I have a weakness for John Sutherland's books, I find them utterly irresistible- so when I spotted 'Who Is Dracula's Father' on my way through Waterstones yesterday, and remembered I had a voucher to spend the result was inevitable. I've even followed no time to start reading it this afternoon, and it's every bit as much fun as I expected.
What makes me love Sutherland's books so much is the way they ask, and answer, questions about a book I'd never thought to ask, but feel so much richer for reading. I've read Dracula a couple of times, watched more film versions than I can count, and then there are all the other vampire incarnations he influenced, as well as the ones Stocker was influenced by. With that in mind who wouldn't want to read an essay that asks 'What colour is Dracula's moustache?' or 'Who washes Dracula's pinafore?' Sutherland's answer to the latter is that it's Dracula himself, based on Jonathan Harkers observation of the Count making the beds and laying the table. I'm not sure why he doesn't consider the trio of female vampires he keeps around the castle as possibilities for domestic chores - but is Dracula a new man isn't one of the questions on the list.
It's an amusing, erudite, sometimes tongue in cheek look at a well loved classic, and obvious stocking filler material, but what to drink with it...
In the past I've been a bit snobbish about Ruby port. I like Port a lot, particularly the complexity of a really superior LBV (Late Bottled Vintage, there's more about the different styles Here). Sadly Port doesn't like me quite as much, it's altogether to easy to forget how strong it is by the end of the sort of meal where it makes an appearance, and therefore far to easy to drink more of it than is sensible. The result is, at best, a truly foul headache, I will not dwell on or describe the worst case scenario. Because of this really good Port makes only rare appearances in my life now, and only when there are enough people to help ensure no one is drinking to much of it.
Ruby is the cheapest, least complex, expression of Port. It's bottled young with the intention of preserving colour, fruit, and freshness - which is hardly a bad thing, and then chill filtered so there's no need to decant. That means it won't really develop in the bottle, but it does also mean you don't get the bitter soup of dregs at the bottom of the bottle to deal with. It's the Port you'd buy for cooking with, but as fortified wines don't keep nearly as long as people think they do (it's weeks, not months, and certainly not years) having a glass to help the bottle along is only sensible.
We spent ages debating what to drink with this book (D suggested claret, cherry brandy, and then rather hopefully a Percy Special) but in the end nothing seemed quite as appropriate as deep blood red, sweetly unctuous, ruby Port* - sipped from a small, preferably antique for full atmosphere, glass.
*In the spirit of full disclosure I was actually drinking coffee as I read it this afternoon,