I think my liver has reached the perfect stasis between normalcy and cirrhosis. It's taken me a while to achieve it, and has forced me to calibrate my intake of alcohol exactly, but here I am.
See, the English drink more than the Americans do. And when in Rome.... Not that I get pissed every night. It's just that if I'm having lunch in a pub, it seems wrong--culturally, ethically--not to have a beer. And when I say beer, I mean a pint of beer, a big ol' goblet that you could resuscitate a carp in. Dinner tastes better with wine, so why not uncork a bottle of shiraz or rioja? And wouldn't it be just plain rude to drink orange juice rather than sherry at an Oxford reception?
Even five months ago, back in Silver Spring, such a regimen would have left me logy in the morning. I had lost the stamina and bounce-back-ability I had so painstakingly gained during four years in college. The problem, I think, is that before I moved to England I wasn't drinking enough. Or, rather, regularly enough. My sporadic intake of booze--a beer here, a glass of wine there--just confused my body. It never had a chance to acclimate.
That's not a problem here. My body has been forced to come to terms with it. Like a climber who has spent a six weeks at Everest base camp as his body gets used to the altitude, I'm finally ready for my assault on the summit. I imagine my liver throwing up its arms and saying, "Looks like another Boddington's ale is coming down the hatch. If you can't fight 'em, join 'em."
Of course, please drink responsibly and if you drink do not operate a motor vehicle, heavy machinery or a blog.
I'm afraid I haven't learned any more about wine since living here. I like drinking it, and I have a few favorite types: Barbera among the reds, Sancerre among the whites. But I don't know about grapes or regions or vintages. Like a lot of people, I suspect, I usually buy wine based on an imprecise union of two factors: how much it costs and how pretty its label is. Pathetic, isn't it?
Every newspaper and magazine here has a wine column--even, I think, the ones for children-- so I could take the time to learn. But why should I when the grocery stores try to help? Shopping at an insanely crowded Sainsbury's a few days before Christmas, I prowled the wine aisles. Being so close to Europe, the selection was great. The shelf below each bottle was labeled with a description of that wine and what foods it might accompany. You've seen this on the back labels of wine bottles: serve well-chilled with fish; a good accompaniment to steak or chicken. This label below a Portuguese red was so strangely specific that I had to take a photo:
"Try with Irish stew"? I think I'd prefer a nice Guinness. And if it wasn't only 10:30 in the morning, perhaps I'd have one.