My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI_dBarT6UY]

Y’all wanna see me cry like a baby? I’m in section 114, row K at Churchill Downs and that is what I’m doing exactly right now. Every single time this song comes on, I’m reduced to this tiny little puddle of Kentucky-shaped love.

Happy Hour: Mint Juleps

Track juleps are not your friend, but are a fun, once-a-year thing for the experienced and unimpressionable julep drinker.
Track juleps are not your friend, but are a fun, once-a-year thing for the experienced and unimpressionable julep drinker.

Anyone who says they don’t like mint juleps obviously had their first one at the track. Anyone who says they do like mint juleps and tells you that they had their first one at the track is not to be trusted. The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby is a vile thing made with Early Times and insufficiently muddled mint. It is a sad thing, and I don’t want you to ever experience it. Mint juleps are a thing of great beauty, and now, with a little bit of help from Walker Percy, I’m going to tell you how to make a good one.

Here’s what you need to get started:

My julep cup is monogrammed, because I am a Southerner for a living.
My julep cup is monogrammed, because I am a Southerner for a living.

If you don’t have a julep cup (because, presumably, you’re from north of Virginia or something), you can use a hearty, small vessel of another kind.

Fill up your vessel with crushed ice and let that sit for a few minutes. Discard the ice, then add about a tablespoon of granulated sugar to the glass. Top with a ton of mint. Maybe 18-20 leaves. As I’ve said before, the trick is a vast, dizzying amount of mint. Muddle very, very well with a muddler if you’ve got one or a spoon if you don’t.

That cup is full of mint, okay?
That cup is full of mint, okay?

Fill the vessel up with crushed ice, but keep it in there this time (you’re basically making a booze sno-cone, so the finer the crush, the better).

Dump in 2 ounces of bourbon—you want a nice-but-not-hideously expensive label. Garnish with mint leaves and consume greedily and instantaneously.

You're using a lot of mint. Have you considered planting a little mint bush to feed your addiction?
You’re using a lot of mint. Have you considered planting a little mint bush to feed your addiction?

The Big 3 at the Kentucky Derby

Jimmy Winkfield, the first and only black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, which he did in 1901 and 1902.
Jimmy Winkfield, the first and only black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, which he did in 1901 and 1902.

A cultural anthropologist told me once that a look at jockeys and boxers will tell you who occupies the lowest rungs of American society– Irishmen gave way to black Americans who in turn gave way to recent Latino immigrants. I don’t know if I buy that theory totally, but it is rough, physical work, to be sure, not to mention dangerous. Regardless, race, class, and gender, a.k.a. the Big 3 of graduate school discussions, make themselves known almost every year in the form of op-eds, short bios, and other articles floating around myriad media outlets.

The field is changing– a Cajun man is arguably the most formidable figure in the sport right now, and a privileged woman from New Jersey is making a bid this year– but this is an amazing article about the current face of black jockeys, Kevin Krigger. If he wins on Saturday, he’ll be the first black jockey to win in over 100 years, which boggles the mind. I can’t wait to see the most diverse field in Derby history run tomorrow. 

Introducing Miss Jennie Benedict (and other delicacies)

Hometown hero.

For the humans watching at home, the Derby is a marathon, not a sprint (not for the horses. For the horses, it’s over almost as soon as it starts). You need to have sustenance throughout the long day of standing around wearing a big hat and frittering away money on games of chance, so don’t be foolish: plan ahead and make some tasty treats for yourself. One of the snacks I’m sharing with you today is a Southern delicacy, and the other is a Louisville original. Pimento cheese and Benedictine are both great snack spreads that are good on crackers/white bread and are just two or three bites max. You’re going to be very, very busy, as I said, daydrinking and gambling, so you don’t want your hands to be occupied with something as silly as foodstuffs. Hands are for juleps. Continue reading “Introducing Miss Jennie Benedict (and other delicacies)”

The 139th Run for the Roses

Heaven is the Jockey Club.
Heaven is the Jockey Club.

So, this is my favorite two-week period of the year. Better than Christmas, Halloween, and mayyyybe my birthday is the Kentucky Derby Festival, and, of course, the greatest 2 minutes in sports. I’m going to feature different Derby traditions and Louisville lore all week, culminating in the Saturday race. If you were wondering, no, no one in this city is working at all.

Get ready. This is the best ever.