I am constantly amazed at the Spanish male’s ability—and willingness!—to drink 80-proof alcohol at times of the day when my own body wants nothing more than a large dose of caffeine.
I’ve seen this scenario repeat itself in Barcelona, Madrid, Guadalajara and nearly every other town that I’ve visited during my six years here.
There I am...sitting bleary-eyed and saggy-cheeked in a bar. It’s breakfast-time, and I’m holding a café con leche and a chocolate chip muffin. All around me, however, are beefy men in coveralls smoking cigarettes, reading “Marca” and—as God is my witness—guzzling snifters of brandy, orujo and anís.
Brandy, orujo and anís! First thing in the morning!
I’ve told this to my friends and family in the US, and they are likewise astounded. Some even doubt that I’m telling the truth. So one morning several weeks ago, I went to my favorite Sanchoville bar at 10:15am armed with a pen and Moleskine notepad. My mission: To conduct an earnest (albeit unscientific) survey of what the bar patrons were drinking at that tender hour.
There were thirteen men in the bar, and this is what they were drinking:
- Five (5) coffees.
- Five (5) mugs of beers.
- Three (3) snifters of anis dulce (i.e., a sweetened, licorice-flavored liquor).
- One (1) snifter of orujo (i.e., a grappa-like liquor).
- One (1) snifter of brandy.
- One (1) bottle of alcohol-free beer (he either had a very difficult
night, or mistakenly thought it was Lent).
And then—just like that—they finished their drinks, paid their bills and returned to their welding torches and construction scaffolding.
Quite honestly, I don’t understand how these tequila sunrisers were able to keep their eyes open (let alone, work) after such a “breakfast.” Alcohol is, after all, a depressant. And one would assume that a mug and/or snifter full of depressant so early in the morning might lead to thirteen drooling heads snoozing peacefully on the bar’s countertop. But that wasn’t the case. In fact (and ironically enough), the only person in the bar whose posture and demeanor resembled those of Abe Vigoda was...ME!
Anyway...I showed my survey results to José—the owner and bartender extraordinaire—and asked how is it possible that these people can drink so early in the morning...EVERY morning.
“It’s crazy!” he said, banging his fist onto the bar. “They’re doing a lot of damage to their bodies!” José’s moral outrage at the manner in which these men were slowly killing themselves was, perhaps, only exceeded by his delight in that they were doing so at his profit.
But I wonder...are they really killing themselves? I assumed so, until I did a little research and discovered that the life expectancy in Spain—not only for women, but also for men!—is higher than that of the US. Those thirteen men in my survey are likely to outlive the thirteen spandex-clad men who, at this very moment, are huffing and puffing in a Kickboxing Aerobics class in Van Nuys, California.
The Spanish Paradox? Could be. Just imagine if the television show “60 Minutes” should get ahold of this information. I can see it now. All throughot the US, Human Resources Departments will supply employees with morning-time glasses a brandy, orujo and anís as part of their corporate “Wellness Program.”
Dilbert won’t just live longer; he’ll live a whole lot happier.