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 Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Say Bartender,
Make Mine Tuna on the Rocks

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
In the Bible, Jesus turns water into wine and multiplies two fishes into enough to feed 12,000 people, including women and children. Can China top that? Seems as though they're going to try.

Sun Keman, of China's port city of Dalian, has formed the Dalian Fisherman's Song Maritime Biological Brewery, intending to turn fish into wine. I'm not kidding. I checked it out on Snopes and it's not a hoax. They already have orders from Japan, Russia, and other parts of China. Xinhua News Agency reported "Different from China's thousands of years of brewing, [this] brewery will clean, boil, and ferment fish for making wine."

I don't know about anyone else, but I like my wine made the old-fashioned way, from grapes. At least French wine doesn't have eyes that can look back at you from the bottom of the glass. Then again, I had to give up drinking altogether when I saw the worm in mescal; even though it was dead, it looked healthy to me.

Alvin Starkman, M.A., LL.B., wrote a comprehensive article for the ezine, Mexico Connect, about the worm in mescal. Starkman says "The gusano worm is in fact not a worm, but rather a caterpillar, an infestation to which the agave plant is susceptible. However, in the production and sale of mezcal, ... prior to there being any labeling or regulation ... , a gusanito was inserted into a bottle of mezcal as proof to the purchaser that the liquor had a sufficiently high alcohol content. The worm's preservation in the mezcal, without any decomposition, signified that the alcohol content ought to be acceptable to the purchaser." So okay then, it wasn't a worm in my mescal, it was a caterpillar. This is better?

Fish-into-wine and worms-into-mescal could be considered prime marketing by Mother Nature. TV commercials for such drinks could be made even more effective by using the popular Guinness Beer commercials with the two geezers shouting "Brilliant!"

Another effective marketing tool, if tool be the correct word, would be perpetuation of the myth that pulque, the respected drink of Aztec elders, high priests, and warriors, sprang from the breasts of the Goddess Mayahel, of which she had 400. Imagine what that would mean to Victoria's Secret bra sales?

Mayahel was the "official" Goddess of Pulque, Alcohol, and Agave, at least until she entered rehab. You can't beat those Aztecs. We only have Paris Hilton.

British writer Chris Aspin has written extensively about pulque and states that today, "the foamy, slightly viscous and foul-smelling booze is slowly disappearing, a victim of the rising popularity of beer and of failing to shake off its image as a poor man's tipple."

Aspin claims that, while the drink remains the same, there has been a "change in perception -- from nectar to nasty." As opposed to the turn of the 20th Century when there were 1,500 pulque bars in Mexico City, there are now only about 100 which Aspin refers to as "... squalid dives only frequented by the old and poor." 75-year-old Palemon Huesca, Zempoala's pulque maker, calls pulque "a dying drink," and his vats only make 500 litres a day instead of the 5,000 litres of 30 years ago. He said "Young people tend not to drink pulque anymore." Small wonder, if it's "slightly viscous and foul-smelling." Sounds like a drink of medical waste. Even the worm doesn't like it.

Still, it's a sad state of affairs when Mexican pulque, dating back at least 2,000 years, might eventually be replaced by a liquefied, fermented fish.

If we will drink wine made from creatures of the sea, perhaps the next big thing will be beer made from creatures of the air. Bird beer? One thing is certain -- no matter what the source of the booze, if it has 400 breasts, men will buy it.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
May 25, 2007 column
Email: maggie@maggievanostrand.com

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