50 proof prune


Once a year, if the prune harvest was good enough, my grandfather would set up our perfectly legal, farm-size, distillery, where he would distill the legally allowed amount of prune schnapps per inhabitant. I think that also took into account the children, because for some reason we always ended up with a whole lotta clear, strong liquor.
In earlier years, the distillery would take over the laundry room for 2 days, and only later would it be moved into the by then vacated horse barn. I should mention here that it was perfectly customary to peruse the schnapps as an antidepressant that had a calming effect on distraught children. Whenever one of us was distressed, crying and at the end of his or her wits, my mother would sit us down on the kitchen table, pour a shot glass full of the 50proof prune, have us drink it and say, "OK, let's hear it." And for some bizarre reason this actually helped. Maybe it was just the much craved and rare attention we would get, the being seen and taken care of (albeit with strong alcohol in combination with said attention), but I do remember these moments rather fondly.

When my dad was alive, he would hang out by the kitchen window and drink the occasional shot of home-distilled with the tourists staying in our village, and just chat and have a good time. And when I was visiting home several years back, my mom (who has MS), my sister-in-law (who was very pregnant at the time) and myself (who was very rusty in all things pertaining to farm life) had a shot of the stuff, after successfully liberating a calf from it's mother cow's belly.

Nowadays I tend to get a bottle of it from my brother, who still sets up the distillery once a year, bring it back to New York and treasure it like the special, nostalgic and irreplaceable thing it is.

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