Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Mary L. Tabor is the author of The Woman Who Never Cooked, which won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award and was published when she was 60. Her short stories have won numerous literary awards. Her memoir (Re)Making Love is a modern real-life love story that has been profiled in Real Simple magazine. She writes a column on the arts, love and creativity for The Communities at The Washington Times. Her experience spans the worlds of journalism, business, education, fiction and memoir writing. She taught creative writing for more than a decade at George Washington University. Her novel Who by Fire will be published this fall. You can find her on twitter and facebook.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Mary Tabor: If you can call a thimble full of Mogen David a drink, I would say at seder on Passover. But in truth, I don’t really recall drinking the sweet wine. The baby-sized silver cup that I now own meant more to me and still does. Part of the appeal of alcoholic drinks is the beautiful vessel: the twined blown-glass stems on the set of pastel-colored wine glasses I bought in Venice for my mother on my first trip abroad and that she never used but displayed beautifully in her breakfront.
Even in Italy, I drank Coca-Cola instead of the wine that flows there like water.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
I began drinking wine in my late thirties when my cooking became more sophisticated and I wanted to understand the pairing of food with wine. My husband and I had dinner at the Henley Park Hotel restaurant near our office, and we had an Italian white wine called Est Est Est, Latin for It is, It is, It is, an inexpensive white wine that was a step up from anything either of us had ever had, non-drinkers that we were.
What about the worst time?
I began to understand the dangers of any pleasure that creates both a high and a low when my husband of 21 years said oh-so-Greta-Garbo “I need to live alone,” and I cratered. Before I began to sort out what had happened in my memoir (Re)Making Love, I drank wine at night after I had finished my teaching and writing and I wept. I looked through the glass, through the wine darkly. In this way, I associate the loss of the dream with too much wine. Alcohol in excess gets in the way of dreaming and dreaming is key to the creative process.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
My husband, who left like a nightmare and returned like an undreamt dream, shared wine and food with me as we began to repair at the end of a four-year separation. I don’t think the name of the wine matters because for me the wine will always be the metaphor of Est Est Est: It is, It is, It is. The wine and food we share together now affirm the family table: That table is, it exists in the face of all the ways that life betrays the living.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
Drinking in college where I saw a lot of folks roll back to the dorm drunk held little interest for me. Because of my Jewish upbringing, sweet wine was a part of the Sabbath and holiday table. So it wasn’t a taboo that drew me. My parents didn’t drink socially. My father would have once a year a single shot of Schenley Crown Royal whiskey, the bottle in a blue velvet bag that remains unforgettable to me. His drink and the velvet bag mean something to be treasured.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” I do associate wine with romance and safety and I think his lyrics, though edgy, do too.
An Apricot Brandy Sour. This isn’t a drink I like much now—I drink no hard liquor—but it is the first hard liquor I ever had. I turned 21 in March of the year I earned my first Master’s Degree. I was away at a school with a dry campus and so I went with a boyfriend off campus for that drink. My father suggested that I order the Sour and I did. My father’s love is entwined with that drink along with his need to protect me and the bond we shared throughout his life—though we didn’t form that bond with drinking. We formed it with talk.
What do you like most about drinking?
The wine and talk that go with good food. All three form a triad built on love. I’ve had to learn the importance of the triad through hard times and good times. The journey has made me believe that the family table formed my beginning and holds me true. When that table includes wine and food and talk, the table’s legs stand on a strong foundation like the family seder where I first encountered wine.