Tag: Kentucky Derby

Field of Thirteen Book Review

Earlier this week I walked to the library to see if any books on the Kentucky Derby were in the collection. I found Field of Thirteen by Dick Francis. This book is actually a collection of short stories revolving around horses. Only one involved the Kentucky Derby. So I read that story first.

I enjoyed the story of “The Gift” which as published back in 1973 in a Sports Illustrated issue covering the Kentucky Derby. Horse racing fans can tell you right away who won the Derby that year. And some casual fans can too. I would love to see a copy of that magazine to see how “The Gift” was placed.

Francis explains a bit about each of the short stories. Some were sold to magazines just wanting a story with word count the only specified requirement. A few of the stories he wrote to fill out Field of Thirteen. Thus the stories are quite varied.

While “The Gift” centered on a washed up sportswriter gifted one last major coup, other stories feature jockeys, trainers and owners. Some of the stories take place on a flat track and others cover steeplechase. Weaved throughout are glimpses of human nature.

Dick Francis paints pictures of the foibles of mankind. His writing is reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm fables. In fact one story has a horse named Fabled. I do not believe this was coincidence. The author also has tones of Agatha Christie. There are little twists that serve as catalysts. I love this kind of writing.

The various stories are not always flattering to the subject matter. Many of the characters are quite flawed. However, each story does have at least one person of virtue.

Field of Thirteen

Field of Thirteen was published in 1998. But a quick check via the Internet indicates the book is still available for purchase. I am thinking of gifting one to a horse racing fan at Christmas. The short stories are entertaining. My favorite was “Spring Fever.” Even if you are not a fan of horse racing or of short stories, you might give this book a try. I liked Field of Thirteen.

Mint Juleps

Mint Juleps are a fairly simple drink to make. They do need some key ingredients. First is bourbon. Second, and most important in my mind is mint. Crushed ice and a simple syrup round out the list.

There are many brands of bourbon. Some are a bargain and others are very, very expensive. I use my favorite when I make mint juleps. The amount of bourbon used is up to the individual mixer.

I make my simple syrup a bit differently than many. The day before I plan to serve mint juleps I prepare the sugar mixture. Dissolve the sugar into water by heating slowly in a sauce pan over low heat. For a traditional taste, I use equal parts water and sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, I remove the pan from the heat and add mint leaves to the solution. Store the cooled concoction overnight in the refrigerator. Strain the mint the following morning. This gives the drink a very minty taste.

Some people muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass when making this signature Kentucky Derby drink. I don’t always remember this step. Fortunately, the minty simple syrup makes up for the missed step.

Usually I first fill the glass with crushed ice. Then add the bourbon and the simple syrup. Add these two liquids in equal parts. Or the drink can be made stronger with more bourbon or sweeter with more syrup. Garnish with more mint.
The following recipe works well if you serve the drinks in half pint jelly jars.

 

Mint Juleps

Serves 8

Items needed: 8 jelly jars ½ pint (8 oz.) or similar sized glasses, small saucepan, Quart canning jar

Ingredients:

Crushed Ice
2 Cups Mint divided with one cup chopped
2 Cups Bourbon
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar
Simmer water and sugar over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in chopped mint. Refrigerate overnight in quart canning jar. Strain the following morning to remove mint leaves.
To serve: Fill ½ pint jars with crushed ice. Add ¼ cup bourbon and ¼ cup simple syrup mixture. Garnish with mint sprigs. Enjoy responsibly.

Kentucky Derby Hats

Well it is hard to believe but it is almost Derby Time. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is just around the corner. For some it is the fastest two minutes in sports. For others, the Derby means much more. Across the country Derby Parties are being planned.  Derby parties involve good food, mint juleps, party dresses and best of all, Derby hats.

I am a hat person. I love hats. Straw hats and felt hats, fedoras and even ball caps. My collection even includes a couple of fascinators. The best way to describe a fascinator is a headband (or barrette) on steroids. I think I need to add some fascinators because they tend to stay on your head if there is any wind in the forecast.

Hats serve a purpose in addition to looking nice. They protect from the outdoor elements. Both the sun and the rain can cause damage. Hats offer good protection from the sun for both the face and the top of the head. Guys going for the “Bald Look” need to consider the potential skin damage. Additionally, without a hat, one tends to look like a drowned rat if standing in the rain. Of course Derby hats, really fancy ones, need shelter from the rain!

Some hats are made specifically for an outfit. The photo to the right shows the winner of a hat fashion contest last fall in San Diego. I wholeheartedly agreed with the judges. But one needs to know a milliner to have a hat custom-made. There are none near me.

The next best thing is a store specializing in hats. Or at least a shop that carries hats. I am lucky to have a local shop with hats in my hometown. In some parts of the country such a store is not available. Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet so for those without a local source of hats, shopping online is an alternative to driving a long distance.

Derby Hats

If you are hosting or attending a Derby Party the first Saturday in May you need to act quickly. Hopefully anyone lucky enough to attend the race in person already has purchased their hat. But in any case there is still time and several options.

First, if you are artsy and live near a shop like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, consider making your own hat.  Most Derby hats start with a straw base. Then the decorations are added. The add-ons could include netting, silk flowers, feathers or all three. Some people go wild. I have seen horse heads and even the entire racetrack. The sky is the limit as you can see from the pictures.

If creativity is not your thing and you don’t live near a hat shop, go online. A simple web search will give you plenty of options. But at this point you may need to pay extra for shipping. Or you can spruce up a hat you already own by adding either a scarf clip or a piece of jewelry like a fancy broach.

No matter how old-fashioned hats may seem, the Kentucky Derby and Derby hats go hand-in-hand. So jump on the bandwagon and find a hat for the first Saturday in May. The slide show below will give the creative types some ideas. For the rest, it is time to go shopping!