Editor’s Note: Author Gabrielle Glaser offers some quick comments about her new book, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — And How They Can Regain Control (Simon & Schuster, 2013).
A few years ago I started noticing a big shift in the way women talked about their drinking. Sometime in the early aughts it began to appear as a cultural trope — women “needing” wine. I looked into why that was, and if it could be substantiated by facts. I found some numbers that were pretty convincing. I have always been intrigued by our country’s weird relationship with alcohol. My grandfather was a Canadian bootlegger and always said he had been in the “thirst” business. He was an amazing storyteller and his tales of driving whiskey across the border in the dark of night really stayed with me. I wondered how we had gone from prohibiting booze to Real Housewife Wine, and tried to tell that story.
2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?
Hey, most of what I know I learned from you guys. But the marketing of wine to women in the 1950s and 60s is something I had to piece together, and that was amazing. The pamphlets urging vendors to “Market to the Housewife! Explain Why She Needs Red Wine!” and the wine industry surveys are particularly charming — a piece of the puzzle. Also, the idea that women began making wine, and pleasing their own taste buds, was also interesting. (Women were behind the making of Chardonnay, which was easy for women to like — it had a smooth mouthfeel and was sweet.) Likewise, marketers helped to demystify it. I grew up at a time when only men would get the wine list, and the cork. It was intimidating. No more.
3. Now that the hard part is over, what is the thing YOU find most interesting about your book?
Oh, I loved the history, but that’s my thing. I spent hours with Axel Borg, the wine librarian at UC Davis (how fabulous is that? He’s a fantastic librarian in general but he knows everything about the history of California winemaking), and learned so much about the rocky road of wine acceptance in the US. I also had a blast looking at colonial booze recipes. Who wouldn’t want to come across Martha Washington’s recipe for “Capon Ale”? Every time I got frustrated with my lack of progress, I’d look at that recipe and laugh.
4. Every research project leaves some stones unturned. What stone are you most curious to see turned over soon?
I’m not saying this to boost Ward and Roizen’s project, but I’d love to see a biography of E.M. Jellinek. He was a fascinating guy. What drove him? What were his motivations? Did he leave private journals? Plus, there are so many funny titles you could make use of “Bunky.”
5. BONUS QUESTION: In an audio version of this book, who should provide the narration?
Helen Mirren or Kathleen Turner. They haven’t asked yet.