Tuesday, May 01, 2007

gettin' our corn from a jar

At one time, moonshine was the best way to get your corn to market. Nowadays it's a little more than that. To some it's a way of life akin to part of their heritage, for others it's cheaper than the bonded whiskey and to some it's a little something daring in their life. That's certainly simplifying the matter as there's certainly more to it than that, but my blog, my rules, my marginalizations.

I've never purchased corn liquor, for what it's worth, but that doesn't lessen my involvement. I've enjoyed, if that word can be used concerning the topic, my share of it, and I have owned more than one jar of it in my years in my little town. For all that I'd heard of it over the years, I never touched my first drop before moving to this town. I could now easily find my share should I want to.

One difference between moonshine and other liquors is the communal nature of drinking it. Bring a bottle of tequila out, and you also bring out shot glasses and perhaps even the training wheels of lemon or lime and salt. A bottle of regular whiskey is either held close or often made into drinks. Rum is certainly mixed, and truth be told makes a hell of a lot better ice pick than vodka. Vodka? Well, the less said about that bastard drink the better. Honestly, when your pinnacle of success is no flavor at all, well why not just drink water and act stupid so people will think you're drunk?

The communal nature comes in a quart jar. You don't pour shots of moonshine, and you don't make drinks with it. You screw the top off, drink without sniffing, and you pass it down the line. You laugh at your close friend as the burn slides a little sideways somewhere in his throat. He passes the jar on, and it comes back around. Someone in the circle has a twelve pack of beer at his feet, because, as he says, "I'll drink it before it gets too got-damn warm," and he never does take you up on your offer to stick it somewhere cold. Whoever's house you're at has a refrigerator somewhat full of beer, and there might even be an ice chest with beers floating in an ice slurry.

At some point, you know the jar is coming back around. You might be ready for it, but it's also possible that you wish to sit out a round. You probably won't, and that's okay too. There's nothing like grown ups shaming each other into drinking more liquor.

Moonshine doesn't have to be illegal. If you want to set up a professional operation, and if you are willing to pay the appropriate taxes and pass the state health inspection, you could conceivably legally distill corn liquor. But who the hell does that? It's much more fun to sell it on the sly, avoiding the revenuers and the g-men with a little artistry and subterfuge. That plays right into the mystique as well, though I imagine most moonshiners would have you believe otherwise. They may even like to see themselves as circumventing unjust laws, and once upon a time, you might have been able to believe it. I'm sure there's a little Robin Hood trying to fight his way out of all moonshine distillers.

Part of the mystique to me is that it's just something so sublimely southern, the corn liquor. I hadn't actually planned to write about it, but reading at Rosie's blog about some guy named Popcorn Sutton just put me in the mood for a sip. I dragged the jar out, and Momma and I passed it around a couple times. It's back under the sink where it belongs for now, but it'll come back out soon enough.

Sometimes you just need a beer, and sometimes you need the beer to be chasing something down your gullet. Maybe I ought to know more about ol' Popcorn, but really, I don't care. I don't know if I've ever had any of his stuff, and I wouldn't be surprised if I had. What I'd be likely to run across currently is more likely to come from Sullivan County than from Cocke County, but I've never really bothered with where it comes from. So long as I can still see when I'm done, I'm pretty much fine with it regardless of it's county of origination.