My dad tells a story of when him and my mum were both young. (Sometime back in the 18th century. Ho ho.) They didn’t have much money, and my dad had never tried lobster. One balmy summer night they found themselves in a restaurant, and my dad had some spare cashish in this pocket. “Sod it”, he said. “I’ll have the lobster. Garcon! Bring me the lobster!” But he hadn’t understood the French menu, and what he’d ordered wasn’t in fact lobster but some kind of vaguely seafood-infused soup. My dad was still a lobster virgin, and his funds were such that he was likely to remain one for the foreseeable future. As far as I know, he still hasn’t popped his lobster cherry. Poor guy.
My dad tells this story as a kind of meditation on disappointment, although I’m not quite sure what its moral is. Study hard for your French GCSE? Make do with what you’re given? Don’t eat lobsters? Only eat lobsters? I just don’t know. And I guess it doesn’t really matter; the story has entered the cannon of apocrypha that inhabits the fabric of what it means to be a family. (Suck on that sentence, bitch.) Every Yuletide young relatives come from near and far to sit wide-eyed at his knee and beg, “oh do please tell us the lobster story!”
Now, as Philip Larkin once wrote, “man hands on misery to man”. So it goes that I have not learned from the sins of my fathers, and have engaged in foodular disappointage arising from my own carelessness. For lo, it came to pass that yesterday I did enter the land of the Whole Foods, and it was overflowingeth with organic milk and ethically-sourced honey. And I saw that it was good. And yea, it came to pass that Joshua, who was begateth of John, who was begateth of David, who was begateth of some yokel in a shtetl somewhere, chanced upon a plastic bottle of freshly squeezed lemonade, and he did think to himself, “cor! That looks good! I wanna get me some of that.” And lo he did buy it.
So I went home, clinked some ice cubes into a tumbler (not a glass, note ye well: a tumbler) and decanted the lemonade in. It was hot (the weather, not the drink) and I was very thirsty. Damn, this was going to be good.
Dear reader: it wasn’t good. For it wasn’t freshly squeezed lemonade at all, but freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’s right, I hadn’t read the label properly. I had repeated the mistake that my dad made all those years ago. I was turning into my father, only without the wife, or kids, or general success in life.
I attemped to drink said beverage, before coming to the conclusion that consuming unadorned lemon juice by the cupfull is an undertaking meant for far better men than me. It was drinkable for a few sips, but it was like imbibing the Platonic Form of Sourness. It made me want to scrunch my face so much that my teeth ended up in my ears. It begs the question: who the fuck buys this stuff? Is it meant to be drunk on its own? As a mixer? Not for the first time in my life I felt adrift on a sea of lemons.
In the end I topped the lemon juice up with with ginger ale, and it was fairly pleasant. But kids: always read the label. You don’t want to end up like me and my dad. I’d say worse things could happen, but really that would be lying – they really, really couldn’t.
LEMON JUICE: 5/10