My gateway alcohol: Goldschlager. I’m nineteen, know nothing about enjoying alcohol until Goldschlager, cinnamon schnapps. It tastes like cinnamon and sugar and has edible, completely gratuitous flakes of gold. I buy my first bottle of liqueur and set it on the book shelf in my dorm room next to my calculus and chemistry textbooks. Their spines are already broken because I love the feeling of breaking the spine of new books, not because I read any of their pages. I feel mature and rebellious.
Later in the first year of university, I’m introduced to Southern Comfort, which I learn years later is also called SoCo. One night, Sylvia Papp and I are in Ben Shivak’s room. Ben has a crush on Sylvia and I’m vaguely aware that he’s trying his best to woo her through sharing of chemical stimulants, but I don’t excuse myself and say you guys have fun, I’m tired, I have to study. In my defense, Ben lets us help ourselves to ten shots of SoCo each. It’s a little hard to think about other people’s feelings and not be a cock blocker when there are free shots involved. I am astonished at my own tolerance. And then I am drunk and a little high so I don’t even remember that I’m cock blocking. And even with alcohol and weed to make him more persuasive, Ben never manages to even get a kiss out of Syliva.
I can’t smell Goldschlager or SoCo without feeling queasy fifteen years later.
Six years later, it’s 2003 and I discover Crème de Cassis, a black current liqueur made in Dijon, France. It’s often served with Champagne so that you get the bubbles, the sweetness, and the fabulous berry pink color. But what is a teacher’s college student earning her degree in teaching chemistry doing in France with a bunch of French teachers on their final practicum? Pourquoi pas?
One of the memories that has occasionally but consistently returned to me is what a teacher at the high school where I was fulfilling my practicum requirement said to me. I expressed to him the xenophobia and racism I sensed and experienced while travelling in France. He said that the French, that is, the white French, feel uncomfortable around Asians because they don’t know how to read common human expressions on the Asian face.
Think about that before throwing up the racist card. Imagine growing up developing the definition of the smile only on white faces and all the variations of the smiles always on white faces. Whiteness becomes part of the concept of smile.
I’ve seen this in small children who’ve never seen any other race other than their parents’. They see a different kind of face and they’re not sure how to react until they check off (at lightening fast speed) the familiar characteristics like eyes, nose, mouth, hair, ears, etc., which confirms for them that this new face is like their parents’. They then broaden their definition of what a face is to include a different color and shapes. And this is the point: I can understand from an epistemological point of view how a whole country of people might not be used to the Asian face and expressions on it, but I don’t understand from the internet connected, globally distributed Hollywood movies and television shows world, how they can claim defense on that state of childish ignorance.
And it’s not just surprise or confusion on their faces when faced with a different race. It’s suspicion too and baseless dislike. So now I’m throwing up the race card.
What does this have to do with liqueur? Nothing direct. The terminus of a chain of thought from a memory starting off with a liqueur. You never know where this category of drink will lead you, which brings me to my conclusion.
Nowadays, I don’t drink liqueur on its own. Not even on ice, like say Amaretto on the rocks, which Squeezable Companion thinks tastes like candy. “That stuff is dangerous,” he says. I guess that’s the thing about liqueur: it is like candy with enough sweetness to conceal the heat of the eighty proof alcohol content. So not only do you get cavities, but you get plastered because the alcohol sneaks up on you like a Vaselined imp. It’s a mischievous maybe even evil beverage. I don’t trust it. Not that the absence of trust has ever stopped me from enjoying something, not even people.