My father used to be a big beer drinker until one day—on his birthday, or maybe mine, or one of those days you get to make your wishes outloud—I asked him to stop drinking beer. And he did. He granted me my wish. Just like that, he quit beer. I was very young then, maybe not even in primary school. His favorite was Kloster. Those green bottles used to decorate our gardens, their necks and bodies plunged into the soil, their bottoms exposed, to mark patches of plants and flowers. Beer never changed his general behavior, nor did quitting it. He was never a drunk or in any way close to spiraling down the path of alcoholism. He just enjoyed beer. I had always thought his quitting was my triumph. I was too young to realize what it meant to quit something you enjoy. I never saw him touch beer again. Wine, yes, once in a while and never at home. Ours is not a family of big drinkers, and none of us drinks at home. My father drank so little later in his life that a sip of wine would make his face flush a deep shade of red. He was very disciplined that way. He expressed his gastronomic desire indirectly, like “Are you going to finish that cake?” or “Is that wine good?” As you get older and feel your mortality more acutely—if that’s how you feel about your mortality in old age—what do you fight against harder, your discipline or your desire? I suppose discipline defined my father’s sense of self more than indulgence or joie de vivre. Not that he didn’t know how to enjoy life, just a little at a time. And to those close to him, sometimes so frustratingly little for all that he had in life.
I don’t like beer. I hate the smell and the taste. I only use it to marinate meat. Wine, though, I love. When I’m in a certain atmosphere, especially one with rich and excellent food and flowing conversation all around, it’s hard for me to resist ordering a glass of wine. I know very little about it. When I’m in a restaurant, I just point to the one I can afford. Maybe I ask for a recommendation. Happiness is so temporary that nothing is more accutely joyful that being in a restaurant I love, putting some of my favorite flavors in my mouth, and having a good glass of wine sitting there on the table, waiting to be sipped between mouthfuls of food and words.