Sometimes we know unusual things. Sometimes tiny things hint at much bigger stories. Sometimes things are backward to what you think they should be.
For Example, Take the Mint Julep
To people not intimately familiar with the drink, it might sound like a sweet, light little drink, a genteel southern drink. Juleps are made with bourbon, for heaven’s sake, not exactly in the same class as a little glass of chardonnay. Juleps was a drink for Generals and Presidents in 1800s, a manly drink.
The image of the drink has changed, but it is still a strong whiskey.
But the Kentucky Derby, which has become known for rich white women wearing big brimmed hats and expensive sun dresses and drinking Mint Juleps, is right around the corner on May 7th. So if you are so inclined, you might want to get your silver tumbler ready. Such a vessel is the only proper glass for the drink.
Mint Julep Recipe
- 2 ounces high-proof bourbon
- .5 oz simple syrup
- 10 or so fresh mint leaves
- crushed ice
The glass must be glistening with condensation from extreme chilling before mixing.
Muddle 10 mint leaves in the glass to express the essential oils, don’t mutilate, just muddle.
Only then fill the glass with finely crushed ice.
Add a fine bourbon such as Woodford Reserve, which is used at the Kentucky Derby, along with the simple syrup, garnish with mint.
Do not forget the context though, this was a drink known from slave-holding plantation porches.
From Micro Level Concerns to Macro Considerations
I am moving from small, deceptive drinks to massive planets. Jupiter sounds so male, doesn’t it? But there have been plenty of women involved with the science that supplanted Roman sky gods with sound research done via probes we’ve sent by and to the planet these last many decades.
The movie Hidden Figures (2016) chronicled the story of a group of black women who were used by NASA to compute the complex mathematics necessary for space flight. [from Wikipedia: the real women whose stories are told in the film were: Katherine Johnson who works at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia in 1961, alongside her colleagues Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan.)]
Somewhat recently another woman’s story made news because she, Susan Finley, is NASA’s longest serving employee. She started working with JPL before the American Space Agency, NASA’s precursor, had even been created. She was an engineer with NASA before degrees were even required. But she was demoted to an hourly employee recently due to not having a degree back in 2004.
Juno emits radio tones in hundreds of different frequencies, each one corresponding to every possible operation of the spacecraft. They aren’t audible to the human ear, but instead are deciphered by computers. Since 1997, Sue Finley has been detecting these tones using the software she helped develop in order to reveal the success or failure of NASA missions.
The more we look, the more we find that exceptionally dedicated women were in all the “male” fields that headed out to explore planets named after male gods.
Appearances can be deceiving. What we presume from logical presentation of “facts” can be totally wrong. Whether we are talking about a julep that has become a “feminine” drink, or the Juno mission to Jupiter, we have to do our research, especially with regard to how women may fit into the story, because what we think we know may just have been the convenient cover story or at least an incomplete one.