I had a few beers in me, I was loosening up. I was stirring my two restaurant-size pots of chili and attending to guests when a couple came in and asked what there was to eat and drink. Before I could answer they said, “We just came from a kid’s party where all they had was the standard hot dogs, hamburgers, and deep-fried junk.” I said we had chili, vegetarian chili at that. I think there is a veggie platter downstairs. I wasn’t really sure. I remembered that she didn’t really drink much, but liked Fru Fru drinks (colorful cocktails with umbrellas and the like).
My bartender experience* and new-found juice craze merged in my high-speed brain like chocolate and peanut butter: I have a solution!
I put down my stirring spoon and brought out my Vitamix.
“No, no!” she exclaimed as she embarrassingly was trying to take back her talk of nitrates and empty calories. “You don’t have to do all of that NOW! Are you kidding? No, really.”
“No, really,” I replied. “I want to. This’ll be fun, I swear.” It was a little bit like when you’re about to do something kinda stupid, but you’ve had enough drinks in you to think that it’s going to be really something special and might even be as popular with the other party goers as it is in your simplified imagination. “You can help,” I said and she realized I wasn’t going to quit.
We have a tiny kitchen and, as with all good parties, it was packed. No worries, it was MY kitchen. I brought out some fresh kale, rinsed it off, stripped out the stems, added them to the Vitamix. My wife stuck her head in the kitchen, looking for something, saw that I had the Vitamix out and shook her head with a smile as if I had just taken out my new chain saw to show my friends, as if it was such a strange thing to do. I knew I loved her because she didn’t stop me. No one was going to stop me.
“OK, let’s see, what else would be good? Ooh, mint! Gotta have mint.” I put in a good handful. My hot-dog-gal gave me an apple from the shelf and that went in. Then a bunch of ice and some mango juice. I mostly stopped adding ingredients because I couldn’t think of what else would be good. I went downstairs to see what alcohol we had and came back up with a family-size jug of (probably pretty bad) vodka: perfect. To make sure I wouldn’t be liable for the strength, I asked my doctor friend to Say When as I poured freely into the mixer.
I let it run a good while to make sure we didn’t have little kale pieces stuck in guests’ teeth. Always a source of awkwardness if you don’t know them well enough to let them know and then they spend a few minutes really digging, can’t quite get it out, you see exactly where it’s stuck and, if you’re going to be better friends soon, you offer to just get it out quickly and you can just get it with a sly fingernail swipe between the tooth and gum. No one seemed to mind the deafening roar of the old-school Vitamix 5200, but they just raised their voices and continued merrily along.
The first batch was a bit too, hmm, shall we say “Earthy.” Burger Darlin’ gave me a crinkle face and it hit me: vanilla yogurt. I liberally let it flow and the mix turned a frothy and silky white. This was going be it. Deep Fried Doctor was ready for a refill after the taster teaser and he swooned like a restaurant critic who found his spot, “Ooh, this is it, this is the ticket.” My mixer was empty in a second as I forced real glass wine glasses on anyone within reach announcing, “Kale cocktails here! Get your kale cocktails!” The Giants were in the World Series after all.
Three full batches later and the east coasters were Facebooking photos to their friends with obvious captions such as, “Only in San Francisco: Kale Cocktails!” The vodka flowed more and more easily and somehow I didn’t taste the increase in volume. Funny that. I ran out of vanilla yogurt and mint at some point and that’s when it was probably time to close down the Vitamix shop and call it a day.
I’m not very good at standing around parties. I can do it, sure but I’d rather be “doing” something. Cooking, making drinks, even cleaning up. Maybe fixing the trampoline … we did that around batch 2 … complete with twist ties and duct tape. We got people together adding new vegetables, spices, and fruit to the cocktails and people got involved, got creative, laughed and mostly made fun of me. They maybe don’t know it, but they’re making of me with me. I’ll take it. I love it.
* I worked at a bar in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe for a month where I specialized in Rum & Coke because I knew what was in it (rum and Coke … ). My first customer was even kind enough to tell me how much of each, “About half and half.” I was a star.