Drinking… sounds a bit negative, doesn’t it. Well, to me, in my own personal way, it was a bit negative, too. No, I never had one of those Saturday nights when I had one shot too many and woke up in the middle of nowhere without memory. No. Oh… oh… that is if you don’t count that 5 straight shots of Russian vodka Kahlua (or whatever smooth thing they were mixing!) and my head hit switch off. Yes, I woke up next to the basin in the toilet of somebody’s flat. Well, ok. But no, I never caused trouble to girls or other people over drinks (as far as I know, and I know, 99% of the time, except for that single vodka shot encounter…)

My issue was more to do with my health issue, but I never knew it was what I consume, or more about the way I dealt with my stress, my professional life, my time management, and my social life, friends, all that.

So I quit. That was 3-4 years ago. I used to enjoy beer, wine, more red than white, and nice dry sparkling was okay too. Sake had its own place when dining at a fine Japanese restaurant. But all that, went to a complete zero. The only exception I made was during my new year meal with my family back in Osaka, where I had a toast for the year with a fine sake with gold flakes floating in it. But after that, I went back to my sparkling water and soda water life again. I did not miss it, and I didn’t feel I was missing out. I was more worried about what it ‘might’ do to my skin…

On Christmas Eve morning I got on that plane worrying about the dry air in the long flight and how it affects my skin. When the skin condition goes out of control, it drives you crazy. Anybody who has had that experience knows that. It drives you mad. I think I prepared myself relatively well for this trip, thanks to the new GP my friend introduced to me and prescribed the same set of medicine I used to take before trying to live without steroid. But it really works and by the time I got on the plane, I was feeling really easy. It continued more or less so far, a week into this trip at the point of writing (not the photo story which is a few days behind). So when the smiling people of the country South France (though we were actually pretty close to the big city of Toulouse) pushed a glass into my hand and said, you got to have this. This is Christmas, it’s good for you, et cetra, et cetra, I was willing to give it a go. If it leads to inflammation on my skin, I can stop there and then, clean up with drinking lots of water (by the way, everyone drinks off the tap here, and so do I – nice good water!) but I don’t need to not try it and not honour my host, too.

Sète, France
Martine bringing me the local white to go with the fresh local Oysters, both produced within 15km from here!

What I realise now, after that first drink at Christmas dinner (oddly enough I was the only one eating at table as I was late – kids cannot be kept waiting till 3pm going hungry), then a glass of Martini & orange juice at aperitif (the snack and drink moment before dinner) the next day (though I passed the red wine at dinner table) and when I was attacking that totally smooth local oyster at the market in Sète (and I don’t often eat raw oysters) and touched this huge glass of local fruity white she brought back for me, I knew – drinking is not something people do to get high (well, some do, yes). It is not a separate thing. It is a part of meal, a part of that half hour before dinner when you start up getting your stomach ready. It is just a part of the… whole package, if you like. It is a part of life! I might even scream if I had finished that big one glass of white Martine has in her hand (and I managed only half of it, about one standard drink, though I was not the one behind the wheel that afternoon :p)

Sure, that was probably one of the finest oysters I’d ever eaten in my life (at a casual eat-at-market price of 6 Euro for 6 pieces). We drove past the inland sea where the oysters are farmed, between Meze (where we are staying with kids at Martine’s mother’s flat) and Sète. And in Sète there was no way that I would go without trying the local produce. If I didn’t try it, would I have changed my opinion about raw oysters? Probably not. This is the right thing. This is not a supermarket deli stuff. This is seafood direct from the sea, that day or maybe the day before, I don’t know how often they pick up those oysters from that floating bed. And would I have possibly ever enjoyed that soft smooth thing going down my throat and jumping into my stomach, if it did not have that lemon, not the excessively acid, sour kind that I used to know in Japan, but the tasty, almost mild one that I remember picking from a lemon tree from the back of house while living in the Mornington Peninsula. And well, you know what I’m trying to say next. That wine. That fruity, round, full of sun and seabreeze, local produce wine. I wouldn’t have it on its own, and I wouldn’t have the oyster without it.

That night, after driving back to Meze to the kids and the grand-ma, I was treated to the grand-ma’s cooking of seafood in tomato sauce, served over steam-hot boiled potatos and topped with mayonaise. But of course, we don’t just have the mains here in France, do we? We had the oysters… and of course, in that small tumbler next to me (we didn’t have goblets in this house ) was the thick yellow of that local white.

It completes the thing.

Sète, France