Early morning, St. Patrick’s Day, 1999. Sharon and I are driving on the west coast of Ireland, in a green rental car. Winding along a narrow, one-lane (at best) road along the ocean, we are in awe of the vastness. We roll down the windows and listen to the sound of no humanity at all. Green fields, short rock walls, sky — that is all that greets us. Something in the silence feels holy.
Suddenly, coming over a rise, I have to stop the car abruptly. Sharon lets out a little terrified squeal. In front of us, blocking the road, a white horse. He is placid, chewing on some grasses, and staring right at us. Tentatively, we open the doors and walk toward him. He does not move. He is the chief of this land. We approach him with hands wide open, and offer him some of the carrots we had left in the car. Sharon pets his neck. I take pictures.
We gently coax him out of the road, so that we can continue on our way to Clifden. When we clamber back into the car, Sharon says, “My god, that was so amazing. It was like something out of mythology.” I look at her, and she looks at me. And then we laugh, at the absurdity of the remark, and at the joy of our day together.
Early October, 2006.
I feel a similar sense of awe and disbelief when I walk by this white horse at Whole Foods. Gluten-free beer. Gluten-free beer? Gluten-free beer!
Back in February, I had my first gluten-free beer, at Risotteria. It was a honey ale, and it tasted like sunshine going down my throat. No matter that it was a little too sweet for my taste — I always was a dark, Guinness-y kind of girl. It was beer, and I was drinking it. But that brewery, Ramapo, lives in upstate New York. I have never seen their beers over here on the left coast. So, I relegated myself to drinking beer when I visited New York.
There I was, in the Whole Foods in Seattle, walking by their gluten-free baked goods table, and I spotted this white horse. Toleration Ale — what a name. Of course, I had to buy it. Even though it did cost a whopping $8.50 for 16 ounces.
It was fairly sweet, which is to be expected, since it is brewed from sugars. Underneath the sweetness was the taste of hops — summertime, grainy, familiar. A little citrusy burst at the end, as well. It went down easy. The Chef and I put our feet up on the coffee table, ate our fabulous dinner, and drank a beer as we watched a baseball game.
Watch out for white horses. They always seem to signal something extraordinary.