Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mr. Logical Muddles Again


(Note:  As I may have mentioned constantly, obsessively and exhaustively once or twice, we have been living more or less out of suitcases for five weeks.  Those of my readers who are tired of my whining will be happy to know that the furniture arrives today.  While we are otherwise occupied trying to work a miracle shoehorn the contents of our Texas house into our Korean apartment, I thought my readers might enjoy this mostly unedited - yet heartfelt - tribute to one of our favorite adult beverages.)

Those of you who know Mr. Logical personally know that he is a man of diverse interests.  In addition to his well-documented passion for cycling, he also rock climbs, brews his own beer, and can play a mean game of squash. He also can make seriously good mojitos.  However, up until a few days ago, it looked as though he would not be able to utilize this unique skill here in the Land of the Morning Calm - a state of affairs that was deeply troubling for both of us.

A mojito, for the uninitiated, is a traditional Cuban drink, made from mostly rum rum, mint leaves, lime juice, sugar or simple syrup, and club soda, best served in a tall glass.  The key to a good mojito is 'muddling' (a technical term which means 'smooshing') - the mint with a special instrument- called a 'muddling stick' - before adding the other ingredients and pouring into glasses.  A typical  muddling stick is about the length of a spatula or whisk and looks somewhat like a miniature cudgel - although it is, unfortunately, too small to be used for actual cudgeling - with one rounded end for muddling.  This releases the mint's aroma and is part of what makes the mojito such a good drink for hot weather, or whenever you just feel like drinking rum.

If you do not have a muddler, you can use the handle of a fork or a spatula or (if you are desperate) a plastic action figure  to accomplish your muddling.  However, using a muddling stick will  guarantee that everyone will be impressed with your facility with a specialized piece of equipment.  It will also give your guests ample opportunity to make (what they imagine to be) original and witty double entendres that relate in various ways to the words 'stick' and 'muddle.'  This will keep everyone entertained, which is important, because mojitos do not get made quickly.   Once the mojito is ready, it should be drunk with a straw, because if you try to drink it without a straw, you are likely to have lime segments and wet mint slide down the glass into your face when you tilt your glass. (This may happen anyway at some point in the evening, but you should start out with a straw.) Mojitos are also not recommended for first or second dates, due to the unfortunate tendency of smaller pieces of mint to get sucked into the straw and end up in your teeth.  Of course, if the date is going badly, you have nothing to lose, and the rum will cheer you up.

Despite the fact that mojitos require extra work and specialized equipment, they are worth it, because they taste delicious and effectively disguise the fact that you're drinking a lot more rum than you are used to.  They also leave your breath minty fresh, regardless of how many you drink, which is not something that can be said about beer.

The most important ingredient -after, of course, the rum - in any mojito is fresh mint.  If you are used to buying your mint at the grocery store in little bunches, you will need to buy a lot of it if you are planning to serve more than one or two mojitos. ( Parsley and cilantro, while much easier to find, are poor replacements.  Trust me on this.)  So, yes, mint is a key ingredient.  In fact, while I did not grow any other edible plants when we lived in Texas, I did cultivate an enormous pot of mint on the back deck.  I gave it water, and it in turn, gave us mojitos.  It was a symbiotic relationship.

Naturally, in the excitement of moving to Seoul, neither of us gave any thought to the question of the mint.  But now that we have furniture, we'll want to be entertaining again, and at some point, we'll probably make mojitos. Obviously, the giant pot of mint from Texas did not make the journey with us, so we'll need an alternative.  And, while Korean street vendors seem to purvey every other possible fruit, vegetable, and herb, finding mint has been something of a challenge.  We have searched high and low, but mint has proved to be flora non grata here in Seoul.  Besides, even if we could actually locate the mint, finding a place to cultivate it in our tiny yardless, balcony-less apartment would be a feat in itself.

Yes, these last few weeks have been shadowed by the mocking spectre of the elusive mint plant.  We simply couldn't understand it.  How could such a forward-thinking, sophisticated society lack something as basic as mint? And, more importantly, how bad would mojitos made with dried mint leaves or,  -worse - spearmint extract taste? It was a dark time for us, as we slouched miserably each evening in our camp chairs, staring moodily out the window at the rainclouds wreathing Namsan Tower and contemplating Life Without Mojitos.

And then, when it seemed all hope was lost, just last week we happened across two little unassuming pots of mint - glorious mint! - tucked into the back of the display of houseplants on the pavement outside the commissary.  These little pots  lifted our hearts, brightened our day, and put the spring back into our steps.  We bought them immediately, took them home, and installed them as residents on the sunny ledge in my laundry closet room, where I gloat over them daily with a Gollum-like gleam in my eye.  Despite the fact that I no longer have a backyard -or even a balcony - I am right back in business as the mint-tender in the family and  it looks like Mr. Logical will soon be muddling again.








13 comments:

Karen said...

I'm giggling mindlessly here in RI where I have never had a mojito but now have a sudden urge to have one. I do love rum, and mint as well...clearly a match made in heaven! Which are we more excited about, mint or furniture? Hope that you are having fun getting reacquainted with your furniture...perhaps a mojito celebration afterwards? BTW, we have discovered the secret to preteen contact lens success. Mom needs to go away and let the kid handle it. Apparently maternal advice makes things worse...fine with me, I have no burning desire to watch a preteen tantrum in a hot, stuffy bathroom!

Hails said...

So envious! Mojitos are my absolute favourite drink, but I have mostly resigned myself to life without them in Korea. I will not be able to stumble across random pots of mint because the only hope I would have of recognising them as being such would be if they had large signs, in English, saying "MINT!!!! THIS IS MINT!!!" above them.

Fortunately, I found the one bar in the whole of Daejeon that actually attempts to make mojitos, and occasionally go there to spend 15,000 won (yes) per drink. They may not be a patch on my sister's homemade ones, but they're still delicious. It's worth paying 3 times the price of most other drinks they serve. ;)

Amanda said...

I've been reading your blog for about three weeks now - we are just behind you in the relocation to Seoul stakes having packed up in Melbourne and arrived in our serviced apartment ten days ago. Our interior life is now filled with mysterious flashing lights, bells and chimes and the exterior equally sodden. (until yesterday when our bikes had their first run along the river). I've been so lucky to have had you tread the path before me and write about it so brilliantly, like a wise funny trailblazing sister. But today, your mint plant joy really struck me and I felt it was high time to say congratulations on a great blog and thank you for bringing a smile and often a big belly laugh to my day! (although being pregnant I cant enjoy the reality of a mojito - and isnt it just the weather for one today- my word I did enjoy your post).

cheryl barnes said...

Sounds like you are all muddling along just fine! We are doing same. YOU are my daily news and bit of humour. Keep the daily updates coming and by all means, "Keep Calm and Carry On".

Marion said...

Yeah Mint! I have 3 pots of it in my backyard, and if it wasn't illegal, would send you some clippings (although I doubt it would survive the trip anyway). Alas, I am not a mojito maker, but use it to make mint tea (sans the tea leaves) and in cooking. I feel the desire to run out to a local store and buy a muddling stick (I think I remember what one looks like from your kitchen ~ and your description) and attempt to muddle my own following our time honored WWCD instructions for life. Congrats on your furniture arrival, use it, again, in good health! Many fond memories of sitting in your backyard (that furniture probably didn't make the trip), or your front room, sipping mojitos and enjoying your company. Keep blogging, it's wonderful ~ I'm off to try on my new Keens which just arrived in yesterday's UPS truck!

broken biro said...

Ah the mojito! I have a large tub of mint kept almost exclusively for the preparation of my fave cocktail (first tasted in Cuba... and going there again just 6 weeks -- yipee!)
Maybe you should set up a mint-seed-smuggling enterprise for other ex-pats... you could do it like in The Great Escape, with the seed and soil up your trouser leg, casually shaken into parks and roadside verges... and... and....

MsCaroline said...

@Karen: No mojitos yet...We were so exhausted last night, we could barely drink a beer...thank God I did not have a teenage contact crisis to deal with. I probably would have imploded.

@Hails: Smelling the plants help, but the vendors get annoyed when you pull off leaves and sniff them.... 15,000 Won? I think Mr. Logical's in the wrong business...

@Amanda: Thanks for visiting! So nice to have another 'neighbor!' Checked out your blog and it looks like you are well ahead of me on the 'adventures' list...dying to try the 'Dr. Fish' myself. When is your baby due?

@Cheryl: You, my dear, are awesome in every way, and I'm glad you're entertained. It's the very least I can do....We are doing our best to 'keep calm and carry on' and I know you are, too. Hugs to all from me!

@Marion: Ah, mojitos on the porch...sigh. Hope the Keens work out after all my glowing endorsements. Remember, the toes take time to get used to!

@BB: Excellent idea; however, since I'm wearing shorts all the time these days, it would hardly be casual...besides, with my luck, it would grow out of control, become an invasive species, and I'd end up as the National Enemy...Cuba...really? How fun! Envious. Envy you the space for the large tub of mint as well...looking forward to the travel report already!

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

How did I miss this post! Have plenty of mint in the garden and I'm sure I've some rum kicking around so will get some sort of spatula-thing plus the lime and soda and I'm sorted! Is your Club Soda the same as British lemonade or soda water?

MsCaroline said...

Trish, don't forget the simple syrup/sugar - that will make a difference! Club soda is just fizzy water, also called seltzer water - carbonated water, if you will. Here's the link to a fairly simple recipe, but you will (of course) want to make several to put your own touch on them..; )
http://supercocktails.com/1435/Mojito

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

Thanks, have printed the recipe out! x

Schadenfreude Warehouse said...

Here from the Warehouse. Thanks for coming by!

Schadenfreude Warehouse said...

Here from the Warehouse. Thanks for coming by!

MsCaroline said...

@Warehouse: Right back at you Eunice!!!