Monday, November 13, 2006

Get In the Spirit

Wine, whiskey, scotch, bourbon, vodka, gin, rum, cognac, beer, et al have never meant much to me. I mean what kind of masochist do you have to be to actually drink a nasty-vile-tasting liquid that burns like fire on the way down?

Oh sure I have been to many a Kiddush and made a L’chaim on the standard fare, but I have never understood why people go all agog over these bitter brews. “Green Label is better then Blue label”, “Coors haaa,, you call that beer?? Heineken is the only real beer” are comments that I routinely hear all my friends sprout with a knowing look in their eye. A bunch of nuts was always my opinion; I mean do I go around saying that Listerine is better then Scope? They are both horrid!

That was all before my Sommelier’ial education.

I can now say with a complete and educated confidence, they’re all a bunch of nuts!

Here is how I ended up slurping wine at a, “wine tasting”, in a very fancy store in Manhattan getting “educated” on the finer points of grape juice.

The other week I was having dinner at a very nice restaurant in Manhattan with two non jewish clients, great guys, and terrific business men but with a weakness for the grape. Now normal people would order an entrée, and then perhaps pair it with a wine or other beverage. Not these wine junkies. First they studied the wine menu, and then they pared their main dish to match the wine. Not wanting to look like a total ignoramus I agreed with everything they said, “yeah sure, the “cab” sounds great”. Little did I know they were not referring to the obnoxious yellow automobile.

Our waiter arrives with the bottle, and begins to parade it around the table for everyone to see. I look at him, look at the bottle, “um yeah, sure this is great”. With a flourish worthy of a royal court he opens the bottle and pours about half-an-ounce of the red stuff into my glass. Ok I think, he is trying to save me money, great, it was logical , less in a glass means the bottle lasts longer, which means I only pay 86$ once, or so I thought.

So I am sitting there waiting for him to put the bottle down and go away, but nope, he is just standing there and staring at me. A few very uncomfortable seconds go by, and my client goes, “so Chaim, are you gonna try it?” Ohhh, so that’s what this ceremony was all about, I take a sip of the wine, try hard to fight my gag-reflex, and sputter “delicious, absolutely delicious” the waiter beams and proceeds to empty the bottle into our glasses.

There went my hopes for a less expensive dinner.

My guests pick up their glasses, swirl the wine around, the legs they were looking for had nothing to do with what I thought it did, sniffed at something they called a bouquet, which I had always thought was what I spent money on erev shabbos, and finally tasted the wine. Eye’s closed in ecstasy, or was it intense concentration they gargled it around in their mouths, sorta like I would mouthwash, swallowed, and complimented my choice.

Sitting at the table right next to us was a bunch of Chasidim having some kind of party for one of their friends. The restaurant itself was not a very quite place, and they were not speaking in muted tones to say the least, so inevitably we were able to listen in on their conversation.

They had all finished ordering, when the waiter innocently asked if they would like some wine with their dinner. Their conversation stopped short as their heads snapped to attention, the waiter almost dropped the 12$ bottle of flat-water in surprise. It was as if he had just asked if any of them would like to buy a private jet... Each face around the table acquired a very sagely look. Eyeglasses dropped to the tips of noses, faces intently studying the wine menu, you could tell the decision weighted heavily upon their learned shoulders.

I shared an amused glance with the people around my table. Their ears perked up as they awaited the verdict from the wise sages next door. After much debate the council decided on a bottle and in ringing tones the elder amongst them gave his verdict. “Chardonnay.” My dinner guests snorted into their wine glasses, and choked from laughter into their napkins. Our fine neighbors were oblivious to their reaction.

The waiter regained his composure, kept his calm, and asked if they were “absolutely sure”. The look they gave him could have flash frozen vodka, and off he scurried to fetch the fermented juice of their choice.

Now I do understand that there is a “culture” of drunks, errr I mean people that enjoy these adult beverages and even spend loads of time and money on their alcoholic addiction,,, errrr I mean hobby. A perfect example would have been my two clients. They spend more time and money picking and purchasing a single bottle of wine, then a Chusid spends on his esrog.

After my table-mates managed to control themselves I asked what was so funny. Their answer was a look of disbelief “Chaim, you order red with meat, and white with fish.” “Of course,” I said with a knowing air, “so what was so funny?” “Chaim” he said, as if to a slightly backwards two year old, “chardonnay is a white wine”. Their hysterics knew no bounds. My secret was out I was an am haaretz when it came to wine.

No longer pretending to enjoy wine, I ordered my usual, a glass of orange juice, and no ice.

After duly teasing me, the made it their mission to educate me in the “art” of wine, and a two hour lesson ensued, all on my Amex card of course.

Dinner was great, I was able to say that the orange juice I was drinking had a very “smooth taste, and clean palate, with a slightly acidic finish” , business successfully accomplished, guests happily tipsy, next door neighbors loudly singing happy birthday as the “birthday boy” kept desperately trying to prove that his birthday was not for another six months. It was indeed a successful night out.

The next morning I walk into my office and see an overnight FedEx envelope on my desk. That’s funny I thought, I wasn’t expecting anything, as I pick it up I recognized the return address it was from the two guys I had to dinner the night before. I opened it up and out tumbled two tickets to a kosher wine tasting event in a very fancy store in Manhattan.

I was gonna feed them to my shredder when my cell phone rang. “Chaim Chusid” I said, “Hey Chaim, It’s Peter...” one of the guy’s from last night, “Hi Peter, what up.” “Did you get the invitations to tonight?” “Yes, but I don’t know….” “Great” he interrupts me “we’ll see you there, oh and bring a friend!” a click told me that any protest would fall on deaf ears, or a disconnected line.

I called my wife and asked her if she was interested in joining me, she was less than delighted, but did have a good suggestion, call your friend Mendy, he would love to go.

And so Mendy and I went. We watched grown men in fancy suites take a sip of wine, and then spit it out into a special garbage can. At 80$ a bottle I wasn’t spitting anything out, and became rather “happy” very quick. My two associates were delighted to introduce me to their buddies, who kept on suggesting other bottles to taste, at that point my memories of that night get foggy, but I do remember having a great time watching these “cultured” professionals spitting out mouthfuls of wine, sorta like my 2 year old does with food she dislikes.

To those of you that can tell me the difference between a Chardonnay and a Shiraz, I say L’chaim, to the rest of you I say, good for you! You have the courage to go against the flow! It sometimes takes the innocence of a child, or what we think is a childish question to convince the world that the emperor is indeed not wearing clothes, and that they, the whole world, are fools.

On life’s journeys the paths we take are influenced by many factors. Whether we are true to the cause, or rebellious, whether we wear a shtraimel or a little kipa, seldom do we sit back and actually think about what is right or wrong, true or false. How many times have we gotten caught up in a zealous frenzy thinking that our goals are just and in the end it turned out we had erred?

Just because the world likes wine or whiskey, does that mean that I need to drink it?


At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really enjoy reading your posts . you've got an excellent writng style, keep 'em coming.
re: your question i really don't think you needa drink b;c the world out there does so.
but when your with other people who drink it doesn't hurt to take a sip and feel included.

a chasidistah

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soooo with you on this one. I like the way I feel after I down a few, but I am the first to admit that the taste is awful. Black Label, Grey Goose, Crown Royale or any of the others, they don't taste the same, but they all taste chalooshis. How they make me feel, though, makes it all worth while.
I like the way you inject humor into your posts. Keep on broadening your horizons. Keep on posting. I can hardly wait for the next experience.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Also A Chussid said...

I won’t comment. All I have to say about your wonderful blog I’ll say in my next post.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

Rebitzin Amous,

What I meant in my post was people can feel inadequate if they don't follow what other people consider normal practices, and there is no reason for that.

But you bring up a strong point.

Of course "it doesn't hurt to take a sip and feel included."

The only think I would add to your observation is that you can take a sip of water, and feel included, and you can drown in alcohol and feel totally isolated.

It's All Good Now, (is now after the drink?)

I am sooooo with you on the chalooshis!

As long as it's only humor I'm "injecting" into the posts I'm ok.

A.A. Chusid

But you did just comment!

Your next post huh?

I remain, (x3)

At 1:15 PM, Blogger heimishinbrooklyn said...

Hiliarious! I actually 'laughed out loud'. I too am clueless although I do know which ones I like. I will swirl it and sniff before drinking to look professional. ha ha. Secret's out!

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

Madame Cluelesslyheimishinbrooklyn:

Care to fill us in with which ones you like?

Happy swirling!

I remain,

At 11:47 AM, Blogger yingerman said...

some guys love the stuff
I personally think it all tastes the same
beer tastes like motor oil
scotch whisky gin etc. all have the same taste as rubbing alcohol

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

Yingerman -

I am just wondering, is it often that you drink motor oil, or rubbing alcohol?

I remain,

At 12:08 PM, Blogger heimishinbrooklyn said...

By clueless I mean I don't know the names of the wines. I know I like a wine on the sweeter side and not too dry. I would often ask my husband after he tastes one "so, will I like it?" He knows my taste. I swirl cause I've seen it in movies and I tell myself it takeh tastes better.
I also like mixing drinks like vodka with pineapple juice or cranberry juice. I don't like beer. Simply no taste. Smirnoff Ice is great. And I also love water.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

nice :)
im always amazed when i see poele getting so excited with things that have so little impact, so little connection to a life of reality, so little depth..
not to sound condescending, we all do it.. but it just amazes me sometimes.. when i step back and realize.. omg.. the emperor!!!

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...


"I also love water" sums it all up!


We really do need to step back more often,,, just be careful to look before you step!

I remain(s),


At 9:19 PM, Blogger Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...

Intelligent, interesting and well written post that makes a great point. Being that we were not raised in the American society, we naturally do not appreciate every part of their culture as in dining/entertainment etc. When we shed a little bit of the chassidish naiveté we somehow have the urge to express our state of mind by showing that we ‘fit in’. We want to enjoy wine, simply because wine takes a prominent place in the American menu. In truth, there is no connection whatsoever between being open minded and adapting the American culture.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

Madame S. Sockschild,

Au contraire, I really do beg to differ, we were brought up to drink and appreciate wine, think about it, Kiddush and the like.

But very true, we do tend to try and fit in.

And what was that you mentioned about me? Intelligent, interesting, a "well" writer, charming, did I miss anything?

Thanks for the compliments.

I remain,

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...

Sir Henry Hassid,

Well, in the veiber shul wine is non-existent. Days after we get married, when we might dare to try, the obstetrician declares it off limits.

If you can't handle your wine –er - compliments, then you won't get any! :)

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

My dear Lady Sockschild,

I do so prefer Charles to Henry; you do know what an absolute brute he was.

I wouldn't dare suggest that you go against the OB, but wine is a very big part of our culture.

And you should know by now we men just love getting drunk on compliments!

My compliments to your Sir Yoilish,

I remain,

Chaim (a.k.a. Charles-not-Henry)

At 10:38 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

are we interrupting? :)

At 12:41 AM, Blogger heimishinbrooklyn said...

anonym00kie, I felt the same way! I was gonna say 'get a room'. I like this blogworld. We can flirt and be ourselves. We're anonymous. It's all good.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Chaim Chusid said...

Hey Hey,,

What’s wrong with a little bit of old fashioned quixotic social intercourse?


At 3:05 PM, Blogger Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...

Here, here. And I was starting to feel a little woozy.

Seniora Carlos – dontchya go ‘round throwing out rumor seedlings. I’ve got a reputation to uphold.


At 4:44 PM, Blogger heimishinbrooklyn said...

Noone knows who you are. Keep on talking, shpitz and chaim, and I'll keep on eavesdropping. I'm lovin' it. Anonymity- That's the beauty of blogging.

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gemoroh got it right again. Wine leads quickly to sex. Look at you two.


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