Pucker Up!

In the essay “Diplomatic Pay and Clothes,” Mark Twain writes: “A minister was trying to create influential friends for a project which might be worth tens of millions a year to the agriculturists of the Republic; and our Government had furnished ham and lemonade to persuade the opposition with. The minister did not succeed….Any experienced drummer will testify that, when you want to do business, there is no economy in ham and lemonade.”

Photo by Len Villano.

Photo by Len Villano.

Excuse me, Mr. Twain, but you seem to malign the magnificent drink known as lemonade as something as common as…um, well, ham.

Have you ever wondered about the feelings of surprise experienced by the first person to taste a lemon?

It looks so inviting, the intense yellowness enticing you to bite deep into its sweet and succulent flesh. Instead, the lemon delivers a tart sucker punch to the palate and reduces the biter to a terrible sour-faced pucker.

The first person tells a second person that despite its beauty, that yellow thing tastes like sour armpits. Since the first person is still alive, the wiser second person has a small taste and confirms that, yes, indeed, that is more than the human palate can endure, unless maybe squeezed on top of stinky fish.

Or, the second person thinks, what if I tame its wild taste with water and sweeten it with honey…hmm, I might have a tartly refreshing drink.

We’ll never know who first came up with the idea of turning lemons into lemonade, but one can only imagine minds were blown.

But, as with all things, its novelty faded, and instead of appealing to the bold and adventurous, lemonade became synonymous for the staid and boring status quo, or so Mr. Twain would have us believe.

Besides being a tasty drink, lemonade – or at least its main component – is very good for you. You don’t see many lemonade drinkers with scurvy. Each fluid ounce of lemon juice provides you with 13 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. It also provides you with vitamin A, calcium, folate and potassium, and the low pH of lemon juice gives it antibacterial properties.

Patients treated at the kidney stone center at UW hospitals are put on low-sugar or no-sugar lemonade therapy for lemon’s ability to slow the development of new kidney stones in kidney stone-prone people. The citric acid helps prevent salts in the kidney from forming stones.

These are all good reasons for drinking lemonade, but perhaps the best reason is that it tastes good.

Charolette Baierl of Nistebox, Door County’s only food truck, came up with a version of lemonade that tasters rave about. She was happy to share it with us.

Nistebox’s Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Photo by Len Villano.

Photo by Len Villano.


1 pound fresh strawberries from Malvitz Bay Farms, hulled & rinsed

Small handful of fresh basil from Steep Creek Farm

Juice of 1 lime & 1 lemon (about 1 cup)

6 Tablespoons of Malvitz Bay Farms maple syrup (more or less depending on desired sweetness)

6 cups cold water


In a blender, combine strawberries and basil on low until liquified. Do not strain pulp.

Combine all remaining ingredients in pitcher. Serve on ice and garnish with lemon wedge & basil leaves.

Yields 8 cups/8 servings