Alibi V.24 No.48 • Nov 26-Dec 2, 2015 

A Drinkable Feast

Ballad of the Sad and Fancy

Celebrating Carson McCullers with beer, book and tacos

via marblebrewery.com

Ah, Carson McCullers. Like Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin—you just want to grab Carson McCullers and hug her and tell her that everything's gonna be okay (even if that’s a lie). The yarns she spins, usually about small southern towns, are fraught with heartache and redemption—the tiniest human moments illuminating the joys and sorrows of this waking dream called life. A serious and troubled drinker, McCullers was tangled up in a stormy marriage and the subtlety of her work cleverly masks the socially revolutionary spirit behind it. So, to commemorate what, even with Oprah picking one of her novels, remains an unknown yet sizable talent, A Drinkable Feast is proud to sit with a damn fine beer and some tasty vittles to celebrate this extraordinary woman and her work.

via facebook.com/chicharroneria.donchoche

Beer: Marble Brewery’s Que Fancy

“Next to music, beer was best.” McCullers loved beer. To hear the folks at Modern Drunkard tell it, McCullers was on to beer long before she finished high school and at famous lit-scene parties she routinely out drank the New York Yankees. So for Carson we’ll need a highly drinkable pint that packs a punch.

At 7.2%, Marble’s Que Fancy has all you love about their double white (a Belgian-style wheat ale), only it’s been aged in French oak (thanks to help from Milagro Winery and Jubilation Wine and Spirits—que local!). They throw in brettanomyces yeast to bring all the love together, producing a bright, hazy yellow color with the sweet of the oak and the sour of the yeast balancing each other out perfectly. It’s got style, it’s got class and, like McCullers herself, it’s full of elegant surprises.

A Drinkable Feast is proud to sit with a damn fine beer and some tasty vittles to celebrate this extraordinary woman and her work.

Book: Ballad of the Sad Café

McCullers’ novella centers on a tough-as-nails (I see her as a hard-scrabble yet dignified Tilda Swinton-esque type) proprietor of the titular cafe, a woman every bit the equal (if not vastly superior in spirit and character) to all the small town’s men. A whispered tale of love gone wrong has our heroine living out a lonesome existence until the arrival of a mysterious little stranger upsets the fragile balance she’s rebuilt of her life. The familiar themes of the haunting absence of love and companionship resonate in this book (and most of her books), as this wayward menagerie of misfits and fuck-ups band together to stave off their loneliness in a quiet, touching and eventually brutal narrative … one that, at turns, you’ll wish you were part of, then rejoice that you’re safe from, leaving you to marvel at McCullers’ tremendous control.

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Food: Tacos from Chicharroneria Don Choche (facebook.com/chicharroneria.donchoche/)

Here at ADF, we can think of no better way to close out the fall than with tacos. There are tacos aplenty to be found all across the Duke City and Don Choche’s can hang with any of them. Wrapped in flash-fried corn tortillas and served in fours, most are dressed with fresh cilantro and onions plus a slice of radish. You can add to them with your choice of three different hot sauces (a red, a green and a yellow—like traffic lights). I spent the extra coin to sample four different tacos instead of committing to just one. The asada was finely chopped yet terrifically juicy; the barbacoa tender and torn in small chunks; the carnitas had just the right amount of crisp and chew to them; and the chicharron en salsa verde was smooth and packed with flavor. Between the sauces, and between the tacos, I honestly couldn’t pick a winner. I spent the entire plate trying each taco in each sauce and came to one conclusion: Just like McCullers’ entire catalog, you basically can’t go wrong!

McCullers bravely and matter-of-factly dealt with the antiquated ideas and social tenets of the 1940s and 1950s in a way that was very clearly taboo. Brimming with the delusional and deluded, her work celebrated, in quiet and subtle ways, those haunted and marginalized people suffering at the hands of the status quo. She turned her unflinching gaze on the southern United States without cruelty, but also without apology. For this writer’s money, she's every bit the equal of Tennessee Williams and vastly more readable than the more academic Faulkner. So y'all literary misfits draw up a chair, grab yourself some medicine, help yourself to some vittles and revel in McCullers’ criminally under-appreciated talent, ya hear?