The first time I tasted alcohol (not including the ethanol that you accidentally over-pipette into your mouth in the undergrad lab) was when I was about twenty four years old. This was my first weekend in the US as a grad student, and the neighbourhood Indian grad mafia was having a party of sorts. A guy offered me a toffee the size of Kilimanjaro and forgetting the adage of “do not accept toffee the size of Kilimnajaro from (relative) strangers”, I bit into it only to have a flow of what I thought was concentrated nitric acid, into my mouth. After spitting it out and gagging for an hour afterwards, I learned that it was a liquorice toffee, and that nitric acid was actually Vodka. On that day, I promised myself that I would never taste alcohol ever again in my life. A couple of years later, as I attended a midnight new year bash with a friend in a pub, I sipped coke to “Auld Lang Sine” while the rest of them downed what my friend claimed was the bestest, sweetest Chardonnay EVER.
Fast forward half a dozen years. I was a newly wed, madly in love with the new husband, who proposed an evening of unwinding over a movie (Pirates of Carribean) and a glass of wine each. With much trepidation, I accepted the glass of wine, I don’t remember the brand, except that it was red wine, and I thought it tasted (and smelled) like rasam gone bad. Again, I knew that alcohol would not have any part in my life and made the fellow finish my glass too.
A couple years further on. A relative visiting us from the US, brought us a bottle of white. These were the days in which between cleaning a 2 year old’s poopy backside and not having a moment myself to poop in peace without the kid banging the toilet door, my body was in constant pain. Half a glass of the white wine seemed to melt the pain from the body and the cares from my mind and I wondered if there was something about alcohol after all. It did not taste of rasam gone bad anymore, the sour bitterness was masked by the warmth that spread through my being after every sip. I may have finished that bottle by myself over the next week.
A couple more years later, I ran into a high school classmate, who claimed that she always bought wine from a relative who brewed at home. I bought a bottle of the home-made wine, and wasn’t impressed – the wine had too sharp a taste, and tasted more of acetic acid than alcohol (damn my chemistry nose). I still managed to finish the bottle because the husband didn’t like it at all and I thought Rs. 500 was too much to be flushed down the toilet. I suspect I had Rs. 500 worth of vinegar over the week.
The relative visited from US again a couple of years ago and bought wine (white) and Scotch. Scotch was horrible. One sip made me sick as a dog for hours afterwards and the migraine that resulted made me use swear words I didn’t think I knew. Hard liquor is not my cup of alcohol. The wine, however, was even better than before, especially when had with a bar of black-as-hell chocolate.
Last summer, we visited Florence for a week. In Italy, if you didn’t know, wine is not an alcoholic drink – it is in fact, a holy drink, like the “theertham” you get in temples here, or perhaps “paanagam” – children as young as 3 years are initiated into it by being given diluted wine so that they develop a taste for it. All menus have a separate section for wine and another for liquor. I had a glass with every meal- every glass of wine was perfect. We even visited a vineyard and had their signature Chianti classic, which has become my all time favourite wine (for now). I’d love to go Tuscany side again, if only for the Chianti.
We had dinner (what else? pizza) one late night at a local, non-touristy shack and home made wine that a very homely woman brought from inside her family pantry located behind the shack. I may have had three sips, four at the most, but I was giggling for the rest of the evening that my kid refused to walk beside me and said that next time I got giggly after wine, she would disown me. I had the presence of mind to tell her to remember the moment when she was 22 and at her grad school party and someone gave her a something dubious to consume, because the sentiment is mutual.
My confession is that I loved the time I got tipsy – it was as if all of me was light as a feather, and the whole world was funny and there was not a care in the world. I can see how people can get addicted to alcohol. Thankfully, I didn’t have a hangover that time and neither did I experience the Bard’s allegation of fuelling the desire and taking away performance, if you know what I mean ! Every now and then, I crave for the four sips of the strong wine, only if to laugh like an idiot for a couple of hours after that. Thank God, alcohol is big time taboo in my society and it is not easy to get a decent bottle of wine at a price that does not require me to sell my kidneys. Otherwise I’d probably have changed my hobby from blogging to wine-downing.