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A Man of No Taste


As this is Japan, people who visit my home on anything but a 'drop-in' basis, usually bring some kind of small gift with them - a small box of confections, some fruit, perhaps a package of sembei crackers. These polite offerings are accepted with thanks, and make a subsequent appearance on our table, where they are consumed happily.

But occasionally one of the guests will bring a tallish, fairly heavy little package, and the pretty wrapping paper from the shop cannot disguise that it is a bottle ... It might be whiskey (rarely), o-sake (sometimes), or wine (more commonly nowadays). Of course, my 'thank you' is just as warm and friendly as that with which I respond to those other gifts, but this is somewhat hypocritical on my part. Unlike my younger brother Simon, whose eyes would light up with honest delight at receiving a present of this sort (any present of this sort!), I'm not much of a 'drinking man'.

I'm not really sure why this is so, but I think it may have something to do with my taste buds, or as I suspect, my lack of taste buds. I just don't seem to be able to appreciate the varied flavours of alcoholic drinks, and might as well confess right here, that I can't even tell most of them apart. If we were in a bar together, and you arranged a kind of test - putting a row of glasses in front of me containing say, rye, scotch, gin, vodka, brandy, beer, etc., and then asked me to tell which was which ... This is a test that I would fail miserably. I suppose I could pick out which one was the beer. But if you were to then test me on lagers, stouts, ales, etc., it would be the same story. A beer is a beer is a beer ...

So of course when it comes to wine, there is just no hope for me, as my friend Terry can well attest. He was visiting for the weekend a while ago, and I dragged a bottle of 'gift' wine out from the cupboard to drink with dinner. When we popped it open and served it up, to me it tasted like ... well, it simply tasted like 'wine', but Terry for his part found it somewhat less than palatable (I believe I heard the word 'vinegar' muttered under his breath ...). As he is certainly not a 'wine snob' type of person, I deferred to his more well-developed 'taste'. We finished the meal with some other accompaniment, water, I think.

So, as a consequence of this basic lack of pleasure in alcohol, I end up simply not drinking much at all. The main beverages in my home are milk and juice, and I always keep a good selection of these on hand. I would estimate my total alcohol consumption over the past year comes to about a dozen or so cans of beer, maybe a total of a half a bottle of wine (or should I say, vinegar), and perhaps one 'tokkuri' of sake (poured for 'kampai' toasting at the woodblock craftsmen's guild meeting).

I suppose that this is just as well. Although I feel a bit of a sad twinge at the fact that I do seem to be missing out on something that a great many people find very pleasurable indeed, at least there's not much danger of me becoming an alcoholic. I'm sure I save a lot of money too, but I think the best thing is ... unlike some people I know, I don't seem to have any problems with developing a 'beer belly'! Isn't that right, Simon? ... Terry?