A Drinkable Feast: Celebrate Walt Whitman
 Alibi V.24 No.27 • July 2-8, 2015 

A Drinkable Feast

True Independence Day

Celebrate Walt Whitman with these verdant offerings of food and drink

Walt Witman

It’s summertime in America. We’ve been forced to finally confront race in both a tragic, and necessary conversation. There's a fresh crop of Supreme Court cases to wantonly politicize across talk radio. The El Niño weather pattern has us feeling more like New Orleans than Albuquerque. And, of course, there’s BBQs! Along with the requisite bottle rockets and pool parties, we prepare to celebrate the birth of this “more perfect union,” even though we still have much to do in that regard. And ADF, in celebration of all things American, is honored to bring you our barbaric, yawping Uncle Walt. Not Walter White, or his delusional and dysfunctional American Dream—no, no, no. We’re talking about the premier American Walt: Walt Whitman.

There is simply no other way to say it: American poetry—and everything that's come from it or will—begins with Whitman. His was a distinctly American voice—one of boundless and unequaled humanity; a lusty, time-traveling, monstrously wise American sage. His fiery, mad, untethered and exacting spirit is stitched into the very fabric of America's identity as indelibly as the spirits of our forefathers and the American flag itself. And while of the tradition as a bellwether visionary, he remains distinctly apart from that as well—a lonely, relentless restlessness in the center of his brilliant mind. He was no compromised-for-the-greater-good citizen ... no, no, no. He was a poet—a true poet—living and feeling the entire gamut from war-torn destitution and slaughter in the Civil War to the redemptive joy, wisdom and indignation of the aged—a truly free man down through to his salty marrow. So here’s a book, a beer and a bite to celebrate one of America's finest poets.

Book: Leaves of Grass

Yes, historically ADF has opted for single-sitting reads—the kind you can finish while knocking back a couple pints and taking in the charms of the afternoon. But not this time. It is, after all, our duty as ministers of culture, as literary patriots, as citizens of the greater human beauty, to bow with wonder and penitence to a touchstone such as Leaves of Grass. To this day, it remains the first and best manifesto of American poetry—what is right and just and uncorrupted when it comes to the idea of America. Forget the conservative blather, Whitman's “American exceptionalism” is that of ferocious individuality and ingenuity, and above all a profound interest in and love for his fellow human beings. The otherwise banal swells to epic proportions under Whitman’s unblinking gaze and while the dense, meaty language of Leaves remains unmatched—it's definitely not the stuff of breezy, passive reading. You'll have to dig deep down into it, but a dizzying, triumphant enlightenment shall be among your just rewards.

Conchita’s window

Beer: Canteen Brewhouse’s Dark American Lager or the Dark & Lusty Stout

What can I say? I just couldn’t choose between them, and neither deserved to lose a coin-flip. So in honor of everything being bigger in America, ADF presents its first-ever two-fer!

Don’t let the deep, clear brown with a light, clingy head of the dark American lager fool you: It is a surprisingly smooth, easy-drinking beer. The slight roasted malt and subtle caramel notes stay weightless in the mouth with a finish that tends toward syrup instead of fizz. And at 5.6% with 20IBUs, there’s nothing in this beer to put off either a dabbler or a draught-head. It can stand up as a session beer and fits well with America’s typical 4th of July fare. As a seasonal, time waits for none of us. But even if you miss it, fear not! The Canteen regularly features their Dark & Lusty stout that is every bit the lager’s equal. It’s a big, chocolatey stout that’s so dark you won’t have to wait to light your fireworks!

If you worry over broken bottles by the pool, or are headed out of town to camp over the long weekend, why not grab yourself a sack of the Canteen’s new “crowlers.” Those are fresh-poured 32-oz. cans that tower over even those beloved tallboys we’re used to packing in. Call them Albuquerque’s own oil-canned craft-brewed goodness that’s both easy to transport and hard to resist.

Bite: Conchita's Creations Spicy Roast Beef

For two and a half years, Conchita has been creating fresh and healthy food truck options. Their salads are generous and inventive, and the Taos sandwich has thick-sliced turkey, ripe tomatoes, a bright, citrus-y guacamole and luscious spring greens on a flaky croissant. Then there’s the green chile (soaked) meatballs (too many to fit, and only $7) all served under a melt of colby-jack on a sesame roll that goes a little doughy under all the goodness—giving you the perfect excuse to gobble it up in one sitting. Choices, choices.

But the surprise of their menu was the spicy roast beef. The thin-sliced roast beef keeps the protein light, but the flavor—highlighted by the mildest wasabi kick—gives the sandwich all the “umami” of a much heavier meal. All come with a side of chips and salsa, and neither will leave you hungry. I didn’t even get to the New Mexican offerings—but certainly can’t wait to. You can catch them out on Civic Plaza on Tuesdays, where they often have a $5 daily special.

In part 16 of “Song of Myself,” Whitman called himself, “an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest.” And so pulls taut the stitched thread—from Whitman; to Steinbeck’s Tom Joad, with his “I’ll be there” speech indicting inequality and brutality; right on through to The Wire’s anti-hero Omar Little saying “a man got to have a code.” Whitman’s vision of America, we stand for things ... and our’s is an individual moral obligation to our democracy and to each other. The knell that echoes back to the sacred documents our forefather's built this imperfect union on, the same with which we still wrestle today. Whitman implores us to be the best country and people we can. The time may well be upon us. It will take strength, my friends—so let’s eat, drink and be literary!