Cheap Claret

Claret first enters the etymological record as a British nickname for Bordeaux red in 1700, not too long before Mason & Dixon gets started. The slang would then have been sixty-some years in use when first appears in M&D on page 192, with Mason in an English pub called the George distracting himself from the death of former Astronomer Royal Bradley with…

Coconut Ale

In Chapter Three of Mason & Dixon, the Reverend Cherrycoke narrates the first excursion of our title characters in London. As Mason (“coming the Old London Hand”) inducts Dixon into the cheerful violence and mystery of the city, they encounter a group of sailors in charge of the vessel the pair are to sail on. Under the enthusiastic captaincy of…

Cock Ale

Don’t get too excited—Pynchon clearly has his saucier moments, but I haven’t gone all NSFW on you here. A cock’s a chicken, you dirty bastards. And what could be a more natural beer ingredient than a chicken. The Cock Ale appears in Mason & Dixon, brewed regularly at “The Moon,” a St Helena “punch house”…

Merry Christmas! (Fruitcake soaked in brandy)

Merry Christmas all! The day’s over here in Australia; probably just beginning for Tommy Pynchon himself. Among my celebrations, I’ve squeezed in a fruit cake soaked in brandy, as recommended by Mason in Mason & Dixon. A nice chunk of Christmas does appear in M&D, but the fruit cake doesn’t actually herald from any of the…

Madeira

I stepped off my bus this afternoon halfway through Mason & Dixon‘s last chapter. No way could I have gone home and socialised with people at that point. I sat down on the first available bench and finished it. The thing is though, finishing M&D in public isn’t exactly like finishing Lot 49 or Gravity’s Rainbow or any of the other…