Satire amazes me with its quickness on the uptake. No sooner had Arthurian legend started making the rounds than Marie de France began collecting these oral tales and making fun of them. Chaucer has the Knight’s tale, a Romance, and the Wife of Bath’s Tale, a parody of a romance, cheek by jowl in the same book. Sarah Palin and Tina Fey performed in near perfect synchronicity, as if choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
So what cocktail is the satire of a cocktail? I suppose the recipe would have to be the key—a skewed catalogue of mismatched ingredients. Catalogues are often sources of humor, sometimes without trying. Think of the annoyingly complete laying out of possibilities, grouped into sets and subsets of sets and subsets of subsets, that Aristotle did for rhetoric. (“So much for Kindness and Unkindness. Let us now consider Pity, asking ourselves what things excite pity, and for what persons, and in what states of our mind pity is felt.” p. 1396! As in, 1,395 previous pages of this stuff! Good grief!)
I got into Aristotle because I’m reading about humor these days. I find that everyone who writes on this subject, going back to 500 BC, makes the same disclaimer: that funniness is so circumstantial and responsive, it defies catalogue or definition. But if, as Henri Bergson writes of caricature, “form is always the outline of a movement,” you’d think a recipe would be just the ticket for cataloging humor, being the outline of what happens when you make the drink. A recipe that is a satire of itself would be a working definition of what makes us laugh and a refreshing beverage, to boot. Certainly, Aristotle, Bergson and Quintilian, for that matter, seem to satirize themselves when they take on the subject. Maybe we don’t need a quaff of huffcap on the side. Humor might define itself in its doing more than even pornography. If I were Quintilian (hint: I’m not), I’d be enumerating the four ways in which humor differs from pornography. But I am the Constituent Bartender, so I’ll stick with cocktails and nominate the Millionaire: bourbon, Pernod, triple sec, grenadine and one egg white.
Here’s my self-satirizing Aristotelian analysis:
Let us first consider the Name of the Cocktail, asking ourselves what connotations the name stirs, and in whom: a Millionaire is supposed to be rich, but it’s not really that rich anymore. So far, BP has spilled much more than a million gallons of oil into the Gulf, at a probable rate of more than a million per day. AIG’s payouts to Goldman Sachs: silly amounts beyond one million. More in the $12 Billion range. So there’s something wonderfully quaint in the name, as if a mere Mil meant much (hint: I live in the Hamptons).
So much for the connotations of the Name. Let us now consider Bourbon and Pernod, to wit, the improbability that Bourbon and Pernod will play nice. The people who drink bourbon whiskey also invented “white wine” as a political slur against John Kerry and the term “Freedom Fries,” which, like Arthurian legend and Sarah Palin’s run for Veep, became parody in its first hour of birth. They voted for Rand (named after Ayn?) Paul. Meanwhile, Pernod is a subset of absinthe and favorite of girly-poet Oscar Wilde.
So much for Bourbon and Pernod. Let us next consider the Egg White, stating the five (5) mathematical equations into which it properly fits: (1) Egg white = frivolity. (2) Egg white = do you mind? I just got my nails done. (3) Egg white = future meringue. (4) Egg white ≠ Put up your dukes, Salmonella! (5) Egg white ≈ Bring it on, Bourbonites, so long as you fold me gently in as few strokes as possible.
So much for Egg White. Let us now consider Triple Sec, asking ourselves, three of what, exactly? Three of dry? That’s odd. That doesn’t make any sense. You must be un-American. Maybe you are French? Are you legal? Where are your papers? Do you hate Freedom? I am certain you hate Freedom. I will beat you now with this black stick.
So much for Triple Sec. Let us now consider Grenadine. French again, meaning pomegranate. (How did all that French stuff get into a Millionaire? Don’t they know they’re socialists over there?) Grenadine used to be made out of pomegranate juice. Now it’s made out of high fructose corn syrup. Yup. And red dye. Ha! Not so French after all!Conclusion: Aristotle was correct to note that humor is hard to write about. (Hint: I am on my penultimate post as guest blogger on Best American Poetry.) (Hint: it’s an unpaid gig.) (Hint: make checks payable to The Committee to Elect The Constituent Bartender to The Secret Millionaires Club.) (Hint: Thank you for your Patronage.)