Give the boy a drink

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I was seven when I first drank Sangria. It is worth a story.

My dad bought one of those VW campers (where the roof extends upwards to reveal a couple of beds and the seats below morph into a large double bed). He decided, in his infinite wisdom, that what we needed was a camping holiday in Spain and we would drive the 1200 or so miles in the VW and sleep in it at nights. This was all very well, but there were seven of us (mum, dad, five kids). If memory serves, I slept underneath the steering wheel… or was that my brother, Michael? I was the smallest. Perhaps they put me in the exhaust pipe and I have just blanked it out.

Anyway, three days into our journey (long after my first “are we nearly there yet?” mantra was heard six miles south of London) we arrived at a mosquito-infested camp site some distance past Barcelona with the sound of the lapping Mediterranean waves barely audible beyond the thousand or so caravans and temporary toilets.

We were hungry. My father wasn’t really an outdoor kind of guy. He spent most of the afternoon trying to hook up the gas stove to a canister of butane gas to cook some chorizo sausages I doubt any of us would have liked. Needless to say, the gas tank exploded, causing third-degree burns to my dad’s left arm. A German couple who had pitched tent alongside us covered his arm in flour while a Frenchman reached for butter. I recall wondering, had we added some sugar, would we have been able to make a reasonable shortbread biscuit from my father’s arm?

By nightfall, he wasn’t the only one who needed a drink. Being seven, my mother didn’t take kindly to my assertion that I “absolutely had to have a scotch”. She compromised and allowed me a glass of Sangria at the local bar (which, by the way, served alcohol to children as young as two).

It was nectar. It was sweet, fizzy, better than coke and it made me feel giggly. This was like nothing I had drunk before.

Following years of treatment, I finally managed to kick my addiction to it by the time I was eleven. I still recall though, how I lovingly emptied a bottle of wine into a big jug, squeezed a couple of oranges, lemons and a lime, added slices of fruit (apples, oranges, that sort of thing), a can or two of lemonade (the Sprite kind for Americans), a handful of ice and believed, as I poured a cupful, that heaven was right there inside my plastic beaker with one of those sippy straws built in.

It wasn’t until my late thirties that I felt able to sample Sangria again. This time it was at a swanky bar in London. It cost a fortune and had all manner of spices and juices. I asked the barman what kind of Sangria he called this. “Sangria” was his terse reply. I later found out that there is no one recipe for this drink that is definitive. In fact, you don’t even need to use red wine (white, apparently, will do).

I still like my version the best though.

Re: Give the boy a drink

David It was my right arm not my left. Denis our inveterate holiday companion, was trying to get me into the sea - the correct emergency treatment for burns - to no avail. After treatment by the camp nurse and the doctor next day, I drank a whole bottle of dry sherry and slept for thirty six hours. I woke up without pain but I have scars from the burn to this day, thirty years later. I never really liked sangria. I preferred the real thing, preferably vintage French premier cru. We never camped again! Lionel Lassman

Re: Give the boy a drink

I have remembered that you had a romantic liaison on the campsite. Natives of Barcelona summered in the camp site. Our neighbour had a very large tent fitted out with real stoves and even a large refrigerator. They also had a very pretty blonde daughter of your age. We have a photo of you both sitting outside the neighbours tent at diminutive tables and chairs drawing in notebooks. You were wearing my kepi, a large desert hat, and you both look adorable.

Re: Give the boy a drink

What will people think? Booze and girls aged seven! Thanks for setting things straight about your arm. And, by the way, the family holidays were the best of times.

Re: Give the boy a drink

Lovely story… brought the memories flooding back. I first had sangria in Mallorca with Grandma Janey when I must have been 11. We went to a fiesta in a hangar-like building with hundreds of refectory tables surrounded by assorted tourists sampling the belaeric culinary delights. A waiter came to each table with one of those jugs specially designed for sangria — with a long thin spout — and demonstrated how to drink it: head back, arm raised, the spout close to the mouth to start then quickly raise the arm in the air to create a flow of sangria which should, in theory, go from jug to mouth. The waiter did it perfectly each time but the guests — mostly british and german — ended up with half the drink down their holiday best. It’s a clever way to share a jug of drink with friends without catching germs and eliminating the glasses thus saving on the washing up.

Re: Give the boy a drink

I am sure that Rebecca made a typo error. She must know that the correct spelling is Balearic!

Re: Give the boy a drink