Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let Your Smile Be Your Umbrella. But If It's Raining, Better Get a Real One.

A couple of months ago my blogger friend Brittany over at Dreams & Schemes (http://bit.ly/hqa1Bz) wrote about a whimsical encounter she had with a police officer on a bustling Manhattan street. She mentioned how our lives are so often filled with encounters wrapped up in BS that we tend to overlook those precious moments suffused with true human contact.

Reading about her experience reminded me of one of my own. A few years back I was in Chicago for business and found myself ambling up Michigan Avenue on what was, at the time, a lovely early-spring afternoon. There was still a chill in the air but one could easily notice the flower buds struggling to make their way skyward in the planters that lined the avenue.

Suddenly, enormous clouds stormed in from Lake Michigan and the sky opened, sending rain down in torrents. I ducked into a shop and purchased an umbrella. You know the kind - like the one grandma used to own: black with a gnarled wooden handle and large enough to shade a Buick. I think it cost me seven bucks. I paid the cashier then stepped back out onto the sidewalk and made my way south toward the river. As people scurried in and out of doorways and taxis, I offered them a space beneath my umbrella. Not a single person turned me down.

I know I couldn't have gotten away with this in New York. I probably would've been punched, knifed, or had the umbrella wrenched from my hands and broken in half over an angry thigh. Heck, the men probably would've even treated me worse.

But the City of Big Shoulders is different. It's more human and down to earth. An ideal place for an out-of-town Florida boy to offer his umbrella to complete strangers.

So I spent the better part of the afternoon under my cheap canopy chatting with folks I may never have met under other circumstances. Dozens of temporary friends and dozens of lively conversations. I'm a richer man for it.

Flash forward to July 2011: We've had lots of rain this month. Six inches one day this week alone. Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of parading up and down Michigan Avenue. I've been stuck doing more mundane things: finishing a book, shopping for new tires, testing recipes, wiring a duplex, presenting some cooking demos at a market or two, getting used to our new, but temporary, living arrangements... Some of it has been fun. Some of it hasn't.

But still I find time to smile.

Even if I can't find that damned umbrella.


PS. How are you faring amid these dog days of summer? Here's a magnificent sangria recipe that I promise will bring you a smile as big as an umbrella. I know it did me!

Perfect Summer Sangria

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine: Rioja, Merlot, Shiraz, or a Cab
1/2 cup triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 cup brandy (optional)
juice of one orange (3 tablespoons)
juice of one lemon (3 tablespoons)
juice of one lime (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 cup strawberries or raspberries or a combination of both
1 8-ounce can diced pineapple with juice
4 cups ginger ale

Mix the wine, triple sec, brandy, citrus juices, and sugar in a large pitcher. Refrigerate overnight.

Immediately before serving, add in the orange, lemon, and lime slices (remove seeds if possible), strawberries, pineapple and ginger ale. Serve over ice.


  1. Man! You got the good guys ... and gals in Chicago. A friend was there, went in an elevator and came out with only his underpants. He should have carried an umbrella :D
    The sangria sounds lovely. It's sweltering here as well.

  2. @ping. Wow. Bummer for your friend. Perhaps you're right, he should've carried an umbrella. LOL. But in spite of his experience, Chicago is a great town. Why just during a recent visit I bought a great suit at a great price from a guy in my hotel lobby. Said he got it off some guy in an elevator...

    Enjoy the sangria!

  3. Hello! Glad to have finally had the time to visit your blog. Thanks for the message on foodbuzz :D I'm visiting Chicago for the first time next week! And I love sangria. Can't wait to try this recipe!!

  4. @Anna. Thanks for stopping by! I try to post weekly so feel free to drop by often. I'll be sure to keep some sangria in the fridge. :-)

  5. That sangria recipe sounds refreshing and perfect for these summer days. I'm melting on a daily basis and would rather have sangria seeping through my pores than sweat. Better stock up on the bug spray. What's an umbrella? Haha! I have to laugh at Houstonians when it's barely drizzling and they have rain boots and umbrellas. I'm from the Pacific NW and wouldn't think about toting around an umbrella unless it's a down pour.

  6. @Pretend Chef. "Sangria seeping through my pours?" Love it, Rochelle! That's a keeper.

    I've spent some time in the PNW and know what you mean about the rain and how different it is for Houstonians. Sorta like the years I spent in Chattanooga, TN when the weather reports would forecast snow (which, of course, was just a dusting). But still, folks would rush to the supermarkets to stock up on food and water, the hardware stores would sell out of snow shovels, and all schools and gov't offices would close. As a former New Yorker I would laff and say, "You call this snow? I got your snow. Right here." At which point I'd execute the renowned NY Cabbie Pelvic Grope Salute. :-D

  7. Your post couldn't have come at a better time for me. I've had a rough few days and was in desperate need of a smile and a glass of sangria. Cheers! And thank you.

  8. @Abbey. Cheers! PS. Sorry about your week. Glad it helped a bit. :-)

  9. Warren, Sangria is good for a crazy hot weather here. I can't wait to make myself a glass, sounds so refreshing.

  10. This sangria recipe sounds delish! I would love it if you would link up to my Fusion Fridays! http://janedeereblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/fusion-fridays-texas-style-pecan.html

  11. Sangria? Gracias, Salute ! Don't mind if I do ! Am so looking forward to making summer cocktails, if the weather ever gets to summer-cocktail-type weather. I just can't sip cocktails wearing a woolly jumper - lol! :o)

  12. Sangria sounds perfect right now! Thanks for following, am following back.

  13. @Jennifer. Yep, this recipe is a keeper. Love the idea of Fusion Fridays!

  14. @Kooky Girl. Man, there has to be something wrong. It's like a gazillion degrees here (as it is in a lot of the US) and you're wearing a wooly jumper. Somebody please adjust the cosmic thermostat!

  15. @All That I'm Eating. Welcome to another friend from across the pond! Don't tell me...are you wearing a wooly jumper as well? :-D

  16. Loving the sangria recipe! I'm tweeting this one too. Anything with this much Cointreau
    need to be shared!

  17. @Aimee. Too funny! Thanks for the tweet!

  18. Hi Warren, it's my first time stopping by your blog! Very insightful post, and I definitely think the importance of human contact/interaction is definitely lost among us often. I LOVE summer, but this one's a scorcher!

  19. @Jodi. Thanks for stopping by! I try to post weekly so feel free to drop in often. :-)

  20. Summer and sangria is a perfect match for eating an entertaining al fresco goes great with tapas and my mini tortillas de patatas.