Lost in translation: wine coolers

My friend Thao didn’t go to the ends of the earth for love. She just went to Switzerland.

Her husband, Matthias, is Swiss and they live in Geneva, which is a long way from Seatle. I miss her terribly and was excited when Thao told me she, Matthias and Matthias’s parents, Helen and Hugo, were coming to Washington for Thanksgiving.

A couple days after turkey day, my husband and I had lunch with Thao, Matthias, Hugo and Helen to help polish off some leftovers.

There was turkey, prime rib, mashed potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie, and one thing that made me do a double take–one Bartles & Jaymes strawberry margarita wine cooler.

The wine cooler startled me because 1) Thao doesn’t really drink; 2) it seemed an odd thing to offer guests, especially your in-laws from Europe; and 3)there was only one wine cooler (they come in packs of four!)

I asked Thao about it, and she said nonchalantly, “Oh, my mom gave it to me with the rest of the leftovers.” I found this stranger still.

Matthias and his parents noticed my reaction and wanted to know what it was all about. It was a disconcerting experience to explain what a wine cooler is and why someone would want to drink one. I told them that a wine cooler was something that a “college-aged woman would drink.” I added that many young people in America tend to drink wine coolers when they first try alcohol because wine coolers are sweet and cheap. (During my own undergraduate years, I preferred to drink Boone’s Farm, a low-end fortified wine. Classy!)

I ask Matthias if there was a Swiss equivalent to the American wine cooler, and although I’m sure one exists (since most countries have some kind of cheap alcohol), none came to his mind.

I thought that I had conveyed that wine coolers weren’t really anyone’s drink of choice so I was surprised when Hugo said he wanted to sample some.

After the taste test, he said, “It’s too sweet, but it will help me sleep well during my siesta.”

I got to thinking about those Bartles & Jaymes commercials in the ’80s that featured two old guys and always ended with “Thank you for your support.” Here’s a funny one.

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