#TippleTalk – Distinct Spirits For Distinct Cultures

DO YOU know that saying, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are?” It was proudly uttered by Frenchman Brillat Savarin, the famous gastronome. He was responsible for leaving behind a treasure trove of information concerning gastronomy. So timeless was his counsel that time has not changed its relevance in any manner. Travel through the length and breadth of our country and what one notices is that it’s not just clothes and language habits that change, it’s everything—from the way we think to the way we consume and even what we consume. So much so that simply by looking at these factors for a long enough time, one can start seeing a pattern, a symmetry in our actions and inactions that runs common through all aspects of our lives. In other words, if I were to dare provide a corollary to the famous quote above, it would be this, “Tell me how you live and I’ll tell you what you eat.”

Travel through the length and breadth of our country and what one notices is that it’s not just clothes and language habits that change, it’s everything

Recently, during one of those gentle alcohol-laced discussions with a jewellery designer friend (Gaurav), something interesting turned up. This was one of those chats that happen so late in the night that every other worldly worry has been brought up and exhausted. Essentially, once the complaining and bickering of the quotidian grind has died down, the talk finally moves on to quaint observations, the ones which still appeal to our innate child-like curiosity. Gaurav shared how, in his business travels across the country, the way people buy jewellery gives an insight into their thinking, how they perceive life, etc.

The northern part of the country, for example, likes big pieces: long earrings, over-emphasised neckpieces, big bangles. They like to make it a point that their accessories don’t hide behind the rest of them. They want to be on display. The south, by contrast, prefers smaller sizes. They may spend the same amount in value as someone from the north, but they would channel that towards, say, a better-quality diamond or a more delicate design. For them, it’s more about the detail than the outwardly semblance of size and opulence. Frankly, this shouldn’t be news to most of us: the jokes fly thick and heavy about the dwellers of our subcontinent at its two extremities and just how different they are. But then, we see the same pattern in our cuisines. While northern ones tend to show a certain penchant for the rich and the lush, the south sticks to a path more austere and less ostentatious. Even in the drinks we imbibe, this philosophy appears to define the order. The north likes cocktails with more cream, vanilla and fruity notes. The south prefers less sweetness and has a certain predilection for spiced drinks. The north likes to play with vodka, dressing it up in all sorts of juices, flavours and garnishes. The south prefers darker spirits and, most commonly, they are drunk with only water added. The lavish-austere contrast remains obvious across the board. Of course, there are anomalies, but the general pattern is distinctly obvious: the ostentatious works better in the north.

Frankly, this didn’t come as news to me as, I am sure, to you as well. But in our defence, Gaurav and I had been sipping on some poignant spirits and it was extremely late in the night. So to draw parallels between jewellery shopping and cocktail imbibing seemed a highly intellectual task—linking two rather unrelated fields with a common denominator.

The moral of the day is nothing really—keep calm and enjoy your Sunday. Maybe to remember that different upbringings make for different tactile profiles, so to disregard any is a sign of ignorance and disrespect. Drink what you like, but also always try what you don’t know yet. And do it all in moderation for, as monsieur Savarin rather aptly summed up in a lesser-known quote: “If you get indigestion and inebriation then my friend you don’t know how to eat or drink.”

The writer is a sommelier

Originally appeared in Financial Express

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