Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pastis and Zola

My interest in wine, and drinks generally, came from an interest in food. That and wine is a romantic sort of thing, or at least it is when you get past wanting to drink it primarily for its alcoholic properties. I really wanted to learn about what went with what, to get those combinations that create a meal that's so much more than the sum of its parts. In the end it took me ages to get a grip on it, and it's still something I find tricky at times. There are rules and guidelines but what really matters is matching people with wine with food - which is a slightly different skill, technically perfect matches mean nothing if you don't actually like the wine.

Thinking about matching booze with books is certainly adding a bit of fun to my working day and it's also making me consider things I wouldn't normally drink. I don't particularly like pastis, or any other anise flavoured drink, but it does one very attractive thing. It louche's - when you add water it produces the opalescent effect that absinthe is so famous for, but without the utterly obnoxious amount of alcohol that absinthe contains.

Pastis also strikes me as just so damn French, and if I'm matching a drink to a book I want it to be an immersive experience. I haven't got very far with my Zola project this year but Radio 4's recent dramatisations have given me a bit of a push, it might be time to make another effort with both the Rougon - Macquart's and a bottle of Henri Bardouin's finest (if it's to be pastis it had better be the best on the high street). It would also see me through a chunk of Oscar Wilde's output, any collection with the words French and decadent in the title, all those Sartre books I still haven't read after being bowled over by 'Nausea' at an impressionable age and so on.

But it's Zola with his vivid descriptions of physical surroundings - overly lush vegetation in the graveyard or the hot house, the grime and smoke in the stock exchange, perfumed boudoirs where things are amiss, who makes me want to make the extra effort.


  1. I never knew it was called that (louche effect). How interesting. Still can't stand the stuff, but interesting!

  2. Not my favourite either so I'll be looking for a miniature if I buy it at all, but I do like the idea of being able to engage my sense of taste and smell in a book (though not if its anything really disgusting).