Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Drinking Problem

“Hi, my name is Alina, and I … don’t believe I am an alcoholic. Not quite. Really.”

I grew up with dad making wine every fall, my mountain relatives making beer every summer and my uncle making tzuika (close to “moonshine”) every year. And I can never remember a New Year’s at my parents' house, when even us kids didn’t have a sip of real champagne. Or a summer barbecue where we, as kids, didn’t sip mom’s “foam” from the top of her beer.

Alcohol had been part of our daily “diets”, if you would, forever. And just like we’re not all gourmands for eating every day, I don’t think I’m an alcoholic because I have, or even crave, a glass of wine every now and then.

I have never seriously thought about having a drinking problem before (well, not in my adult years, anyway) until it’s become a chase to “where do I get the next good bottle”, when I moved to Utah.
What used to be an every day passing thought is now very much a conscious, deliberate, much planned project, since here, alcohol comes at a price. And I am not just strictly talking about money.

My parents were once again right: the more you forbid one from doing something, the more they’ll yearn to do it. And I find 100% truth in that statement since I have moved here: because they make it so hard and rare to get “good stuff” here, we want it more.

Every day, I am trying to discover a new store that “sells good beer and wine”, or a new store “with a better selection” of both, or a new bar that sells “my beer”, or … It’s my obsession now, it seems. Mine, and a few other friends’ too who come from other parts and are used to drinks-a-plenty. Every time I find “something good”, I want to do a little happy dance – it’s like Christmas has come. Or my birthday. Or both in one day! I screech with pleasure when I see alcohol anymore! Just like Adam and Eve must have done it when they saw “the fruit”.

Now, don’t get me wrong: compared to 10 years ago, when I first visited the Beehive State, the drinking rules are much, much, much more lax! Kudos to the Utah folks who fought to change some of the old laws, and to the Utah government who approved them. You can buy (weak) beer in any grocery and convenience store, and you can even buy it on Sundays. All Sunday long. Now, that’s even better than The Carolinas, right?! You can find any kind (wine, liquors, liqueurs, mixed drinks, etc) of alcoholic drink in the State Liquor Stores, but these are closed on Sundays. Also, you never need a membership for a pub to be able to order liquor, like you did 10 years ago.

But alcohol is still relatively “hard” to find, and the selection is way low in stores. I am saying “hard to find”, because the state stores are very few and far between, for one. There is no liquor store in our town. We just got a new one in the town adjacent to ours, which is about 7 miles away from our house. Before this store was opened, this past Christmas (and my husband was the very first customer, thank you very much!), the closest store to our house was a couple of towns over, about 11 miles away.

Grocery stores only sell beer that has an alcohol content of 3.2% by weight; in other words, you drink 10 beers and you’re still waiting for a buzz! If you want “regular strength” beer, you will need to visit the liquor store. There, you have a broader selection of import beers, wines and such. But you’ll have to plan for the trip – make a point out of visiting the neighboring town, and remember that Sundays these stores are closed. Also, as of recent times, they open at 11 AM. So if you have a lunch party on a Saturday – stock up on Friday. And since you have to drive so long to get there, you can’t buy just one bottle. You need to make it worth your gas money, right?! Planning. Planning. And more planning.

Buying drinks is never on the grocery list when you live here. It’s always a special trip.

Today, I visited our new (and closer) liquor store. And once again, I was like a kid in the candy store, jumping up and down with joy. I think it’s because they are new and they are trying to still test this market, and see what people would buy, but they had EVERYTHING! I have seen things in this new store that I have never seen in a wine store – here or elsewhere in America.

I could seldom find my most favorite wine in whole world, Moscato. I always have to “settle” for Riesling, or Pinot Grigio instead. And when I do find it, it’s usually from only the same two wine makers (Gallo and Sutter Home). I have said this before, but I believe most Americans have sharper palates that Eastern Europeans. So Moscatos are not very popular in The States.

Well, the new store has not one but TWO separate sections for Moscatos. I would have taken a picture if I were not the only customer in the store and the cashier was not eyeing me like a hawk. Usually, you find the rare two Moscato wines under the aisle heading “other whites”, or “Riesling”, or even “Sauvignon Blanc”. But in this store, they are their OWN wine, as they should be, of course. They have not only several Moscatos from California that I have never heard about, but also another one from Australia, and even an Italian one!

I once asked a wine store bar tender in Greensboro for Australian Moscato, and they promised me Australians don’t export such things. That they are famous for their dryer varieties. Well, when I saw this today, you can imagine my surprise – right here, in the wine forbidden Utah state, discovery of all times: my “candy” does exist and from Australia, nonetheless! Still no Kilkenny beer , however, but this is a start!

I browsed aisle after aisle (the place is huge and they are still stocking up, with plenty of aisles still empty and awaiting varieties), and I marveled at the diversity of the inventory and at the very affordable prices. It felt good! And thus, I caught myself: I am feeling good, happy even, about drinks! About alcoholic drinks, at that! So, you see, that prompted me to ponder upon my possible addiction.

I also feel sort of an embarrassing kind of guilt when I enter a liquor store around here. Especially in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day! I feel like even the cashier wonders what my problem is to be there that early. Even if they don’t really give me “the looks”, I still feel like they do. I should just come out and say it – “I am not an alcoholic, lady. I am just Romanian. Now point me to the sweet wines, please”.


Dawn in NC said...

Oh Alina, this post just popped up on my FB feed. I already missed you, but after reading this fun and funny post, I miss you so much more! I think of you all the time and wonder how you are doing. I went to our Indian buffet for lunch by myself the other day and realized I hadn't been since you left. :-( It's just not the same without you!

I am something like 574 posts behind on reading my blog feed, including any posts you've made in the last three months. And you see I haven't updated my own blog in at leat that long, too.
Usually there isn't time for anything but a quick facebook fix, and even then, very few click-throughs, and you know we miss so much with these facebook feeds. I don't know how they decide what to put on the feed and what to skip, but it seems like I miss A A LOT.

Anyway, I'm finally coming up to breathe a tiny bit for a minute after our SUCCESSFUL cut-down. Thank goodness. I missed your work presence during the project, but miss my friend even more.

Hana Carlton said...

well....It is time to start make your own beer/wine !!!

A.Wilson said...

@Dawn - miss you, too, AND your blog! I did NOT miss the cut-down work, however, but I hoped all was well for those of you I care about in there! ;-)
@Hana - are you KIDDING ME??? It's HARD work, and you know it! I LOVE seeing/ reading your updates about the beer making - and the beer at least LOOKS gorgeous from your pictures. Hope it tastes yummy, too!