The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears

The Drink


CHAMPAGNE (1 Bottle, preferably good and cold)
CHABLIS (1 Pint — vintage of no particular moment)
HAUT BARSAC (1 Bottle, and be sure to have it haut)
SHERRY (2 Jiggers)

Mix this mess in a large bowl. Don’t crush the raspberries. Let them soak for a while. Add enough sugar (powdered) to take the curse off the raspberries but not enough to destroy the fine bouquet, if any, of the Champagne, Pour into tall, tapering glasses and drink with the the raspberries floating.

– From So Red the Nose

I had to compromise again with this cocktail because, as I may have mentioned, I am a school teacher. I cannot afford to spend half a paycheck on one bottle of wine. Sorry, Mr. Casey, but my Barsac was not haut

The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears ended up being the most spendy cocktail I’ve made so far regardless, partially because it is really a punch and therefore designed to libate a whole party of people, but also because it is an extremely decadent drink, probably the most decadent one I’ve made so far, between the sugar and the raspberries and the semi-expensive wines. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance in sipping this while reading about the author chugging raw egg with cognac in attempt to fight off the Spanish flu.

Luckily, though, author Robert J. Casey was able to rediscover an appreciation for the finer things once he was back stateside. He delectably balances sweet and dry flavors with The Cannoneers, but what I like/fear most about this punch is the endless choices that come with each of the four wines. Just changing up the sherry alone could take the flavor of this cocktail in a million different directions. Here’s the cheapies I settled on, with generally pleasing results: Harvey’s Bristol Cream SherryDomaine Chenevieres Chablis, and Pertois Moriset Cuvee Selection.

Raspberries and champagne are, of course, a classic combination, one I doubt Casey was the first to think of. The longer you let the raspberries sit, the deeper they’ll infuse into the drink, but you have the balance that against the risk of losing the bubbles from your champagne.

Also, a liter of raspberries is enough to bury a foxhole with. I suggest cutting back if you decide to try The Cannoneers at home. I guess unless you like raspberries more than you like wine, in which case, this the wrong blog for you, son.

The Book


Somehow it takes all the kick out of heroism when I think of being found dead with a belly full of prunes…

-From The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears

cannonsThe Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears, originally published anonymously in 1927, is the unedited diary of artillery lieutenant Robert J. Casey during the last two months of the Great War.  At first I was pretty skeptical about the “unedited” claim — I’m pretty sure Fifty Shades of Grey has the distinction of being the first novel published without a proofreader — but as I read it, it really did seem like someone’s untampered journal. Most entries were just a bleak recitation of that day’s events, with only a hint of reflection and without any attempt to shape it into a larger narrative or establish any themes.

Here’s the plot of the book: First the squad marches, and then they march and then they march some more. Then, planes fly overhead, bombs come down, war is hell, young men nearly boys, etc. etc. Then, back to more marching, more bombings, more planes, more gas, and then the war is over. The end.

Oh, and the reader gets to learn every conceivable derogatory word for “German,” the most common/questionable one being “Heinie.”

marchingAll right, as the name would imply, the book does have a little bit of a sense of humor. That title, by the way, comes from an extremely vulgar folksong (sometimes called “The Pioneers…” or “The Engineers…”) although unlike its namesake, there is no bestiality in this book. Still, Casey has a kind of sardonic, gallows humor about the whole affair, at least until the serious killing starts.

The most interesting parts the book are those somewhat unique to the first World War: the propaganda wars, the paranoia about and experience of mustard gas, and the disillusionment with a war fought for political reasons. Casey takes his job seriously and is proud of his men, but he doesn’t seem to have much faith in the war effort itself. Which is fair — Even today, does anybody actually know what World War I was about?

Forgotten Classic or Better Left in the Past?

GasMasksThe Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears would probably be interesting to a war buff, but it doesn’t have much crossover appeal, if you know what I mean. It’s one of those books I’m glad exists for history’s sake, but it’s not exactly something I would recommend you read for fun.

And it’s another one of those cases of what came after ruining what came first. I’ve already read and watched plenty about war in fiction and nonfiction alike, but back in the 1920s, when methods of modern warfare were still fresh, this book probably seemed gritty and harrowing.

And The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears should absolutely be required reading if you’re doing any kind of World War I research more serious than a middle school group project (and maybe even then). My impression is that’s mostly how it’s remembered: as a tool for learning, if not enjoyment.

The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle forms on Amazon.

Next time: A book everybody has heard of. But really nobody has.


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