Winter time was the time for warm beverages. My family liked coffee and tea, and we drank them on a daily basis, but once in a while, especially around Christmas, we spoiled ourselves with mulled wine.
Mulled wine is red wine heated with sugar and spices. The spices used in mulled wine can be cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla. Usually, fruits that are added include oranges, apples, and figs. Sometimes, ginger and raisins are mixed with the rest of the ingredients to enrich the flavor of the wine and complement its beneficial effect. Mulled wine is a great source of antioxidants, it increases good cholesterol levels, and it prevents heart diseases and clogged arteries.
That is what the women in Serbia believe. Men, including my father, thought that its most important beneficial effect was the fact that it made everyone happy and cheerful. I absolutely agreed with my father.
Somewhere around Christmas, when snow started falling and we welcomed the beauty of our white hometown, my mother started making mulled wine almost every evening. My mother usually kept one special bottle of red wine for these purposes. She poured this red wine in a pot. Then, she added sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and sometimes a pinch of ground vanilla.
After that, she simmered the mixture to let the flavors infuse. After simmering, she strained it and added a few slices of orange. And she served all of us, even my sister Marina and me, with this beautiful drink.
Its appealing fragrance and warmth provoked us and we rushed to drink it, but my mother knew that even though it was sweet and delicious, it was alcoholic—and she allowed us to drink only a glass. Usually, after that glass, we felt sleepy. Our eyelids were heavy and we could barely stand on our feet. But the numbness and tiredness we felt, all of a sudden, was pleasant. The hot sensation that ran throughout our bodies warmed us and a blush painted our cheeks.
Marina and I habitually fell asleep in the living room, and our father had to carry us to our bedroom and tuck us into bed. We slept soundly that night.
Mulled wine had always been our favorite winter drink. And even though Marina and I were allowed only limited quantities, we made sure to enjoy it and talk to our friends about it. Not all of them were allowed to drink it; for us children, this exquisite beverage, even though sweetened and spiced, was still alcohol. That fact just added to its uniqueness and our showing off.
Childhood memories…they have always followed me faithfully, no matter where I have been going. They are like a loyal dog that follows every step you take and keeps you company. You are never alone or lonely, no matter how far you are from dear people and your family.
All those mischiefs, time spent with my family, our adventures, trips, meals, celebrations, as well as those sad memories—such as someone’s death, funerals, divorces, illness—have shaped who I am today. Some of those memories are so vivid and real that I feel as if I were right back in the moment when I think of them. They make me smile, and they help me remember those who passed away so I can keep them in my heart.
Other memories are vague and limited. Some unpleasant events have been buried beneath new pleasant memories, and these newer memories shield me from suffering. And although I have learned great lessons from unpleasant experiences, luckily, I mostly remember those beautiful ones. And the beautiful childhood memories have had a big influence on me. They have helped me learn the importance of family, childhood games, and the efforts my parents and grandparents put into parenting, education, hard work, health, and love. This is why mulled wine will always have a special place in my heart.