The cookbook above is a beer drinker’s cookbook; a few of the recipes call for beer and encourage the cook to finish off his brew while awaiting his dinner. Straight Up or on the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail seeks a different audience — or at least a different occasion. This witty and elegantly written history includes one hundred drink recipes. Cocktails are on the way back these days, and for good reason. As William Grimes writes in Straight Up: “A good cocktail, properly mixed, should lift the spirits, refresh the mind, and put into healthy perspective the countless worries and grievances of modern life. The fretful neurotic who shakes up an after-work martini should emerge from the experience a changed human being: more generous and sociable, inclined toward deeper thought and the pleasures of the imagination.”
I had thought steam rooms might be as much a thing of the past as the free lunch once served up with nickel beers in many pre-Prohibition bars, and then I joined the YMCA. Both facilities here in Asheville offer saunas and steam rooms. Saunas are too dry for my taste; I prefer the muggy steam room, the water droplets falling from the ceiling, the dull, easy feeling induced by high temperatures and humid air, the burst of perspiration that ends with a cold shower (I could do without all the 70-year-olds trotting about starkers). If you’ve consumed too much of that “Cowboy Stew,” or imbibed one too many martinis or simply want to experience a great way to relax, find the steam room nearest you.
— By Jeff Minick