Adventures in solemn drinking

Written by Reg Henry on .

In case you missed it, and American readers can be forgiven for doing so, Anzac Day was Saturday. Anzac is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the force that stormed the beaches of Gallipoli under heavy Turkish fire on April 25, 1915.

It is commemorated as a memorial day in both countries. Although the campaign ended up technically a defeat (its goal of knocking Turkey out of the First World War did not succeed), the months-long fight was marked by great heroism on the part of both invaders and defenders.

In Pittsburgh, at least two Anzac Day events were held - one out in Oakmont and another, smaller one in Green Tree (co-ordination was a bit lacking this year). Anzac Day is both a solemn occasion and a time to have a few drinks with mates and eat Down Under delicacies - well, as delicate as things get Down Under.

So, about the time the Penguins had won their unlikely victory Saturday, I was gathered with a few mates in a Green Tree yard drinking a toast to the fallen heroes of Anzac Cove and other far-flung battlefields. As a Vietnam veteran of the Australian Army myself, I could do no less.

For the purpose of the toast, I was given a tumbler of rum and coke. Unfortunately, I hate rum and coke, because it was the first drink I ever got drunk on, and even now more than 40 years later I can recall the waves of nausea that afflicted me. I felt then like a sailor drowning in a sea of diesel fuel. In all that time since, I had never had another rum and coke except once when Mrs. H played a trick on me and I was forced to spit it out.

And here I was toasting the Anzacs in rum and coke, an act that made spitting out the drink not an option. Moreover, the rum in it was not any old rum but Bundaberg rum, named for a city in the heart of sugar-cane country in north Queensland, my home state. "Bundy," as it is affectionately known, is considered an elixir of the gods in Oz.

"To the Anzacs!" the toast was made. I shut my eyes and poured some Bundy and coke down my throat in a fearful gulp and it was .... wonderful! I was amazed how nice it was. I reckon I might have another one over the next 40 years.

Suitably fortified, I then went and ate the traditional Aussie hamburger, which featured beetroot and a fried egg. (Beetroot adds nice taste and texture to a burger and gives the eater a chance to get red beetroot juice all over his shirt and pants, always a sign of having enjoyed oneself). Then I had an Anzac biscuit (cookie) made with sugar-cane syrup.

Crikey, it was beaut day - and not only because the Penguins won.


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