Yum for thee, yuck for me

Hello. My name is Denise and I have struggled with alcohol all my adult life.

And by "struggled" I mean I have never been able to convince myself that the stuff tastes good and is worth the calories.

I would love to enjoy an occasional glass of wine with family and friends. But I've learned that drinking the wine isn't the problem; it's the "enjoying" bit. And I've tried. For years. And I'm envious of those who find something delicious and soothing in those cool-looking and intriguingly labeled bottles.

Research tells me that my issue is likely genetic, linked to bitter-taste receptor genes in an unfortunate pairing with a "burn receptor" gene. In short: I'm biologically programmed to sense all alcohol tastes bad. Here's a corollary: The more a wine tastes like grape soda, the better I like it.

So to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, I'm not the sophisticated oenophile you're looking for.

In a sample size comprising my mom and dad and four siblings, the genetics play out. For example: During my rural southeast Missouri childhood, relatives visiting from England would load up my parents with top-shelf duty-free bottles. After profuse thanks were offered, the booze was politely sampled, praised and, as soon as the guests departed, tucked into a cabinet, where it sat aging right along with the family.

For the record, I'm not spending my time at parties playing the role of gloomy Eeyore. I did a fair amount of hold-the-nose downing of booze during my college years at the University of Missouri, maybe contributing to its dubious bragging rights at the time as one of the country's top party/drinking schools.

More recent evidence: At a family wedding in Kansas City last month, I was the one who started a conga line that wound through the venue, followed by a round of tequila shots with my non-drinking siblings.

Why shots? You can just toss them back, thus minimizing the time for actually tasting the stuff.

For our recent Thanksgiving meal on the family farm, it never occurred to my sister Sharon or me to add wine to the shopping list. In keeping with our decades-long tradition, the beverage choices ranged from water to soft drinks to sweet tea to really sweet tea.

After all these years, my adult nieces and nephews know what to expect, but so far haven't suggested expanding what's on offer. My adult children, who were with in-laws for Thanksgiving, likely would have contributed some beer and wine had they been on the farm with Mom and Dad and their cousins.

Given that fact and the genes they dodged in utero, I'm recommending that they offer thanks for their dad's Irish contribution to their taste buds.

- Denise Joyce of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].