Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Rocket fuel: Ginger cooler (and a brush with fame)

A couple of weeks ago, an exciting e-mail dropped into my box: Lucy Hawking, co-author of the kids' book George's Secret Key to the Universe (co-penned with her father, Stephen "Brief History of Time" Hawking) would be speaking to the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers. Would I like to go along? Well, with the YM reading that very book, I snapped up the opportunity, thinking that the chance to meet the author would certainly speed the reading along (g).

I had phoned ahead to check that it would be okay to bring along the YM, definitely not a writer of children's books, and knew that older young people were more than welcome. In the end, though, there was only one other underage non-writer there, and what a shame that was. Turns out that Lucy Hawking is not only one of the most personable of writers, but also an engaging and inspiring presenter for her target audience (8--12-year-olds).

In addition to the latest on the solar system, the focus of the first of what is to be a trilogy of George books, she gave us some insight into her father's work, his appearance on The Simpson's, the sheer determination and effort it takes for him to write (suffering a neurodegenerative disease, he "types" each letter with the movement of a cheek), their experiences together on a zero-gravity flight, and lots more that should rightfully have had a roomful of young minds buzzing with possibilities.

So what does all this have to do with ginger cooler??

As it happens, while hearing all about actual and imaginary space travel (the computer that launches George and his friends into space being the only deviation from hard science that Lucy was allowed to take, apparently), I had some of my very own rocket fuel in the making right at home!

It all goes back to a new blogging friend, Cynthia, I made around the same time. Cynthia has a terrific Caribbean food blog Tastes Like Home, where I found a post on ginger that really got my gastric juices flowing. Cynthia doesn't always post her recipes on the blog, and instead invites you to e-mail her to get the low-down on her fabulous creations. I definitely wanted some of her yummy-looking ginger beer, and I wanted it now!

But, as you may have guessed, I wasn't going to get an instant ginger hit; you need to let your ginger beer mature for 3 long days! And that is how it came to be that I had some ginger-powered rocket fuel ripening away in my kitchen while we were off hearing all about planets and stars and the inconsequentiality of mere millions when it comes to talking about space.

And when I say rocket fuel, I mean rocket fuel. If you're into fresh ginger in any way, here's a way to get a fix in an eye-opening, mouth-poppingly, earth-shakingly invigorating way. It is something I had only otherwise experienced from the herbal liqueur Jagermeister. But here you have it without a drop of alcohol!

Then again, this being so, the deviant mind naturally wonders what it might be like when mixed with something that would actually worry the liver: in this case some white wine (around 2 parts ginger beer to 3 parts wine). Having done the experiment, I am here to tell you that the result is an out-of-this-world ginger cooler. Houston, we have lift-off.

If you want the recipe, you can write to Cynthia, too, at mailto:tasteslikehome@gmail.com.

All I'm going to say is that I used dense Japanese brown sugar, an extra cinnamon stick and more cloves, which made my version somewhat darker than hers, but I thoroughly enjoyed this, both as a non-alcoholic aperitif and as an intergalactic cooler, and will certainly be back for more launches in the future (certainly before the next George installment is published, anyway (g)).


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