Slow Drinks

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. My 3 year old daughter just started sleeping without diapers and I spend most of the night planning strategies for middle-of-the-night sheet and pajama changes that will result in the least amount of lost sleep. I lose sleep doing this. The irony is only one of the countless things I ponder all night. I also develop theories. Theories which are brilliant and society-changing at 4 a.m. but usually lose much of their intellectual luster in the daylight. Not so with the Slow Drink Theory. This one actually makes some sense. Granted, after a week of little sleep, my judgment capacities are admittedly compromised. And my husband contends that calling it a theory might be building it up to a level of import it doesn’t quite deserve, but that’s why it’s just a theory. I’m not claiming life philosophy status here.
Anyway, the Slow Drink Theory goes like this: The secret to developing and fostering significant relationships is Slow Drinks. By Slow Drinks I mean drinks that by their very nature need to be (or at least should be) drunk slowly. Let me share some examples from my marriage.
Slow Drink #1: Red Wine. I really think red wine is one of the reasons my marriage is as healthy as it is. Wine is a slow drink. There’s no guzzling a glass of fine Merlot. By its very nature, wine is meant to be enjoyed slowly, intentionally, preferably by candlelight and with dark chocolate, but even with peanuts and a Scrabble board. Which is precisely where the magic lies. Even with two toddlers asleep down the hall, even without much energy or money, any boring old Tuesday night can be transformed into a night of romance with one bottle of wine. Suddenly my husband and I are dating again, talking about the day, laughing at corny jokes, maybe even kissing a little on the couch. It’s the magic of a Slow Drink.
Slow Drink #2: Moroccan Mint Tea. This one is a little more specific to me and my husband, but you can just as easily substitute another hot tea. For us, the memories of trekking through Morocco pre-kids adds bonus connection factor, so we stuff fresh mint into glass tumblers, add boiling water and huge amounts of sugar, and spend the evening on the back porch reminiscing, laughing, enjoying silence and starlight. It’s not the flavour that matters, or even the setting, it’s the Slow Drink that makes even sitting quietly side by side a moment of connection.
Slow Drink #3: Coffee. I know there are people that down their morning coffee as they rush out the door or while sitting in traffic, but that’s an affront to one of life’s most accessible and enjoyable Slow Drinks. When I first met my husband he wouldn’t touch coffee. In fact, he wouldn’t drink much besides Pepsi. Pepsi, needless to say, is not a Slow Drink. It will not woo your girlfriend or build your marriage. Truthfully, I wasn’t exactly sure how to date someone that didn’t drink coffee. What would we do? Every good date revolved around coffee. Drink coffee by a river. Voila. A date. Drink coffee and watch the sunrise. Voila. A date. Drink coffee on the floor, on the grass, even at Perkins, and your life is filled with romantic moments. Dating without coffee seemed impossible. And so, little by little, I managed to win him over to the Light and we’ve been happily drinking coffee together for ten years now. I can’t imagine our marriage any other way.
The Slow Drink phenomenon doesn’t just apply to marriages, of course. Other cultures have understood for centuries that community is built around Slow Drinks. Here in Kenya, the Slow Drink of choice is chai. Visit any Kenyan home- just walk by, actually- and you’ll be invited in for sweet, milky, hint-of-charcoal-y, chai. And for as long as it takes you to drink that mug or entire pot, you’re the only one that matters. Your host’s chores and lists and worries are put aside as life slows down for a drink. The Ethiopians take this all to a whole other experiential level with their coffee ceremony. They slow things down to include incense and lots of waiting and an elaborate pouring and drinking ritual. It’s a beautiful, full-sensory act of drinking that just can’t help but connect all those involved. Pretty much everyone in the world besides North Americans live by this phenomenon. We recognize that other cultures have something that we don’t- an attitude towards people and hospitality and time that reflects values that we envy. And yet it remains elusive. We don’t know how to integrate those same practices into our own busy individualistic lives. What we don’t realize is that it’s really not elusive at all. All it takes is a Slow Drink. Wine, coffee, chai- the particulars don’t matter. All that matters is that you drink it slowly. Near each other. Conversation optional.

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