I wrote a post a while back about creating community and my desire to do just that when Les and I take our little backpack and rollie traveling show on the road. Since we both like to have a “wee nip or a sip” with friends (and just by ourselves too – really, I’m open for a sip pretty much any time if the right people offer the invitation) it got me thinking about the special community we create when we break bread and share a glass with others.
The idea of being able to share a glass and a toast with people we meet around the world is very enticing. I admit I have grand visions of sitting in a vineyard in France, old wooden tables laden with bottles, fresh local food and Les and I laughing and making a toast to our newly found friends. Sounds just about perfect. So, we did a practice run last summer when we went to a Plate & Pitchfork dinner at Viridian Farms. Warm summer evening, delicious food prepared outside, amazing local wine, sharing a table with the wine makers and new friends. We ate, drank, talked, laughed until the sun faded and we had to walk back to our car in the dark. I was in heaven, and although I have already made plans to do it again this summer, I can think of nothing better than to spend our tenth anniversary and my 65th birthday next summer in a field in France. With wine. And food. And interesting people. Cheers to that!
All this talk of drinking and community eventually led me to thinking about drinking toasts. It seems like every country where alcohol is consumed has a toast to accompany the first sip. Who came up with that idea you ask? Well, let me tell you… It’s said that back around 500 B.C. those pesky Greeks often poisoned the wine to get rid of their enemies, nagging wives, political figures and pretty much anyone else they didn’t want around. To put his guests at ease, the host would pour wine from a common pitcher, toast to health, then drink before everyone proving that the wine wasn’t poisoned. The Romans loved this custom so much that they adopted it for themselves and added the practice of dipping burnt bread (toast) in the wine to reduce the acidity. Fortunately, wine making has gotten a lot better and I haven’t had a glass in a very long time that would have been improved with the dipping of burnt bread. Bread and cheese, however, is another matter entirely.
To me a toast is about savoring the moment and wishing your companions well. I personally think it’s a lovely idea and one I’d like to take on our travels, so it seems like a pretty good idea to learn a few of the traditional toasts in other countries. In China they say “gan bei” (Mandarin) or “gom bui” (Cantonese) which means dry your cup. Many countries still toast “to your health” – In France its “a votre sante“, in Poland “na zdrowie“, in the Spanish speaking countries its generally “salud” and next time you’re in Russia try “za vashe zdorovye”. If you’re in India, lift a glass and say “tulleeho!”. I’m not sure when the opportunity might arise but if it does, try these two Zulu toasts “ooogy wawa” or “poo-zim-pee”.
Why not open a bottle of your favorite wine or make a shaker of martinis (preferably pear) sometime over the weekend – then raise your glass and toast the favorite people in your world.
So, how did the toast “Here’s mud in your eye” originate? It’s said that this toast came from World War II as a wish of good fortune to farmers. Of course, it’s also been said that it came from the kick of mud thrown in your face from a winning horse at the race track.