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Offbeat – 25 Nov 2011

Water is, actually only water. It is not  a mark of breeding to delicately sip water. It means either you are thirsty, or you don’t want to get legless by chugging back wine.

I ordered a bottle of water the other day at a local eatery: nothing particularly fancy, just something to take the edge off the coffee thirst which comes after the umpteenth cup. I ordered ‘sparkling water’, fizzy water and soda having fallen out of favour, whatever the difference is.
The water that arrived was nothing special: just one of those plastic bottles with water in it. I didn’t bother to look at the label or read the chemical breakdown. What bothered me was the wine glass with which it arrived. There is something inherently troubling with water in a wine glass, especially from my point of view, which in this case turned into something resembling male chauvinism.
I asked the waitress to bring me another glass: she stuck to the form of the thing with one of those effeminate beer glasses with the stem. A straight tumbler would have been far more preferable, but I couldn’t see the point in taking the whole thing into another round.
What is the point of not drinking water from a wine glass? It begins with the idea that water is worthy of drinking from a wine glass. Apparently, wine glasses are a mark of cultivation. I try to avoid giving that sort of appearance. Water is, actually only water. It is not a mark of breeding to delicately sip water. It means either you are thirsty, or you don’t want to get legless by chugging wine, or sipping it, or whatever, in front of the kid, at midday.
Nor is it likely that there could have been anything particularly special about that water that required me to handle it in a ‘cultivated’ way. Most water, bottled or otherwise comes from the tap, with the major possible refinement probably being application of a filter to remove the heavy metals and other interesting symptoms of pollution.
Even if it did come from some mysterious spring welling up from the ground, redolent with hints of sulphur and subterranean grit, it would have arrived from the spring in a tap, given that no bottling plant in its right mind carries water from the source to the funnel, in buckets. And once again, it would have been filtered and purified. It is unlikely that any bottler would be so naïve as to leave the contents open to litigation. What if the flavouring derived from the remains of some late, subterranean fish, the kind that is pure white with a wrinkly face like ET?
There may be something to be said from using a wineglass to drink anything, even wine, but I am not that sort of person. Getting fancy like that, outside of the appropriate circumstances which include certain types of dinner parties which I avoid and certain types of restaurants which I can’t afford, inevitably makes me feel like some kind of decadent refugee from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. And I wouldn’t be seen reading one of those in public either.
The receptacle, some philosophers say, gives shape to the contents, but does not influence the contents in any way. Others, those more inclined to sophistry or sophistication, say that the shape of the receptacle can influence the fundamental nature of the content.
Does water taste better in a mug or tumbler, or does it taste better in a wine glass?
My take is that it depends on circumstances. Water straight from the tap tastes great if you are thirsty enough. Water in a tumbler tastes great as well if you are very thirsty, though it will be seasoned with lashings of impatience if you have to wait for the water to make its way from the tap to the tumbler, and then only to the lip.
Why bother to wait for the water that comes out of a plastic bottle to arrive in a wine glass? Why sip it in a refined way? What is the flavour of that sort of sophistication? How about putting wine in the wine glass? And if it is a matter of being a teetotaller, why use a wine glass? Is it a defensive mechanism to say, “Look I may be straight, but at least I can hold this sophisticated glass.”
Your choice of glass says a lot about you. But there are times when it can say far too much.

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