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I’m big on brine.


The younger me has memories of dining with my mom at a restaurant, and her dipping into her purse and spreading two or three Sweet’N Lows on the table for her coffee or tea – just in case the restaurant didn’t carry it. And then there was Mrs. W., who would stealthily drizzle her tupperwared low-cal salad dressing, brought from home, on her salads at the diner. And who among us hasn’t known someone who would order a cup of hot water, and then soak a home-brought tea bag in it?

All behavior that mortified me. How uncouth! Beyond rude! Unladylike!

I’m now them. I would never tote a sweetener, a dressing, nor a tea bag. Never. But when it comes to my dirty martini – after years of imbibing many that are not green enough – I’m considering stashing a bottle of olive brine in my bag, and bringing it to the bar.

Unlike my predecessors in gaucheness, though, this is not about my health, or frugality. It is all about sniff, sip, swallow … and salt. You may recall, that for me, it’s that first mouthing of a martini that counts the most, and can make or break the drink. It’s crucial that, “the lips greet the glass with precognitive delight.” And I need to assure that, “that premiere swig” will “always deliver.” Lately, I’ve come to have too many “first swigs” that don’t “deliver.”

If I sip, and my teeth clench, or if my tongue recedes, or worse – if I sip, shiver and shudder – that means the balance of vodka to brine is off-kilter. Sometimes I just suck it up and begrudgingly drink it anyway. Especially when the barkeep smiles proudly, upon delivery, at his or her perceived success at delivering my requested, “filthy, extra-extra-dirty” martini.

But I’ve decided that I can’t take it anymore. What it’s come down to, is me, with a galvanized stare (not unlike a mother teaching a child), explaining to the uninitiated bartender that, “I like it dirtier than most – like the Hudson River.” It borders on begging. Some get it; most don’t.

So, I’ve begun to take back my martini. I will now meekly (always with an apologetic smile), push my glass away from me, and back towards the bartender, with an Oliver Twist(y), “Please sir, I want some more.” Brine, that is.

To which I’ve been admonished (usually with an astonished smile):

“This drink is a travesty.”
“Why bother with the vodka?”
“Let me see your ankles – they must be swollen.”
“You took the last of it – and you need more?”

But I’ve only taken one personally:

“Why don’t you just bring a bottle of brine with you, and drink that?”

OK, I will. In the tradition of my mom, Mrs. W., and all the tea-bag toters, I guess the older me has earned the right to have it right. The next step is to bring the brine.

So, I’m imagining once I find a travel-size bottle of brine (maybe I should just tupperware-it?), that I will then begin to send back those puny, pea-sized olives that often garnish martinis these days, and ask that my drink be properly topped with big, fat, juicy (bleu-cheese, please!) robin-egg-sized olives. Or I’ll bring my own.