Pickin’ Strawberries in Winter

They tell me it's winter here, but I don't believe them.  It's been T-shirt and shorts weather for the last few days.  I went to Miaoli (a town about 2 hours south of Taipei) with some friends yesterday to pick strawberries, fresh off the vine.  Apparently Miaoli is famous for its strawberries.  We went to a restaurant where we drank strawberry milkshakes, ate strawberry seafood platters, sipped strawberry wine and ogled the strawberry waitresses.

Then we went to a strawberry farm and picked our own strawberries straight from the fields.  It was pretty cheap, and I came away with about 3 pounds of strawberries.  Then the lady in charge gave me a sip of strawberry gaoliang.  It tasted better than normal gaoliang (which isn't hard), but it still had a kick like a mutant rhinoceros.

For those of you unfamiliar with gaoliang, it's the Taiwanese version of bathtub moonshine, except it's distilled from sorghum instead of one of the other grains.  It comes in two different strengths, 38% and 58%.  Most people drink the 58%.  I don't drink it at all, mostly because of the aforesaid mutant rhinoceros kick.  Essentially what happens when you drink gaoliang is that you sip a little bit of it, and then, just while you're thinking that it's not that bad, an invisible man runs a wire brush down your throat and builds a bonfire on your tongue.  The stuff is STRONG.  Nor does it taste good.  (See mutant rhinoceros comments above.)

For those of you wondering what happened to my abstention from alcohol, it does not now appear to be necessary to completely abstain.  After almost a year of not drinking, I started having a little bit here and there, always making sure to limit myself to a two-drink maximum.  However, for some reason, I don't even like the intoxicating effect anymore.  I have no idea why this happened, but I'm not going to complain.  I remember reading somewhere that there was no such thing as a recovered alcoholic, only recovering.  I'm either the exception to the rule, or I was never really an alcoholic.  Either way, I'm better off now than I was a year ago.  Not drinking is cheaper and healthier, and I can now actually function on weekend mornings, instead of doing all that groaning, moaning, and assorted other manifestations of self-castigation.  This is not to say that I don't still go out to bars and clubs.  I do.  I just don't drink their alcohol.  I don't even like the taste of the low-alcohol fruity drinks like Smirnoff Ice anymore.

So bully for me and my strawberries.


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