After we made the decision to make some changes in the direction/tone of the site, I found myself searching, in my newfound personal sea of writing freedom, for inspiration.
I certainly would have never guessed that I would find it during a very candid conversation I had with my esteemed Enderun colleague (and friend), the phenomenally erudite Bel Castro.
I wish I could write more about the circumstances of the chat to further add layers on how unlikely inspiration could have hit me at that moment (argh!), but I’d rather keep that private. Trust me, however, when I say that it could be one of the strangest places to have a “eureka!” moment.
Anyway, as we were updating each other on our lives, we ended up talking about one activity she had her students do: Guess what Captain Kirk and Scotty were drinking in their mugs/cups.
I know, it seems strange… But allow me to expound. The first five minutes of Star Trek Beyond (2016) showed a montage of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) drinking from their own mugs/cups. Having asked her students to watch the scene, Bel asked what the characters were drinking. The students automatically answered, “Captain Kirk was drinking coffee, and Scotty was drinking tea.”
Bel then asked the students what made them come to their conclusions. The students answered, well… Captain Kirk was holding a mug, and Scotty was holding a teacup.
Assuming, however, that there were no rules on what to drink in each vessel (I realise I myself am guilty of drinking coffee from my frou-frou teacups, eheh), the students still came up with the same conclusion simply because Captain Kirk was American, and Scotty was European.
I decided to watch the film again and I was also reacquainted with the bar scene (at about eight minutes into the film). In the scene, Captain Kirk was drinking what looked to be some sort of illegal beverage (a “Saurian brandy”) with a high enough ABV that could potentially render him blind (as Dr. Bones, played by Karl Urban, stressed). Dr. Bones instead offered a dark coloured alcoholic drink, which he got from Chekov’s locker. Here’s the thing: Dr. Bones said, after handing the bottle to Captain Kirk, “I always assumed he’d be a vodka man.” This was, of course, a stereotyping of Chekov, their Russian navigator (played by the late Anton Yelchin).
Now, I’m not too sensitive that I should be offended by the portrayal… After all, some of the biggest draws of the space opera media franchise include their multicultural cast, and their depiction of beings from all over the galaxy that coexist. What Bel’s exercise and these specific scenes made me realise is that even in the field of beverages, people are guilty of making generalisations and stereotypes.
The students’ conclusion (and the lighthearted joke by Dr. Bones) was one thing, but I remembered that I have had personal experiences with being put into a box when it comes to drinking (some of which were anything but funny).
Whenever I go out on a date with my husband (who seldom drinks), a lot of waiters automatically assume that he ordered the alcohol, just because he’s the man.
In an unfortunate incident at a winery, a man mimicked me sarcastically because I asked technical questions. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the insinuation that a Southeast Asian woman dared to know a little bit of viticulture was quite clear to everyone in the audience.
In a coffee tour, an old man told me to excuse his Asian colleague because Asians have rage issues (he figured out too late that I was Asian as well).
I’ve been told (in jest… For the record, I’ve since forgiven the guy after I immediately called him out on it) that the whisky I was drinking was a man’s drink.
In an international wine event, a winemaker asked why I had my accent. When I told him it was a combination of good schools and Sesame Street, he told me that it was “sad” that I lost the “Filipino accent.”
It’s not just me: I’ve seen a French friend be teased (good-naturedly) for preferring beer over wine, and disliking coffee. A guy once whispered to me in a wine event to go easy on a presenter because she’s pregnant (I thought, though, the woman flew 14 hours to get here and present her wines in her second trimester, I’d like to think she was fine). I’ve seen fantastic women be glorified for being in the industry “despite” being a woman.
Now, I don’t want this to turn into a rant post (it’s anything but). I think that the lesson in the exercise is that we all tend to be guilty of making generalisations (myself included). Maybe we should all start looking at people for what they are: Individuals, with personal preferences. As proper beverage industry frontline practitioners (sommeliers, bartenders, waiters, etc.), we should be professional enough to really get to the bottom of what our guests want (which in turn would make them happy, which is what the profession is all about anyway).
That said, here’s to me happily chugging my morning coffee in one of my favourite teacups. Cheers!