I am sure you’re wondering what those things have in common. Well, let me “splain.”
I took my mother to get fingerprinted for her US citizenship application today. The office where she had to appear for the fingerprinting procedure happened to be in Alexandria, but more specifically in the Mount Vernon area. I had never been to that particular office and wanted to leave plenty of time for the drive in case there was traffic. So we ended up getting there about an hour early. Shortly before we got to the office I noticed signs for George Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery. One of Paul’s brothers lives in that area, so we had driven by the gristmill/distillery many times. I always wanted to go see them because they seemed interesting but for one reason or another we never went.
With an hour to spare, visiting the gristmill and distillery seemed like the perfect thing to do. So off we went. We got our tickets, which were reasonable ($4 for adults, $2 for kids) and went to the gristmill first. It was pretty neat. My mom and I had seen mills back in Bulgaria and this one was similar but Nia hadn’t, so it was neat to show her how wheat is ground into flour and corn into cornmeal. She liked the big grinding stones and the huge waterwheel. We also learned that George Washington made really fine flour that he sold in Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, the Bahamas and Europe.
Then we headed for the distillery, which is only a short walk from the gristmill. There we learned that George Washington was the largest distiller in America in the late 1700s. We also got to see how whiskey is made. My mom was especially interested in the process and asked a lot of questions. I could see that she was thinking about trying to make whiskey. That is really not as crazy as it sounds because my family (on both sides) have been making wine an brandy for generations in Bulgaria. Some of my relatives even made wine and spirits industrially before the communists came to power in Bulgaria and nationalized their vineyards. When I was very young, I remember these huge 2-3-story-high wooden casks/barrels sitting in my family’s barns, which they had used for making wine (and had to eventually burn as firewood because they warped after sitting there unused forever).
But even though my family couldn’t make wine and spirits industrially anymore, they continued making some for our own consumption. I used to help by picking grapes and doing other odd jobs every year. To this day, my parents make their own red and white wine as well as brandy each year. Their wine is really good. The brandy (called rakia in Bulgarian) is very strong, kinda like vodka or grappa. I personally can’t stomach it – it’s too strong for me.
That was a long way of saying that my mom really knows about making spirits and it was cool to see her excited about whiskey. She wanted to know the proportions of grains and how long each part of the process took. Whiskey is another drink that’s not for me (guess I am a total lightweight), so it doesn’t much matter to me but it would be interesting to see her and my dad try to make whiskey in Bulgaria. I think it will be quite an experience for them. And yes, it is legal to make small quantities of wine and spirits for your own consumption in Bulgaria.
As neat as our visit to the gristmill and distillery was, we had to go back to fingerprinting. It took a little waiting and some paperwork but the fingerprints are done and the next thing is for us to hear about my mom’s naturalization interview. We got a book to help my mom prepare for the US history, civics and English language portions of the citizenship test. Because my mom knows very little English, I will have to help her with her preparation but I don’t mind. It’s the least I could do. Plus, it will help me remember some key facts for the FSOT, which I foolishly plan to take again next year.