Wine and Beer.
This column from Slate discusses the ascendancy of wine in the United States, displacing the old standby, beer. Now, I really do prefer beer to wine, since high-quality beer is cheaper than high-quality wine. A six-pack of Anchor Steam or a bottle of my new favorite, the 12% French "La Bière du Démon," will be cheaper - when I can find it - than a bottle of Mouton Rothschild or Pétrus. In the event that I can't find good stuff, Rolling Rock or Coors gets me where I want to go without the nasty side effects of wine.
This passage, however, caught my attention:
At the same time, Americans, who had traditionally looked to a French and upper-class English model of the good life, one that emphasized refinement and formality, began in the 1980s to look farther south, to the Mediterranean, and particularly to an Italian ideal of good living, one that emphasized passion, spontaneity, and bounty; in other words, we went from Julia Child to Mario Batali. This American embrace of the Mediterranean spirit loosened things up—and the foodie tent got immeasurably bigger when food culture became better suited to the American temperament. Our fundamental attitude about the ceremony of food and the pleasures of the table changed: What counted was passion, which anyone can have, not refinement, which you must be born into, or cultivate very deliberately.
To be entirely fair, neither the northern nor the southern Europeans, with the exception the Germans, Swiss, and some Austrians, would recognize much about the Konzept of the good life in America. Furthermore, and this is based off both my own observations and the opinions of the infinitely better versed, the American idea of alcohol is, indeed, pretty diametrically opposed to the European one. In any event, America might have loosened up, but we're still pretty goll-darn uptight compared to our colleagues across the ocean.
For what it's worth, I still prefer the northern European way of life.