June 18, 2011 – My first Pisco Sour
Late Friday afternoon Walter asks if I’d like to go to one of his favorite spots in Cieneguilla to get a Pisco Sour. The idea is agreeable to me so off we go.
Peru’s national drink is the Pisco Sour. It has rum, lemon, egg white, pisco, and who knows what else. Since I don’t eat meat and therefore choose not to try many of the Peruvian foods I decided that I’d have a Pisco Sour one time and in that way experience a Peru specialty. I know it’s not vegan and I usually practice great care in not drinking alcohol (for health reasons) except for the occasional glass of organic red wine – but nevertheless.
The restaurant is beautiful. We sit at a great stone table that reminds me of the stone table that Aslan was sacrificed on in the Narnian Series by C.S. Lewis. A waterfall cascades over itself next to us. Walter hassles the staff who he knows by name. “Two Pisco Sours, Edgar,” he says. “The way I like them.”
Pisco Sours in hand, we toast. I take a sip. It’s strong. Rum, lemon, nutmeg. I like the subtle taste of the nutmeg. Does nutmeg count as a garnish?
Making small talk, Walter asks me what my first impression of him was when I met him at the airport. Sometimes these kinds of questions can be so awkward. I tell him that he was shorter than I expected and then quickly waffle out of my end of the conversation. I’m not sure what information he’s fishing for. Maybe, like a guy, he just wants to hear “Sure, I’d do you.” But I can’t say that. And I don’t. He tells me that Mary had been really angry when she heard I was coming. And Walter feared that I’d be some Marilyn Monroe type and he’d be in a world of trouble forever after. “Not that you’re not attractive,” he back peddles, “but you’re just so wholesome. Mary knows I like girls that are trouble. So she was relieved when she met you.”
It’s nice to know that I’m not a threat. I also like knowing what people’s impressions of me are. It’s fun to contrast those images with what I imagine of myself or don’t imagine.
We get a second Pisco Sour. I’m already feeling it. I’m a little more lightheaded than I’d usually like to be. But the stress of my other world problems (having to do with internet access and an outstanding mortgage payment on my home in Colorado) lighten too and I don’t think that’s all bad. I put myself there in the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Something like happy hour on a Friday evening in Cieneguilla, Peru.
Walter eavesdrops on the conversation of the table next to us and then stands up to go join in their conversation in order to get some insider tips for me on what I can do and see when I go to Barranco (the hotspot for musicians and bohemians in Lima). I join him there at the edge of their table. They’re slightly tipsy and are soon calling us all by first names as if we’re the best of friends. Perhaps we are.
“Mary doesn’t like that I talk to everyone,” Walter says. “She thinks she loses hold of me when I do that.”Some relationships are like that, I guess. Always contrary.
We go back to our table. And then from his seat Walter starts talking politics to the world at large. He does this a lot too. With anyone he comes into contact with in fact. To the guy on the bus, to the lady on the street corner, to me, to the taxi driver, “What about Alan Garcia? And can you believe this stuff about Keiko and Humala? What is going on with Peru?” The political stance he takes now makes our new friends and another table happy. So happy in fact that they both try to order us another round of drinks. The waiter brings the drinks and I’m not exactly sure which table pays for them. When our new friends get up to leave they give us their phone numbers, “Call us when you go to Barranco. We’ll meet you there,” they shake Walter’s hand, kiss me on the cheek, “Ciao.”
Three Pisco Sours for me. I’m feeling more than a little tipsy and laugh at myself as I take the effort to speak carefully, and when we get up to leave, to walk carefully, straight. My youngest brother used to say, “All the Whites know how to hold their liquor well.” I’m not sure if I do or not, at least it’s inside.
On the way home we stop at another restaurant on Walter’s whim. His friend Pietro Tremendo, an Italian who runs a restaurant in Cieneguilla, welcomes us in and shows us all around. He’s very Italian, very friendly and I like him right away. He used to do Judo and we talk Judo a little. Those old glory days. He pulls out a bottle of “The best drink,” and takes us into the restaurant where he sits us down, pours us shots and he and Walter talk and talk.Whatever he gives us is strong with lemon and maybe tequila. I’m having quite a night out on the town. I sip very very slowly.
When we get back to the house, I place my feet one in front of the other and head carefully to my room. I go straight to sleep and eleven hours later wake up, surprisingly enough, without a headache.