I’ve got a Polish friend , Przemek , who brings me bottles of a special Polish brew called pigwa . It’s got a sweet strange flavor . No one has quite satisfactorily explained to me what fruit flavors it . Is it a vodka base ? Well , this is Poland , so I think so . Does Przemek make the stuff himself ? I think so . The bottles are vodka bottles refilled with pigwa .
I’m pretty much of a beer guy , myself . A shot of scotch too , in the evening , if I’ve got one . I think my mother got me into that . She’d have a bottle of Irish whiskey tucked away in among the canned beans in the kitchen , down low near the oven . She thought she was hiding it . ” I hide the good stuff ,” she used to say . To my mother any Irish whiskey was the ” good stuff “. But , then again , any bottle of scotch , too , qualified . ” Go get the good stuff , ” she used to say to me about four o’clock in the afternoon. ” It’s time , don’t you think ? ”
I never really figured out who Mom thought that she was hiding the “good stuff” from . None of my brothers or sisters liked the stuff. Well , occasionally Mary had a shot or two , but she lived 400 miles away . None of the neighbors who wandered in and out to visit my mother most days drank the hard stuff . Some of them would maybe have a beer now and again .
I made my own beer at one point with my friend Tom . Some of it was horrendous , but some of it was pretty good . My friend Johnny Reimbold was one of the only two people willing to try the stuff . Most people thought , I suppose , that they’d go blind or die were they to sip a little of the fermented homemade swill . My mother was the other one who was willing to try our brew . She claimed , as I remember , that she liked it . I don’t remember Johnny R. going that far . He’d laugh a lot after each sip and rib us about paying more to make our questionable stuff rather than buy better beer in the market . My mother simply smiled and said , ” Not too bad . “
So , here I am in Poland sipping pigwa from a cut-glass shot glass and thinking about all this . My mother would , I imagine , be making faces as she tastes the unusual Polish stuff . Then she’d tell me , no doubt , kind of furtively in order not to offend or suggest that the whole world should share her tastes , ” Go get the Jameson ” as she pushed aside the glass of pigwa .
My uncles and aunts came over to my mother’s once upon a time for a family reunion and my mother asked if anyone would like a drink . It was a rhetorical question . She had a bottle of Bushmills in her hand . A few minutes before that she had the bottle hidden in among the Campbell soups and canned spinach .
” If all you’ve got is the Protestant stuff , that’s fine , ” said Uncle Dick . ” If you haven’t got any Catholic stuff I’ll drink the other . ”
” It’s not Catholic and it’s not Protestant , ” my mother said . ” It’s whiskey . ”
” If you haven’t got any Catholic whiskey , that’ll be fine . ”
And then it started , of course . The hornet’s nest had been shaken . It was all in good fun . They drank the Protestant stuff and liked it .
So , now I drink beer , scotch , and pigwa . I’ll have a glass of wine every few years , too , and maybe a couple of shots of vodka at Christmastime ( I am , after all , married to a Polish woman ) . Hand me a mixed drink and I wouldn’t know what to do with it . I used to drink gin and tonics . Oh , wait ! I do like margaritas . I haven’t had one in so long I almost forgot what a margarita is . I’ll stick with beer during the day , though , and on pool nights , and a scotch in the evening if I feel like one . And pigwa at pigwa time when I’m in Poland . Pigwa time would be about now , I think .