Thursday, 30 January 2020

A glass of wine and three straws

It’s the latest instalment of "expert" advice on “safe” wine-drinking. Professor David Nutt, a former government adviser on drugs, has declared that alcohol is so bad for us that we should only consume about 5gm a day. That is the amount contained in about 40ml, or roughly a third of a small glass, of wine. A measure so small that pubs and restaurants do not serve it.

But Professor Nutt has proposed a solution: take three drinking straws to the pub, he suggests, and share that single glass of wine with two friends.

Seriously. That’s three adults, sharing one small glass of wine. Through drinking straws. In public.

This is just the kind of ill-considered suggestion which is Sediment’s meat and drink. Well, drink. All I needed were two adults with whom to try it out. For the sake of discretion I’ll just call them ‘Alan’ and ‘Simon’.

There is something infantilising about drinking straws. They immediately bring out the child in us all, even when drinking an adult drink. Fair enough, we were trying this before a Chelsea match. But even so – out of all of the multi-coloured striped straws I had brought, everyone only wanted blue ones. Yes, that’s how childish we chaps are. I’ve been accused of being childish ever since I was a child – when, in retrospect, it was a perfectly justifiable way of behaving.  But seeing as how they were my straws, I certainly wasn’t going to have a red one.

So I had to rummage through the whole pack of striped straws to find three blue ones. And then, with visions of the set of Reservoir Dogs, I had to stamp upon the suggestion that we might use the straws to blow wine at each other. God, it’s like a nursery. As Joyce Grenfell would have said, “’Alan’… don’t do that.”

Professor Nutt does not make clear whether you are supposed to sip sequentially, or simultaneously. Well, given three wine-drinking men, by now desperate for a drink, the latter is what happens. Three men, faces inches from each other, heads bowed as if in prayer over a sacred glass. Getting some pretty strange looks from the next table.

Our initial tentative sips revealed that wine simply does not taste the same through a straw. This is presumably because you get zero bouquet, as your nose is six inches or so away from the wine. You can still swirl it around your mouth, but it just doesn’t taste as flavoursome. It becomes simply a case, as ‘Alan’ phrased it, of “putting this stuff in your mouth and swallowing it”. Which is essentially true of all wine drinking, of course; but the practice is normally endowed with a little more poetry. And pleasure.

We then realised we could not let go of our straws. All three were blue. We might mistakenly use someone else’s straw. Or… someone else might drink all the wine.

Because Professor Nutt also fails to address what ‘Simon’ describes as “competitive drinking”.  We looked into each others’ (closer than we would like) eyes. And in fear of getting less than the other two, all three men immediately Hoovered up as much of the wine as possible. In seconds, the glass was empty. It was like watching fire hoses. 




Presumably, as far as Professor Nutt is concerned, that should be it for the night. Needless to say, it was not. After a third of a glass of wine, drunk through a straw, our whistles were not even moist. We subsequently wet them thoroughly. Without using straws.

This has been only a narrow exploration of drinking wine through a straw. For instance, using a straw  supposedly avoids staining your teeth. Perhaps you should similarly remove that risk from eating, by foregoing anything that needs to be chewed.

And then there is the notion, as ‘Simon’ reminded me, that when we were young, drinking through a straw was reputed to get you drunk more quickly. Some say that’s because you drink faster, some because of the way the liquid crosses the back of your throat, some because of air in the straw. In other words, no-one really knows. But I’m sorry to tell you that, after this straw-based fiasco, I am not tempted to find out.

Instead I have to consider what to do with the remaining drinking straws. I think I will leave them, one by one, in the lavatories of grand establishments. I mean, what would you think if you went for a pee in Downing Street, or Westminster, and found a straw on the cistern? 


And what, I wonder, would a former government adviser on drugs have to say?

PK


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