Thursday, September 17, 2009

Perfection (shaken, not stirred)

Recently I read an interview with some celebrity chef and he was asked what he would choose, if he was about to die, for his final meal. I'm sure the interviewer was prepared for some elaborate gustatory concoction but the guy replied, “A Porter House steak, grilled rare, and a martini.” Now this is a guy I could love. He explained that there are certain things in this world that are just so absolutely perfect that they cannot be improved upon. Well, isn't that the definition of perfect?

This made me smile especially because I am a great fan of the perfect martini. I don't want vodka in my martini and I don't even want any overly-refined gin. Beefeaters will do nicely, thank you. A couple olives are nice. Make sure the glass is nice and cold. I keep the gin in the freezer but still put it in a metal shaker with plenty of ice and shake the living daylights out of it. As for the vermouth, I believe Winston Churchill had the right idea: "Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely." But, if you must, put a dash in the glass, swirl it around then discard the rest, add the olives and pour on that well-shaken, icy cold gin. The glass should frost up nicely.

And speaking of living daylights, on my birthday a couple months back (actually two months ago today), someone in an online forum asked me how I planned to celebrate my birthday. I mentioned the Perfect Martini solution to life's most vexing moments (at my age a birthday qualifies) and added that if anyone had Timothy Dalton's phone number would they please give him a ring and let him know there was enough for two. This set off a little flurry of excitement and a couple women responded saying they'd called him and he said to let me know he was on his way. Works for me. Well, since there are few things in life more nearly perfect than the above described martini or that gentleman's face, how could I be anything less than thrilled?

But it did get me thinking about what we call perfect. I am most definitely a no-lily-gilding sort of person. I want my lobster cooked and naked except for a light coat of sweet cream butter, and you'll never convince me that any culinary concoction of any sort is any better than home-made strawberry shortcake. In fact, there is very little in life much better than a home-made buttermilk biscuit, piping hot from the oven, spread with rapidly melting butter and a drizzle of wildflower honey.

Some years back I found the perfect tweed jacket. It was just gorgeous --- brown and gray wool tweed, lined with soft mauve silk, and three leather buttons. At the time I was in possession of two creamy silk shirts with mother of pearl buttons custom-made in Hong Kong for an old boyfriend when he was there. Actually, I didn't like the buttons they used and, when I stole the shirts, I spent a long time searching for 2 sets of exquisite MOP buttons to replace them. I wore those silk shirts under that tweed jacket with blue jeans and a pair of LL Bean deerskin moccasins for years. And every time I wore them I felt perfect. When the shirts finally wore out I cut the buttons off and still have them. I cried when I had to throw the jacket away. I bet I wore it for 20 years.

These days my wardrobe is a little more varied and I actually think about what I wear a lot less but there is still something delicious in having a few perfect things that you can count on. I had a meeting this morning and, since it is chilly here today, I wore a black cashmere turtleneck with pale gold linen trousers, and my beautiful black Italian leather sandals. Those sandals are going to be the next thing to make me cry when they bite the dust. But it is September and October, the most perfect of all months, is coming fast. My day is nearly over and there is a bottle of Beefeaters in the freezer. Maybe it's time to wrap this up and call it a day.

If anyone has Timothy Dalton's phone number, will you let him know it's time?

Thanks for reading.


  1. Hmmm, now you have got me thinking about what is perfection for me.

  2. I had a black shaker knit turtleneck that was my perfection. It was from Lands' End, so not expensive, machine washable, and a blank slate for my zillions of scarves. Alas, I washed it so many times it became charcoal gray. Then the coup de grace - I spilled glitter glue on it. I had bought it in 2001, and it went to the Rockport dump in 2006. And alas, Lands' End no longer carried it. I sent them an email about the beloved sweater and forgot about it. Until last week. Opened one of the zillion emails I get from Lands End and voila! The sweater should arrive via UPS this week. All's right with the world.

    Just noticed my use of French vocabulary about this sweater - well, it is the language of love.


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