Nancy W. came to my mind today. I knew her many years ago, when I was a single working girl living in Miami. (Trust me, a looong time ago.) She was a loyal member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). She’s passed now, and I suppose I could use her last name, but I won’t.
Nancy W. was a blue blood, truly. Her ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Her family is in the social register. I went to several open AA meetings (open to non-alcoholics) with Nancy. That was in the 1970s and members came to evening meetings from work dressed in polyester pantsuits, or well worn-in dungarees, depending upon the type of job. This was south Florida, so some came in shorts, some in short-shorts. Nancy wore a pleated skirt, white or pastel blouse, and pearls.
Nancy told me about the highlight of one of her trips to Manhattan (NYC). She accompanied her chic socialite friend to an AA meeting in the East Village. Both women always sat in the front row when they’d been in boarding school, and they did so at this meeting. They didn’t want to miss anything. Her friend was decked out in a fur coat (animals lovers, please don’t judge). It was a small meeting place, and the meeting had already begun when an obviously inebriated man walked, or careened in. The only seat left was in the front row, right next to the lady in the fur coat. The speaker kept on with his story about getting sober. All of a sudden the drunk threw up on the floor smack-dab front of the podium and in close proximity to Nancy and her friend. The speaker didn’t miss a beat, kept on talking. Nancy and her friend sat there unfazed while someone rushed forward with a mop. Another member guided the drunken man to the back to feed him some strong coffee. When retelling this story, Nancy remarked, “That man is a drunk, just like me.”
Nancy was one to write down recipes. While watching a TV morning or afternoon show, if a celebrity demonstrated how to make something scrumptious, she would write the recipe down on the back of a stray envelope or a piece of scrap paper. One evening, Nancy attended an AA meeting where the now long-sober speaker had once done time in prison. He gave the recipe for jailhouse hooch and, naturally, Nancy grabbed a piece of paper out of her handbag and wrote it down. While joking one day, she showed the “recipe” to me and I wrote it down. Here it is…
Jail House Hooch a/k/a Pruno
1. Take one empty paint can, wash well. [Note: Nancy copied this recipe in the 1970s. I have on good authority that inmates use huge Ziploc baggies now.]
2. Combine in the can 10 peeled oranges and one 8 oz can of fruit cocktail (stockpiled from lunches or filched from the kitchen). Mash well. Add 16 oz of tap water, mix, and reseal can (or baggie). Wrap can in a towel and store in a warm place hidden from the guards. Let sit 48 hours.
3. Open the can (baggie). The mixture should have ballooned and there should be a smell of fermentation. That would be true in wineries, in this case it’s more like rotten fruit. Add 50 cubes of white sugar, 5 tsp (or 5 packets) of Heinz Ketchup, must be Heinz. Mix to stir ketchup through and to dissolve sugar. Put the cover back on the can and seal. Wrap it up in the towel again and store in a warm place (if you used a baggie, run it under hot water for 30 min.) and be sure to keep it away from the guards, but a place that is accessible so you can let gases out. Don’t want to be cleaning this stuff off the walls.
4. Twenty-four hours later, open can and let some fermentation gasses escape.
5. Twenty-four hours later, open can and let some fermentation gasses escape, place it near a heat source (oven or radiator) for half an hour (or run the baggie under hot water) to keep the fermentation going.
6. Twenty-four hours later, let gasses out, sit near a heat source (oven or radiator for half and hour), reseal, wrap in towel and put away again.
7. Twenty-four hours later, open can and let gasses out, sit near a heat source (oven or radiator for half and hour), reseal, wrap in towel and put away again.
8. The next day open the can, fish out the rotten fruit and the yukky mold. Strain the liquid carefully through a wire, mesh strainer. And it’s ready to drink.
Does it taste like Scotch, bourbon, Irish Whiskey, or brandy? In a word, NO! It tastes like a mixture of rot-gut and gasoline, and only gives a measly, minor buzz. It’s more sickening than inebriating, but it does, in fact, inebriate somewhat.
Here’s a spiritual thought. You might consider asking for Last Rites before drinking Jailhouse Hooch