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By Ed Sikov
It began innocently enough. But like so many of life’s little catastrophes, my attempt to serve something a bit unusual took a sudden and unexpected dive, and the whole evening went down in flames.
Dan and I had invited our friends Bill and Treighton out to the beach house late in the season, a beautiful time on Fire Island when the hoards of bubbleheaded bubblebutts had gone back to the city and the weather was still warm enough to sit on the deck in the still-warm late afternoon. Some leaves had turned, others hadn’t, and the dappled effect of reds and oranges against green was simply but extraordinarily lovely. None of the housemates were there; it was just the four of us. A nice hunk of pork was slow-cooking and smoking in the grill. Dan had brought an array of scrumptious cheeses from a cheese shop near his office, and I was just setting them out on a plate when Treighton appeared in the kitchen and asked if there was anything he could do to help.
As you may have guessed, Treighton is a Southern boy; he comes from a genteel Nashville family in which most people’s first names are actually the last names of generations long gone. Treighton was named after his great, great grandmother’s family. His sister, Mackenzie, carried on their mother’s maiden name.
In any case, I was happy to take Treighton up on his offer of assistance, so I asked him to pour four glasses of the dill-infused vodka I’d made earlier in the week.
“What did you say the f-flavor was?” he asked with a nervous stutter and a distinct edge of panic.
“Dill,” I said, at which point Treighton rushed out of the room in tears. I could hear the hard sound of footsteps on the stairs and the surprisingly soft closing of his bedroom door.
Then it hit me. “Dill!” I muttered. “Ed, you foo-el, you imbecile!” (I tend to turn into Cruella de Vil when berating myself.) I had forgotten all about the “dill problem.”
Many years ago, Bill and I had had a discussion of Treighton’s inability to tolerate the words “scout,” “finch” and, worst of all, “dill.” Recognize ’em? The literate reader will recall that these are names drawn from Harper Lee’s marvelous novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Robert Mulligan’s film adaptation of the same name. Amazingly (to me, anyway), Treighton had been a child actor and had auditioned for the role of Dill. Take one look at Treighton and you can still see exactly the type of boy Mulligan had in mind for Dill. The decision came down to Treighton and some other kid; the other kid got the role. Treighton has been bitterly mad about it ever since – (mad in the sense of insane, loony, nuts).
After an hour of delicately tiptoeing around the first floor murmuring praise of Mulligan’s film – a monologue by me, of course – Bill coaxed him downstairs for dinner with a glowing paean to the smoked pork delivered from outside their bedroom door. But the evening was still essentially ruined. The shhhhh!-infused vodka, however, was delicious. Here’s how to make it:
1 fifth of Absolut premium vodka
1 handful of dill, with or without seeds, washed and dried thoroughly
Open the Absolut, stuff in the dill, and close the bottle. After two or three days, you’ve got dill-infused vodka. Try to extract the dill from the bottle, or pour the infusion into a fresh, clean bottle; otherwise the dill flavor will become overpowering.