My mother always told me that Jews don’t drink. Obviously, it’s not true, but I know what she meant. If we’re going to assign habits to various cultures as I’m want to do, we can divide ethnic groups into food or drink categories. We’d classify the Brits, the Aussies and the Scandinavians as lovers of drink, for example, and we’d say that the Spanish, Italians and Jews are all about food. The Scandinavians drink because it’s cold and dark most of the year–that and the food, well, how many Michelin star restaurants do you know in Scandinavia? The Brits drink because it’s cold and dark and they don’t believe in therapy.
The Jews live for therapy, so we are clearly not turning to drink as a method of escape or comfort. And, with so many of us with houses or relatives in Florida, we can easily escape the cold. But any good therapist can trace alcohol aversion amongst the Jewish people to event that occurs during early childhood that is sure to put any Jew off the liquor. One of the most celebrated events in Jewish life is the mitzvah that occurs 8 days after the birth of a Jewish boy. While the non-Jewish population hands over their sons to doctors who perform circumcisions in a far away room returning the boy to his parents in perfect condition with a beautiful, helmeted shvons, the Jewish people have a party and invite everyone to come eat lox and witness the removal of the baby’s foreskin.
It’s supposed to be a happy occasion, but I’ve never met a mother who wasn’t beside herself throughout the whole thing. You spend 9 months avoiding foods, drink and medication that might cause harm to your child and praying for a healthy baby each and every day. And right out of the womb, you hand over your son to an old man with a very sharp knife- hormones raging-and try not to make a spectacle of yourself while your unsuspecting, helpless child is cut in the most vulnerable place imaginable. I’m sweating just thinking about it.
A good mohel (pron. moil – the guy with the Exacto) is able to educate and calm whilst performing the circumcision. He includes prayers and rituals and readings that convince you that this is a religious milestone as opposed to something right out of Lord of the Flies. While he removes the foreskin from the boy, gauze soaked with wine is placed in the baby’s mouth. It takes the edge off. This is the Jewish male’s first experience with wine–the removal of his foreskin. And we all watch in horror. No wonder Jews don’t drink.
We moved to London and that was the beginning of the end. During my first week on the job, my boss offered to “take me to lunch”. I didn’t realize that he meant a liquid lunch. 2 hours and countless glasses wine later, I finally stopped looking for a menu. It didn’t take long before I started to opt-in, and now drink is my friend.
So we’re enjoying a weekend away with our non-Jewish friends. It’s the perfect combination. Gabriella, the Jewish Italian, is the guest chef-cooking up a storm for us all. The Protestant hosts have stocked the house with a variety of fine wines, and we brought a few nice bottles, of course. Parents over the age 40, waistlines expanding in spite of best efforts, we do try to eat healthy food, and the fact that we all have to wake up at the crack of ass with our children prevents us from drinking to the point of no return.
I’ve embraced the happy juice into my life, and it seems the perfect complement to good food and great friends. It also hits the spot on an overcast afternoon when I can steal a quiet moment to write.