Feeling Big Drinks

Posted Wednesday, 02 March 2022

Last summer, my family and I spent two months in the English countryside. Aside from the usual complexities of travel, we also had to understand the latest Covid regulations. 

I got into a shouting match at Heathrow, forgetting to swap my pugnacious Lagos Madam persona for my calm, I’m-on-vacation personality. By the time we showed up at the rental property where we would be staying for our vacation, we were missing one of our suitcases, and looking at the start of a 10 day quarantine.

I managed to order lunch and settled in by the front window to await the grocery order I had placed online before leaving Nigeria. 

“I need to get a British sim card,” my younger daughter said. “When can we do that?”

“How do you work the TV?” my son said, thrusting a remote control at me.

“When can we go to the mall?” my daughter asked.

“Are you signing me up for a football camp?” my son said. “This is boring.”

A knock on the door and some fumbling with an unfamiliar set of keys and our day 2 and day 8 Covid testing kits arrived. My phone rang and it was a representative for the NHS, making sure we had begun our quarantine. 

I became overwhelmed and panicky. Here I was, managing in an unfamiliar environment after a year of barely leaving my house. Have you ever been thrust outside your comfort zone and hit a wall? I looked around for an adult but the only one I found was myself.

The owner of the house had left us some supplies. I tore into a pack of biscuits and decided to make a cup of coffee. My stomach sank when I spotted the Nespresso machine on the countertop. Here was another new thing to figure out. I found directions online, slid in a coffee pod and filled the aeroccino with fresh milk. Within minutes, my mug was filled with hot coffee and the cold milk had been transformed into a steamy, whipped foam. I spooned the milk froth onto my coffee, took a sip and my mind was blown. It was the most amazing coffee I had ever had outside a café, perfectly bracing and smooth. After a tiny sip, my mood shifted, and I felt unstoppable.

I’ve spent my entire life so defeated, I’m always fascinated when I suddenly feel big. You’d be surprised how often drinks play a role in generating those moments. I have evolved as I’ve grown, and my ‘feeling big drink’ (FBD) has changed along with me.

When I was a girl in suburban Boston, I loved birthday parties. At some point, the celebrant’s mother would grab a steel can of Hawaiian Punch and pour out thimble-sized cups of bright red juice to all the children. I was transformed into a boss, the toddler version of Jay-Z at the club, when he raps ‘Cheers, toast to crime.’

As a teenager, I loved cold cans of Diet Coke, beaded with condensation. I felt so cool when I tipped those bracing, bubbly bad boys down my throat. In my 20s, I remember the bliss of a cold night in Brooklyn at my favourite neighbourhood bistro, with a warming glass of red wine and a comforting order of macaroni and cheese split with my gorgeous Nigerian fiancé. Years later, when I was pregnant with our eldest, my husband and I toasted each other with virgin pina coladas on a last kid-free trip to the Bahamas. We felt so big.

I spy FBD all over Lagos, whether it’s families at Chinese restaurants delighted by the cartons of juice and bottles of minerals covering the banquet table, women popping bottles of Moet on a girl’s night out or men smoking cigars and eating snails washed down with cognac, as they sit by the water and bob their heads to the music. If drinks can make us feel big, I’m all for it. Grab your FBD of choice and forget your troubles. I’m toasting you in spirit.

Mona Zutshi Opubor is an Indian-American and Nigerian short story author and memoirist. She holds an MSt in Literature and Arts from the University of Oxford, an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University and a BA in English Literature from Columbia University.

Read more at www.monazutshiopubor.com

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