I was informed this morning that a family friend would be coming over to dinner and I was more than welcome to join. Seeing as though I live in this house I thought it unusual to be invited to dinner, but nevertheless I made sure to be home from Zurich in time to shower and be ready for a 6:00 curtain call. When I got home at 5 the lack of noise made it quickly apparent that no one was home. I took a quick detour toward the kitchen to grab a glass of juice and a sparkling water. I headed up to my quarters and made myself presentable by 5:45. To be brief, preparation for dinner took longer than necessary and we were slightly behind schedule. I offered to help and was awarded the task of setting the table. I opted for the nicer set of plates, which would prove to be a minor mistake later in the evening. I found we were waiting for the Dad to get home before starting, and when he walked in the door at 6:30 several hungry people herded toward the table. This is also when the trouble began.
Drinking with the family is something that I still don’t always know how to handle. They always offer to serve me whatever they are drinking, which is not only kind, but appreciated. The Dad’s parents own and operate a winery so most of the vino comes from them and it’s decidedly delicious. At the same time, I don’t ever want to look a fool, like some kid that just got out of college and is used to hitting the bars with friends on a pretty consistent basis. Hmmm, sounds oddly familiar… Back to the story, we are all settling around the table (the boy is at Grandma’s for the week) and the Dad asks if I would like a little taste of home with dinner. Um, excuse me, it is only the anniversary of my arrival, of course I would like a celebratory whatever-you’re-offering. Turns out, it’s a Miller Beer. Now, I happen to find no favor with this particular brew, but as if I am going to turn away something that he thought would made me feel nostalgic for my motherland. He sets it front of me with his humongous smile and proceeds to set two Coronas on the table for himself and the guest. What is this, a joke? I happen to really enjoy Coronas, but I shall grin and bear my “homebrew.” Not a problem.
Through the salad course I am casually sipping my beer, deciding that it isn’t as bad as I perhaps thought. Maybe I am recalling Miller Light, which I definitely know I don’t like. I happen to really like beer anyway, so it’s not like anyone’s forcing something down my throat. Moving forward, I discover that the Dad has pounded his beer and I have no more than 1/3 of mine finished. Listen, pal, if I knew this was a competition I would have put my game face on, but I thought it was just a casual dinner. He jumps up from the table in his typical fashion only to grab four wine glasses and a brand-spankin’-new bottle of wine from the cellar downstairs. Oi. He goes through the customary “tasting of the wine” proceedings and deems the grape juice worthy. I am presented with a glass of wine with my chicken curry. I look at my place setting and find and almost full beer, a glass half-full of sparkling water, and several ounces of Barbera wine. And these people want me to watch their children?
I try to pace myself through dinner, but it’s apparent that the alcohol is affecting me faster than I would like. I will stop to point out two things: (1) I drink far less than I did at home, mostly because it is so expensive to go out here and I don’t do it nearly as much as I did at home, and (2) Jill and I had a drink at lunch today so I already had a little alcohol riding my veins, not that this is a viable excuse. Either way, I digress. I make it through the dinner course, cracking a few more jokes than usual, paranoid that the family and guest know that I am feeling a little funny from the drank. When it’s obvious that everyone is finished I go to clear the plates, as usual. Wow, have I always had jell-o for legs or is this new? Perhaps I embellish, but everything is exaggerated because I feel I am being watched. While I am packing the dishwasher, dessert is dished up and yet another glass of wine has been poured for me. Meanwhile, I am clank, clank, clanking their nice (probably wedding gift) dishes into the dishwasher. “Oh, er, ya that chip has always been there.” Baby sips, I tell myself. I am definitely not drunk, but still, I always feel a little funny while drinking around the family. I remind myself that they always offer and have told me on numerous occasions that I am allowed to “store” whatever I need in the fridge (insert single eyebrow lift). So, I imbibe.
When we are all thoroughly smily and red-faced it is time to retire. I make a quick cup of tea and make haste to get up here and tell you all about this evening. Before I can climb to my chambers they ambush me. “Kristina, we are afraid you are using too much washing powder for the washing machine. Really, you don’t need as much as you may be accustomed to in the States. It’s just about protecting the environment.” So, you liquored me up only to remind me to use less resources? “Ok, not a problem,” I grin. What a silly night. Maybe next week in Spain I will set upon the difficult task of building a tolerance…