Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott, contemporaries, friends

     I have finished Thoreau's Walking, and while exquisitely written and definitely thought-provoking, I did not find it as moving as Nature. (Though in all honesty I believe chapter 8 of Nature eclipses all the rest of the book.) I do appreciate Thoreau's metaphors, however: walking through nature as a metaphor for living life, and the observations we make of nature while walking as the development of our own consciousnesses.

     I am several chapters into Concord Days by Bronson Alcott. Though I have zero respect for the man, his biographer John Matteson (Eden's Outcasts) claims it is one of Alcott's better books. (Possibly his best, as Record of a School was actually written by Elizabeth Peabody.)

     Alcott's memorial essay on Thoreau is incredible: clear, honest, it bespeaks of his admiration and of an affectionate friendship. His essay on Emerson is not so good, which is surprising, considering Alcott considered Emerson to be his dearest friend as well as a mentor. The essay is very distracted-seeming; it goes off on tangents unrelated to Emerson or his vision, then comes back, only to drift off again.

     And since it's perfect reading weather (I know, when do I think it's not?) here is a recipe for one of my favorite summertime drinks, basil lemonade, with strawberries. Enjoy! (Found in a Vegetarian Times magazine; taken from the website.) *The strawberries are my own addition*

Serves 6
30 minutes or fewer
Even in a world of fancy sodas and gourmet iced teas, homemade lemonade will always be a treat. This version gets infused with fresh basil, but you could also use mint, or lesser amounts of rosemary, sage, or thyme. The basil syrup will keep for up to a month in the fridge, so you may want to double the recipe and use the extra to sweeten iced tea or spring cocktails.
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed, plus 6 basil sprigs for garnish
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced (optional)
1. Bring basil leaves, sugar, and 2 cups water to a boil in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and bruise basil leaves. Simmer 5 minutes without stirring. Strain, pressing on basil to remove liquid. Cool.
2. Pour 2 cups basil syrup into large pitcher. Stir in lemon juice and 4 cups water. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill well. Serve over ice, garnished with basil sprigs and sliced strawberries.

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