M'ap double: An Ode to Prestige Beer
A few years ago I learned the Creole expression, “m'ap double.” It was used in the context of someone getting another helping of a meal, but it's not just used for food. Pronounced, “Mop DooBlay” literally translated it means “I will double” but we'd probably translate it as “I'm having seconds.”
So yeah. This week I took every opportunity to double on the Prestige. Introduced in 1976 and the winner of not one but TWO gold medals in the World Beer Cup in the American Style Lager category (years 2000 and 2012), Prestige is the best selling beer in Haiti, with a 98% market share.
I am not a beer snob like many people are. In the States, my everyday beer of choice is Yuengling, though every so often I crave a PBR. (Mostly just in the summer though.) And when that happens, it always reminds me of this guy named David that I knew at Rutgers my only semester there. David was film student at Mason Gross (Rutger's Fine Arts school) and he was obsessed with the David Lynch film Blue Velvet. David would watch the film in his dorm room (which was across the hall from mine as Rutgers has co-ed dorms) multiple times per week. He was always quoting the film and invited me over to watch with him. There's a line in the movie where one of the characters (Jeffrey) orders a Heineken, and another character (Frank) says, “Heineken? Fuck that Shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon. That's what you're drinking tonight.”
Now, here's a couple of things about that random story I just shared. First. While I didn't really notice David in a cute boy type way, I think he might have liked me. After I watched Blue Velvet with him the next morning there was a post-it note on my door that said something like, “Had fun last night. Let's do it again and you pick the flick.” That sounds like sort of like he was asking me on a date, doesn't it? Well, a college freshman date. But I didn't know that much about complicated things like DATING. So I just assumed we were just friends. And you know, maybe we just were. We never did anything else date-like other than watching movies in his room. Never any hanky panky, so to speak.
The movie thing didn't last that long for two main reasons. First, while I pretended to understand his film school films, I really didn't. And so I was bored a lot of the time. But I pretended to love them. Because why criticize what someone loves, right? And also I didn't want to look dumb. I remember saying to David once, “Hey, if you ever make a movie that gets an Academy Award, can I go to the Oscars with you?” And like a true film student he said, “I don't really believe those kinds of shows validate the right things about films.” (So I am thinking that was a no.)
The second reason that the movie thing didn't last too long was because I played guitar. And so did blonde Jeffrey with the flowy hair, and Justin, my hunky RA, and tall Mike, the guy who played way better than all of us, but humored us. So we had jam sessions together. We played a lot of Pink Floyd (Jeffrey's choice), Indigo Girls (my choice), and Pearl Jam (Justin's choice.) I don't remember what Mike liked. But what I do remember is that I liked being the only female guitar player in our little circle because these guys were pretty fine in a totally 90's kind of way. Because, of course, this was the 90s. No hanky panky ever happened with any of them either. 0 for 2. But one time Mike's cousin came into town. I don't remember his name but we made out a little, so 1 for 3?
Oh man. I totally digressed there. All that from an occasional PBR. Back to Prestige.
So I grew to love Prestige over my Haiti tenure. At first because it's pretty much the only option. You can also get Heineken here (except I knew from watching Blue Velvet with film student David that was not a good option). Presidente, the main Dominican beer, was also available, as is Guinness Foreign Extra. The Foreign Extra Guinness has more alcohol in it. So I guess more bang for your buck? Except that I hate it and only tolerate Presidente. But I LOVED Prestige early on. And so does everyone else in all of Haiti, except for teetotalers like Nick Mangine. When the earthquake hit and the plant that bottles Prestige was damaged, everyone counted Prestige as one who'd died in the tranbleman tè. Nick and I often mused that one of the more effective aid strategies all the humanitarians flocking to Haiti should consider was the expedited rebuilding of that plant, because if there was ever a time Haiti needed Prestige, it was then. And I have to say, it did come back after not too long, but in the mean time we were stuck with Cody's Malt Liquor or whatever else kind of cheap nonsense that was being imported at the time.
Do you know what the appeal of Prestige was to me at first? It tasted like drinking a sip of my dad's beer when I was a kid. Now. That sort of thing is not in style these days. It's like “call Social Services” not in style. But I was born in the 70s and that's just what you did. He'd usually let me have a sip if I asked, and I just loved the crisp, cold taste of his beer from the icy glass he kept in the freezer. So I was hooked on my first sip. Considering my last name was Goodale at the time, it was fitting that I loved it.
When we moved to Haiti, I quickly learned three things about drinking beer. First, in Haiti, Prestige is sort of viewed the same way that we view soda in the States. Some people drink it all day long-- even with breakfast, and that is not that abnormal. Day drinking is not taboo in Haiti.
Second thing, you can pretty much bring a beer anywhere. For instance, you could be a man drinking a beer while you're driving but have no shirt on, and if you get pulled over, you will be much more likely to get a ticket for not having a shirt on. In more recent years there have been some signs encouraging people not to drink and drive. They have these cartoon-like drawings of a tap tap driving off a cliff with people and chickens and goats all in mid flight on their way to the ground. And then there's this former military guy and presidential candidate who has a lottery franchise-- “Pere Eternal Lotto” (Father Eternal Lottery- which, I don't want to judge someone else's theology, but I am pretty sure I can't stand behind) who also has a message on one of his signs on the road to Jacmel encouraging people not to drink and drive. But those heedings are largely ignored. And it's even acceptable in many occupations to drink on the job. Barbers sip on their beers all day long, and have a fridge full to sell to their customers. I've even seen many motos equipped with a cup holder to hold a beer. Notice Exhibit A. This was one of our employees work motos which he "upgraded" with this important feature.
And third, I don't know if there is a technical drinking age in Haiti, but you can send your 4 year old to go buy it from the boutique down the road. I have never sent a 4 year old. But I would by lying if I said that Nia wasn't our designated beer getter at times when we lived in Haiti. Oh, and here's an extra little tidbit for you, I have been told that if you plan on drinking several Prestige and don't want to get drunk, eat some plantains before and during drinking. It allegedly sucks up the beer and prevents severe intoxication. (But I am going to call BS on that as a drunkenness prevention strategy, just like I call BS on the commonly held belief that you can't get pregnant if you have sex in the ocean. Just doesn't work that way.)
But since returning to the States, I just don't drink that much beer because Prestige has ruined me for all other beers. Prestige is not available in NC. And so I need to stock up when I have the chance. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I easily drank more beer this past week than I did in the previous 8 months (since I was in Haiti last) combined. (Don't judge me, I was on vacation, and after all when in Rome.) My mom, who hates beer, even drank 2 Prestige this week. That's just crazy talk. There is something mind-controlling about it, like the pickles on a McDonald's cheeseburger.
But today I am returning to the States. I have a few precious Prestige packed away in between dirty clothes. They will last me through the post-Haiti depression I will no doubt experience. And then I will have to wait until my next journey down to Haiti to partake in the nectar of the island.
Prestige, I wish I knew how to quit you...