When I get home from work my usual pick-me-up is to pour two fingers of blended scotch whiskey into a tall glass, add lots of ice and top it off with seltzer. Maybe a lemon wedge. I like this with bourbon as well, with some bitters (to cut the sweetness of the bourbon). But I wouldn’t do this with a good single malt like Glenfiddich or Balvenie (even if I could afford to). God forbid anyone should add ginger-ale or 7-Up! Save that for Seagrams 7.
On a hot day I might switch to a gin and tonic. Now, gins are infused with a number of fragrant botanicals, like anise and coriander but with juniper usually predominant. In order to pick up market share lost in the vodka craze that started twenty years ago, the gin distillers have marketed drier brands. Maybe this makes for a better martini, but these drier gins can be smothered by the quinine and lime of a gin ‘n’ tonic. Again, here cheaper is better, with “lowly” Gordon’s gin considered by many as the perfect gin to marry with tonic.
Back in my restaurant days I used to get a perverse kick out of the bar customer who would order an extra spicy Bloody Mary and then call for a pricy boutique vodka like Chopin or Belvedere. I defy anyone to discern a vodka brand when it’s blended with tomato, horseradish, Worcestershire and Tabasco. You can sort of sense the vodka in there somewhere, but you really can’t taste it. But I’ll take the extra cash from the up-charge, thank you very much.
(Side note: I remember around 15 years ago when inexpensive Barton’s gin, our rail brand, came in seventh place in an international blind tasting of vodkas, well ahead of most of the new, expensive boutique brands. To this day I keep a bottle in my freezer and have never disappointed a martini drinker who hoped to find a more ‘sophisticated’ vodka in the house.)
While sipping on a good old Gordon’s gin’n’tonic I might do some back yard grilling: I love to barbecue. Few things taste better than slow roasted spice rubbed pork or beef, the fattier the better, crispy charred and dragged through a spicy tart tomato or mustard sauce. Ribs, chops, shoulder butts, briskets – just about any cut of meat can be barbecued. But you might not want to do this with a good filet or rib-eye. They are wonderful all by themselves.
So, what’s my point here? Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Sometimes the less expensive is the best choice, especially when it comes to satisfying a strong thirst or hunger. Or when applied as an essential ingredient for a recipe. But at other, more special occasions, the rare and dear will, and should, stand alone. When it comes to quality, simpler is usually better. The reason why we have barbecue (and classical French cooking) is a way to make less desirable (and perhaps not as ‘fresh’) cuts of meat tasty.
Most of us seem to understand this when it comes to cooking or bar tending. The same concept is often applied to the finest of the arts. It doesn’t mean that the subject in question is shallow or lacking in complexity; there is just no need to add-on to the original. We wouldn’t lay a drum machine beat onto Beethoven’s 5th, for example. (Well, most people wouldn’t.) Or paint eye brows on the Mona Lisa.
So what’s with the layers and layers of doctrines and dogma that Christians have encumbered the faith with? How did anyone ever function (much less get saved and make it to Heaven) before they knew all these rules? Why did we feel like we had to ‘improve’ upon the original? It’s almost as if most of theology’s intent is like misplaced barbecue cookery or heavy-handed bar tending. Take the acquired taste of the absolute truth and hide it with the sweeter or spicier ingredients that appeal to the common palate. Or dilute it for easier drinking. But sometimes, like adding grapefruit juice to your grappa or ketchup to your prime rib, the result is…just nasty.
You don’t put Coke in your Glenfiddich and you don’t add Sprite to your Maker’s Mark. So why not try drinking the Gospel straight up for a change.
Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?”- John Adams