Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Priest Who Led Me To Strong Drink

My sister departed a few weeks ago and I was sad to see her go. However, my brother arrived yesterday with his daughter, both severely jetlagged but ready for a week-long whirlwind tour of Central Italy. Today we visited the pretty town of Acquaviva Picena, known for the well-preserved Medieval fortezza dominating the hilltop. There was a numbing breeze blowing, like when we visited with Cara.

On that particular visit, it was also a cold day, so we stopped into one of the town’s coffee bars for a warm-me-up before heading on our way.

Inside, standing at the counter was the town priest. I was deliberating on what to order and, as he had just received his hot beverage, recommended I give the punch a try. “E molto buono,” he assured me. Punch is an alcoholic sweet drink that is warmed up by the barista using the espresso steamer wand and served in a tall shot glass. It comes in a variety of fruit flavors as well as chocolate. The priest advised that I try the more local Punch Abruzzese, concocted from a mixture of mountain herbs. “It is very good on a cold, wet day like today,” he said. I had my doubts about this whole affair. I have previously tried another Abruzzese drink called Cento Erbe, also made from wild weeds and it was the strongest brew I’ve ever put into my mouth. We’re talking sugared, herbal moonshine here. But, heck. If the priest tells me to do something, why not? He told me it wasn’t too strong, so I ordered it and went downstairs to the loo.

I came back just in time to find my neatly-warmed punch being set on the counter…and to find my counselor-priest stirring a sugar packet into his own beverage while quietly asking the barista to add hot water to it. I caught wisps of his fervent request with the distinct words, “e troppo forte.” Dude! You just told me “no, it’s not too strong.” Not three minutes ago! I raised the glass to my lips and inhaled herbal fumes. My eyes began to water slightly and I’d not yet imbibed. This would be a drink for flu-sufferers; something to break up chest congestion. I sipped and swallowed. Heat emanated down my throat and into my stomach. I assure you, I felt its path all the way along. He was right about one thing…it was a good drink for a cold day.

My nose started dripping. Each small sip took a little bit of breath away. While breathing fire I glanced at the priest who smiled at me sheepishly before departing. He left half his punch unfinished. Two more sips and I started feeling queasy. My glass remained next to his on the counter, a little more of the strong drink left in mine. The barista gave me some cookies to munch on to override the alcohol, snickering as she removed our glasses. “The priest never drinks anything but communion wine,” she laughed.

I was a little unsettled in the stomach all the way home. I don’t think he meant to lead me astray, but I’ll not be quick to follow a priest’s advice on anything not relating to saints and feast days for some time to come.

6 comments:

Maryann@FindingLaDolceVita said...

haha..never trust a priest!? Sounds like the drink would be wonderful for clearing the sinuses though, huh?

Valerie said...

Hi Maryann, it just goes to show, huh? ;) This would be very good for sinus pressure. The fumes out alone would clear them out!

janie said...

You are so brave!

sognatrice said...

Hah! Well I hope you've learned your lesson...whatever that might be ;)

Valerie said...

Janie, I am not sure if I'm brave or dumb! :)

Sognatrice, I did learn a valuable lesson. Abruzzese drinks are lethal.

The Passionate Palate said...

Great story...I can imagine that drink being a wonderful comfort if you are sick and AT HOME, but not standng in a bar. I just love the fact that the priest recommended it!