What do Egypt, Pakistan, UAE and the U.S. have in common?
Each country's legal drinking age is 21 (compare with Australia: 18, U.K.: 16-year-olds can buy alcohol; Canada 18 and 19 (depends on the province). Surprised?
Susan Ager ranted about this in the Detroit Free Press last week and Frank Bruni of The New York Times picked up the thread in his Diner's Journal blog.
Ager asked some provocative questions, which I share here with you:
"What is it about American kids? Are they less mature than young people across the world? Are they more inclined to drink too much? Are we trying to protect them, or protect ourselves?
And, how can we send to war young people who can't buy themselves a beer when they come home on leave?
...I wish I hadn't watched so many adults... over-indulging. I wish our own drunk-driving rules were as tough as Denmark's (where impaired is .5, not .8 mg/ml). I wish we had more mass transit, as Europe does, to allow revelers a safer way home.
Mostly, I wish we could teach our kids about alcohol more wisely, so it wasn't the taboo killer it's become."
Indeed, when wine (or beer, or any alcoholic beverage) is consumed at the family table, it is viewed as food, rather than a stimulant. It is so in Southern Europe, where it is customary neither for adults, nor adolescents to binge on wine at restaurants and bars. I'm from the Ukraine (which has its own rich history of alcoholism- blame the cold winters, abundance of vodka and dearth of wine) and my parents thought nothing about offering a sip or two of beer to me during dinner (I was six). I liked beer, and any curiosity that might have otherwise been piqued was mollified early on.
In fact, I didn't really even start drinking until I was in my mid-twenties (prior to that, I'd go to clubs and drink diet coke... I aint lying!). Alcohol just didn't seem that interesting to me and I certainly didn't feel compelled to hide it from my parents.
Bruni asks "Is a glass of wine for a 19-year-old eating a full dinner in a nice restaurant such a horrible thing?" One of the commenters responds "Don't ask, don't tell- it doesn't work for the military but.."
Personally, I think everything in moderation and context . We may still very well be in the throes of prohibition. And our nation's collective attitude towards drinking (and eating, but that's another blog post) has a long way to go.
Egypt, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and... the United States?
- Blog comment by Annie, Nov 16, 2007.
I was allowed to taste wine and beer when i was younger too. My dad would always make me close my eyes, swirl it around in my mouth and "really taste it" and "savor the flavor." It must have made an impact on me since I still do that now.
Maybe thats why i appreciate wine as a food rather than a vehicle for drunkness...