Bitters and Cream

“Bitters": an alcoholic beverage that is flavored with herbs and other flavorings and has a bitter or bittersweet flavor. The most common variety of bitters used in the United States is probably “Angostura bitters,” flavored with gentian,  but bitters flavored with anise seeds, cinnamon, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, artichokes, bitter almond oil, cardamom, licorice, saffron, and a variety of other plants are also available.

“Cream”: a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk. Cream made from milk is called "sweet cream" to distinguish it from “whey cream,” skimmed from whey, and sour cream, which is fermented.

So – Bitters are, well, bitter. And cream is sweet. But “bitters and cream"????

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I have always loved incongruity: change, contradiction, complexity, contrast.


The lowly caterpillar is transformed into a glorious butterfly, and the most sophisticated human returns to dust.

“You can’t step into the same river twice” (Heraclites).

“All that is solid melts into air” (Marx)


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair (Dickens)

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the sublime Declaration of Independence, owned slaves; Oliver Cromwell, to the Irish “God’s executioner,” reopened England to Jews, three and a half centuries after their expulsion.

“Every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements… [To comprehend] an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations. (Hegel)


 “The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” (Haldane)


“I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one.” (Anne Fadiman)

“I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump up against one another -- where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life.” (Tony Judt)

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Where to go with this? How can we make sense of a contradictory, changing world, a world of beauty and a world of ugliness, a world of sublime heroism and a world of incomprehensible cruelty?

There is an old Jewish joke: It's about a rabbi who sits in his study over his holy books. A man and his wife come to him for help in resolving the conflict between them. The husband begins and explains his case with much passion and much vigor, and the rabbi says, "You know, you are right." And the wife says, “Wait, listen to my side of the story." And she explains her case with equal passion and vigor. And the rabbi says, "You know,  you are right." And at that moment the rabbi’s wife comes running out of the kitchen and says, "Wait a minute rabbi, it can't be that he's right and she's right." The rabbi pauses for a moment, and then says to her, "You know something? You're right!"

         Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” (Rilke)

Bitters and cream.

Bitters and Cream is a personal journal, a compendium of my writings (some published, some not) and my thoughts (some topical, some not).

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