morning I convince my friend with the cheap Arak to try adding water to it. The next day he reports success - it louched!

Back to Hungarian Kosher to buy the previously returned cheap Arak. Got home, poured it, louched it, iced it, drank it, liked it!


Blogger evanstonjew said...

Sometimes I think Hungarian is proof of Zizek's view that the point of being Jewish (or Orthodox)is that it sooo doesn't work. We will it because it an affront to utility and efficiency, thereby poking a finger at Fordist late capitalist arrangements.

September 25, 2009 10:13 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

I'd love to send a health inspector into that place...

September 25, 2009 10:43 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

I just feel sorry that you had to go to Hungarian so many times. I took my first trip there last week and I will (bli neder) never go back. It was a traumatic experience.

September 25, 2009 3:00 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Wait - Shoshana? What were you doing in Skokie?

September 25, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

When I got married, my husband and I moved to South Bend. We have to go to Chicago to stock up on kosher meat. So we trek out there every so often.

September 25, 2009 3:29 PM  

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