The dan­de­lion wine in­ci­dent

Where the Foghorns Wail

The Compass - - SOCIALS - MA­RINA GAM­BIN — Ma­rina Power Gam­bin was born and raised in her beloved com­mu­nity of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught for al­most three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­

The dreaded dan­de­lion, which car­pets our lawn sea­son­ally, al­ways brings a smile to my face and a spe­cial mem­ory to my heart. It reminds me of my only ex­pe­ri­ence in the art of wine mak­ing. I think I was about 14 years old and game for any­thing. I was not alone in this escapade. It was my 15- year- old sis­ter who spawned the ad­ven­ture when she made me aware of a recipe scratched on a brown pa­per bag. The for­mula was for dan­de­lion wine but we called it posy beer.

Jean had ac­quired the di­rec­tions from an adult friend who highly touted its at­tributes and led us to be­lieve that a glass of wine now and then was the debonair thing to do. I think our friend did not re­al­ize how ut­terly un­so­phis­ti­cated we were.

At 14 and 15 years-of-age, we had no in­ten­tion of shar­ing our plan with our par­ents. We set about to de­velop the po­tent potable on our own. The ac­tual dan­de­lion plant was abun­dant in the com­mu­nity of Branch. No­body paid any heed to two young girls pick­ing a buck­et­ful, as this green veg­etable was of­ten cooked in out­port kitchens. It is at this point that my mem­ory be­comes ob­scure in re­la­tion to the other in­gre­di­ents. I know we threw in yeast and su­gar and maybe some­thing else and let it all boil for a few hours.

I re­call that this brew­ing process all tran­spired one night while our par­ents at­tended a card game and left us babysit­ting. Our five younger sib­lings must have been sleep­ing, or at least un­aware of our ac­tions be­cause no­body told on us. The next rec­ol­lec­tion that stands out in my mind is of a brown earth­en­ware jug. Where we ob­tained that I have no idea, but my sis­ter thinks we may have “bor­rowed” it from my grand­mother’s pantry next door. The mem­o­rable jug had a cork stop­per and it seemed like the ideal re­cep­ta­cle for our liq­uid po­tion.

By the time our par­ents re­turned from their game of 45s, we had our posy beer corked and safely stashed away be­hind the par­lor door un­der a pile of pa­pers where, per di­rec­tions, it had to “work” for a few days. I now re­al­ize that the mean­ing of “work” was fer­ment. Well, work it did and about five or six evenings af­ter our ini­ti­a­tion into the op­er­a­tion of wine­mak­ing, it all came to a nerve-wrack­ing cli­max.

As we all sat eat­ing sup­per in the kitchen, the un­for­get­table porce­lain jar could no longer hide our se­cret. In­stead of pop­ping its cork as the liq­uid ex­panded, it ex­ploded into a thou­sand pieces and spewed our ef­fer­ves­cent contraband and bro­ken crock­ery to ev­ery inch of the room. The noise was akin to a dy­na­mite ex­plo­sion and to this day, when I en­ter that room, I still think I can smell the yeast and beer.

A gi­gan­tic cleanup

Our mother and fa­ther were never ab­so­lutely strict and they al­ways ended up see­ing the funny side of our shenani­gans. I sup­pose we did get into a bit of trou­ble for our an­tics but af­ter the threat of an ex­plo­sion faded and ev­ery­one con­cluded there were no earth­quakes or tidal waves, the ex­cite­ment dwin­dled. The worst sce­nario was that my sis­ter and I were left with one gi­gan­tic cleanup job.

Not long ago, I asked my sis­ter what she al­leged had hap­pened to our brew. “I don’t know but I think we might have used the wrong part of the dan­de­lion or we put in too much yeast.”

Af­ter our am­a­teur at­tempt to brew our own spir­its failed; we never tried again. To this day, I have not tasted dan­de­lion wine. How­ever, come next spring, there will be lots of raw ma­te­rial in my yard and I guess it is never too late. Now, all I need to do is to find a good sturdy porce­lain jar.

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