Thursday, May 10, 2007

This Year's Christmas Gift

Barbara Holland must surely be the wisest woman on the face of the earth. Her new book was recently reviewed in the New York Times, and never has a work of non-fiction been more intriguing and well worth every penny of the cost.

I'll be buying The Joy of Drinking come November, multiple copies in fact, to give away to the many friends and relations who are in need of proper gifting at the holiday season. Has a more perfect gift book come along these past few years? Grand indeed to place that on the coffee table and let guests know where we stand on the issue. There's liquor in the house, and we're delighted to share. Will you have a drink?

Ms. Holland describes drink as the glue that holds society together, and her words ring true. The no-smoking rule in effect in rural pubs in Ireland has had a very detrimental effect on society there, with some choosing to stay home on the farm rather than travel to the local because they can't pair a cigarette with their pint. It's a point that's been highly debated, with a very real concern about social isolation. The local pub is the center of life in small towns, where gossip is traded and farm issues discussed, and even the politicians in Dublin are worried about losing the very necessary meeting of neighbors that happens in the local. It's not all about the drink, but the interacting.

The book covers such diverse topics as the nutrient values in beer, which we all know are quite high. There was a time when new mothers in hospitals were issued a bottle of Guinness a day, to build them up after childbirth. And didn't your mother tell you it was medicinal? Why else would she have given you a few spoonfuls when you were under the weather?

A woman after my own heart is Barbara Holland. The review describes her relative distaste for the current trend of drinking as an elite sport, with all the wine touring and cork sniffing and microbreweries with their product so rare. If you're hosting a drinks party and your guests are having a grand time of it, they won't much care if you're serving some fancy wine or the ten dollar barrel wash. As Ms. Holland points out, drinking has become a snob's game that has lost the fun of sharing a jar with friends, to become an opportunity to show off one's financial might and vast store of obtuse knowledge about vintage and grape. To make matters worse, the current trend of alco-pops and fruit flavored drinks has added a certain childish aspect to the mixed drink, a trend that was put in train by alcohol purveyors to sell more product to those raised on Coca-Cola and Kool-Aid.

But the very best part of the whole book is saved for last. What you've been wanting and needing for all these years is now available....directions on how to make a still. Can you smell the poitin brewing?

No comments: