It’s Valentine or maybe you’ve just begun a-courting. Serenade or champagne?
Would you take Honoré de Balzac‘s word for it?
Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.
That works. But, maybe, only where you can get champagne. The French may think that’s the only way to go. After all, they invented champagne, an elixir concocted out of love, and by extension, for love.
Elsewhere where champagne only belongs in dreams, attraction must find another expression. Something that may turn out more romantic.
I spent my early years in a country of hybrid traditions, bred by 400 years of Spanish domination. As a little girl growing up with my grandmother and her youngest daughter, I remember the sweet, dreamy way young swains courted my aunt.
In that far away place long ago, young men usually first expressed their interest through a serenade. The suitor came in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, the house was dark, and all its windows and doors were shuttered. Often accompanied by another young man with a guitar, he sang his admiration for the girl just outside her window. The more wistful, the better.
If the girl liked him, she would open the window and the young man would continue to sing. Unopened windows often meant “set your sights somewhere else.”
If she lets him in, that means his suit is agreeable. Face-to-face, he might ask the young woman if she would oblige him with a song. My aunt—who had a good voice and carried a tune well—often did.
My aunt’s first love was a young man who sang a particular song quite often. The lyrics allude to wine as he sings of what she does to him. They refer to burgundy and, of course, to champagne but only to the bubbles it releases.
You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne
Why bubbles? Why not liken the effect of her charms to being drunk on champagne? But then, again, those globules of CO2 which pop corks and rise to the surface in a glass of champagne have fascinated not only writers and composers, but also scientists. And for a good reason, it seems. Champagne bubbles bring on the heady effect of alcohol quicker than wines without bubbles. An effect like falling in love, maybe?
But, of course, all that is just the beginning. The fire burns, the glow mellows, and, if love endures, (It didn’t, for my aunt’s first love.) the two may find comfort in a warm cup of tea (or an herbal tisane). Not bad, all in all. Even champagne gets old.