Once we made a bottle of dandelion wine. (Our “micro-district” on the western outskirts of Leningrad was fairly overrun with dandelions in the summer.) Every Soviet teen-ager worth his salt knew how to make a batch of moonshine: You took a pharmacy-bought, five-litre bottle with a narrow mouth; you filled it with four litres of water, added a kilo of sugar, and a stick of yeast. Then you fitted a garden-variety condom over the bottle’s mouth. . . . You pricked a tiny hole through the tip of the condom. Then you left the bottle alone for ten days or so, in some dark, inconspicuous, reasonably warm space. While the process of fermentation was in progress, the condom on top of the bottle remained stiffly erect, held up by the steady stream of outgoing air. Once it was over, the condom fell limply to the side, which was how one knew that the moonshine inside the bottle was ready for consumption. To the initial mix, we added one kilogram of dandelion petals.The result was
the most revolting concoction imaginable, yet we downed it in swift, greedy gulps, dead drunk while still in the process of drinking.The essay is really quite lovely.