Vodka with Milk, Vegetable Soup, and Watermelon Juice

Guardian comment V vodka

…so quoth a commenter when the Guardian books first introduced our frivolous little endeavour to the world. And I know of course one shouldn’t read the comments and less still feed the trolls, but I have been looking forward to this post ever since.

Pynchon in Public PodcastAs any true Pynchonite should realise, Pynchondom abounds with dedicated souls who wouldn’t blink at slurping down a vodka and milk for the cause. Two of the most dedicated of all must be the hosts of the marvellous Pynchon in Public Podcast, Chris and Bo. I had the great honour of appearing on their latest episode, where we drank this on air. Chris took the milk, Bo the vegetable soup, and I the watermelon juice. Get yourself over there now and listen, they’ve edited out all my drunken slurping noises, it’s a fun time. Here’s the iTunes. Very excitingly, they’re about to start a season on Gravity’s Rainbow — never a better time to jump aboard there if you haven’t already.

The vodka with milk/soup/watermelon is, as AbsurdistGeographer helpfully explained, drank at the tail end of a party near the beginning of V. It’s a pretty sombre party though. Here’s the passage (p. 18):

They would sit around a table in Teflon’s kitchen: Pig Bodine and Dewey Gland facing them [Paola and Benny] one each like partners at bridge, a vodka bottle in the middle. Nobody would talk except to argue about what they would mix the vodka with next when what they had ran out. That week they tried milk, canned vegetable soup, finally the juice from a dried up piece of watermelon which was all Teflon had left in the refrigerator. Try to squeeze a watermelon into a small tumbler sometime when your reflexes are not so good. It is next to impossible. Picking the seeds out of the vodka proved also to be a problem, and resulted in a growing, mutual ill-will.

We split the drinks up on the podcast, but I couldn’t let the two I didn’t take pass me by entirely. So let’s go, round two, I’m tackling them all again.

Disclaimer: I drank these on seperate evenings. Attempting to drink all three at once may lead to profound unhappiness.

First up: vodka with milk. 

Pynchon Vodka with Milk

I got home from work ready for a beer and instead dropped a shot of vodka in a tall glass of cold milk (just in case my dedication is still in question). It didn’t really taste too horrible, which seemed wrong, so I added more vodka. This did amp up the grossness considerably. It somehow seemed far creamier than just ordinary milk, which combined with the vegetal/metallic vodka edge and slight alcohol burn just got really weird, particularly as you get more than a few sips in. I guess it wasn’t totally awful. A big milk fan could probably dig it. I struggled.

Next: vodka with vegetable soup. 

Vodka with Vegetable Soup Pynchon

Well doesn’t this one just make the other two look like strawberry daiquiris. It’s shudderingly gross. Bo elected out of his own free will to drink it on the podcast (his version is pictured below). I still have lingering guilt over suggesting this particular trio. Thinking that Pig Bodine and co wouldn’t bother with heating, Bo left it cold. I’ve done the same. Cold vegetable soup out of a glass is gross enough to begin with; vodka takes it to a new level of spewiness. As I think Bo found on the podcast, much of the vodka seems to float to the top, being less dense than soup. That means it starts horrible but gets milder and milder. By the time I was eating the last celery and corn out of the glass with a spoon, it was almost enjoyable. Almost.

Bo Pynchon Soup

Last up: vodka with watermelon juice. 
Rotten Watermelon PynchonI drank this one on the podcast, mashing the juice straight out of a fresh watermelon. That wasn’t really fair, seeing as V clearly specifies a “dried up” piece of watermelon, and the hosts were drinking the nastier mixes above. I kept the rest of the watermelon in the fridge though, ready for a crustier reprise here. Probably because I sealed it in tupperware though, it didn’t dry up at all — it turned to soggy mouldy pulp. Yum. Luckily I had one chunk in the freezer, and that defrosted into a flaccid but (crucially) mould-free source of juice. If this fails to follow the letter of the drink as set down in V, it is at least loyal to the spirit of just using whatever you’ve got, whatever particular grossness that might entail.

The result was drinkable, but not wonderful. Just stale watermelon. It looked pretty! Pynchon’s not wrong though, picking the seeds out sure was irritating.

Pynchon Watermelon Vodka

What are you still doing here? Go listen to Pynchon in Public!

Gallo wine with ice

Gallo wine Pynchon V.

After a couple of moody European spirits (oude jenever and absinthe), it seems about time we have something more frivolous. This one definitely fits that bill. It’s pink and light and sweet and totally without bite.

At the start of Chapter Six of V., Profane’s just finished his first day (or actually, night) of alligator hunting in the sewers of New York. Angel and Geronimo and he return to street level at about 5 a.m., and the two of them shove him into a too-small suit to go out celebrating. Fina has sick leave coming up, so she tags along too, and Angel and Geronimo call up Dolores and Pilar, two girls they know.

The six of them started at an after-hours club up near 125th Street, drinking Gallo wine with ice in it. A small group, vibes and rhythm, played listlessly in one corner. These musicians had been to school with Angel, Fina and Geronimo. During the breaks they came over and sat at the table. They were drunk and threw pieces of ice at each other. Everybody talked in Spanish and Profane responded in what Italo-American he’d heard around the house as a kid. There was about 10 per cent communication but nobody cared: Profane was only guest of honor.

EGallo wine pynchon ice cubesarly morning in an after-hours jazz club isn’t the first environment I’d choose for cheap sweet wine with ice. I was thinking more like summer afternoon by the pool. But Pynchon is a wise man, and I think I could actually drink this very happily at a sleepless 6 a.m. (Am I right in assuming jazz club, by the way? I’ve never come across ‘vibes and rhythm’ music before, but I’m imagining this might be an example of the form?) It just goes down so easy.

Gallo are apparently the largest family-owned wine producer in the US, but they don’t export much to Australia. This bottle of White Zinfandel rosé was the only thing of theirs I could find here. I guess we’re already pretty well equipped with cheap drinkable wines. The bottle says it tastes like cherry and watermelon with hints of raspberry; I get plenty of the latter two, no cherry. It’d benefit in my books from a bit of body or bite, but as it is it’s totally pleasant. I’ll recommend it to my mum, and maybe even reach for it again myself should I need something one 5 a.m.