It is the first weekend in forever in which the forecast comes close to ruling out any possibility of snow, rain or gloom, and we are gathered in the backyard of the Suburban Overachievers, where a variety of perfectly seasoned meats and vegetables come off the grill and disappear in a chorus of praise.
As a native of Bacardi, I am expected to supply the mojitos, a beverage I frequently take credit for introducing to the Midwestern suburbs, but which I have had to relearn completely to meet the standards of the head Suburban Overachiever.
First, I scrapped the lemon-lime soda and learned to make mint-infused syrup, which is so easy it should be called simple syrup. Which, I later learn, it is.
My freezer bag full of last year's wilted produce department mint was the next ingredient to provoke her disapproval, which she signals by pursing her lips, raising an eyebrow and cultivating a patch of mint so beautiful and so fragrant I want to roll in it naked, but she says no.
This time, however, I am on my game.
I stand in her kitchen counting out the precise number of mint leaves (12 per glass) recommended by the Bacardi people. I have prepared my own syrup, I have my Crate&Barrel muddler. I squeeze the freshly cut limes and shake my hips. A few drops fall into the glass.
I add a little shoulder shimmy, but still, the limes fail to produce. I look over to where the Suburban Overachiever is chopping mango into a geometrically perfect dice. "I don't know what is wrong with these limes," I say. "I am doing the dance perfectly."
"Did you roll them?" she asks.
"It is not really a roll," I say. "It is more of a vigorous thrusting."
"The limes," she says. "Did you roll the limes?"
I did not. Also, there is a problem with my lime slicing technique. Good god, I think, it is starting to feel like an episode of Making Tea with the English.
"This is a rum drink," I say. "The important thing is that you spill some while you are dancing."
But of course, she has a trick for getting each lime to produce three times its weight in juice. Also a Japanese lime juicer that Mr. Overachiever probably handcrafted in the garage from materials grown in the backyard. It does the job. The mojitos are excellent. But you couldn't say dancing has nothing to do with it.
From the Overachiever archives: Camelot in the suburbs