As a child (under 21) did your parents give you wine or alcohol at home with meals?
- ipsedixit Mar 7, 2011 07:46 PM
It's legal in some states, and not in others.
But regardless of the legality of doing, did your parents ever provide you with wine during meals?
If they did, do you think it made you appreciate food and/or alcohol more as an adult?
We often hear the oft-repeated refrain that parents aren't cooking enough or making enough wholesome meals at home for their children.
I just wonder if parents were in the habit of pairing a wine with whatever they happened to be plating that night if that wouldn't make the parents think harder about what to serve -- instead of just mindlessly popping open a blue box and boiling some water ... which is not say a good Chardonnay doesn't go well with Mac 'N Cheese ...
Would drinking be a "gateway habit" to better eating?
Don't forget Blue Nun on that journey ... how sophisticated ... German wine.
The only thing I would make illegal ... until someone is 30 ... is the sweet soda wines like Boone's Farm, Arbor Mist etc. They aren't about taste and only getting smashed in a way that isn't offputting. A kid might not like the taste of a red wine, but these sugar wines are soda with a buzz.
Pairing Boone's Farm isn't high on most people's list to pair with food. Though someone did suggest pairing Arbor Mist strawberry white mist with strawberry cupcakes ... it "rocked' according to them.
Should you go the Abor Mist route with a child, of course you want to instruct them on how to open a bottle.
Quite frankly, anyone who needs those instructions has lost too many brain cells drinking it.
Whatever anyone is paing wines like this with, it certainly isn't a gateway to better eating.
I'm not sure how serious it is, but someone said Boone's Farm Apple pairs nicely with Velveeta.
Or the deep-fried-butter-on-a-stick and Boone's Farm duo
Then there is the pairing with pop tarts
"I believe that the Boones Farm brand was practically made for the Tart-wine pairing. Who could resist the sweet taste of Boone's farm strawberry wine together with a double strawberry Pop Tart, toasted or not, one just brings out the fruity goodness of the other. The Apple wine is a sure thing with a cinnamon or apple/cinnamon toaster confection"
The only wine I remember drinking as a kid was Manischewitz, at Passover seders. The children at the seder table even had their own special "wine glasses" -- they held maybe an ounce or two -- and giving kids wine was no big deal.
Funny thing about wine, though. During that era, all we ever knew of wine was the likes of Manischewitz and Mogen David, and I'd guess that that was true not only of my household, but of most households in my Brooklyn, NY neighborhood.
It's legal in some states, and not in others.
The age in the US is 21+
Think times have changed since I was growing up in NY (drinking age was 18 then).
Didn't really drink with meals, but my parent's would rather me and my friends drink (when just under 18 (16?)) in the basement bar rather than going out and getting into a car wreck. Again, times were different, today if a parent allowed something like that they would be arrested.
According to the link OP provided, that's what it basically says except it doesn't use the word "party".
I've got a few more years before my daughter turns 21. She knows my wife and I don't drink because we don't enjoy it. Have offered her sips of champagne and wine, but she didn't like it. Time will tell.
In California it's a misdemeanor to furnish alcoholic beverages to minors regardless of parental consent. (B&P Code 25658.) The website linked above has a very limited focus - minor-in-possession laws. Just because the kid isn't committing a crime by having a drink doesn't mean it was legal for the parent to pour it.
Of course, common sense and prosecutorial discretion will certainly limit the enforcement of that law. But if the police break down my door and haul me away from the dinner table because I've served my kids wine, I guess I'll just have to take the rap.
I do not think that offering a sip, a drink, a glass at at home dinner is illegal, but hey I am not a lawyer.
Yes my parents let me taste and try everything. Often when I did not want to try. They felt and I SO agree with, that knowing is a good thing. You can make better decisions in peer pressured situations when you have some good solid experiences what is what.
I'd rather learn in a good value/safe situation rather than a peer induced "drink ya sissy" ""drink drink drink"/
I know your question was about pairing taught early by example. But I went for an answer more primal,how can we teach our children how to imbibe sensibly?
But I went for an answer more primal,how can we teach our children how to imbibe sensibly?
Actually, I think was part of my question.
And I think the answer starts with drinking with their parents and observing the (hopefully) responsible fashion that adults can imbibe alcohol without making a fool of themselves. In other words, I think in a family dinner table setting children can learn that alcohol can and should be a means to better enjoyment of eating and food, and not just as a means to raise one's BAC while decreasing one's inhibitions.
Mine did not, and they have always been wine drinkers, although Dad usually has a martooni before dinner.
My Mom was really watchful that we didn't drink as kids. I remember making a grasshopper pie and her hovering over me as I measured out the required amounts of liqueur for it. Her reason for worrying is that there are alcoholics on both sides of the family and she's always been afraid we'd follow in their footsteps.
Even with all of that, my liver still decided to up and quit on me last November, so no more drinking for me *sob*.
Yes, we had our tiny wine or beer glasses and could always try the wine but often didn't like it. We also made wine. My parents had a group of friends who would rent a crusher and get a truckload of grapes from the other side of the state, then there would be a couple of big plastic garbage cans full of wine fermenting in the basement until it was ready for bottling, which we all helped with. I was apparently a very young wine snob and at some point decided I liked store-bought wine better than homemade, also notorious for giving up red wine for Lent at the tender age of probably 9 or 10 (I didn't like red as much so it wasn't exactly a sacrifice). Also ALWAYS had dinner together as a family, Mom's good cooking and fresh produce from the garden (in season). For our family wine and food were very much hand-in-hand. I don't know if I learned much about pairing, or if the food would have been any less good without the wine, but I am definitely glad I grew up on real food and diverse food, whether it was carrots from the garden or things that weren't necessarily everywhere 30 years ago, like prosciutto and brie.
Sometimes. When I was young my parents always let us have a sip of what they were drinking (beer, scotch, wine, wine coolers). For years (as a child) I only liked white wine because it was sweeter than red. I always thought that red wine should be sweeter because it looked the most like grape juice. But we never had glasses of our own and my parents were never big drinkers. And we always got to drink as much champagne as we wanted on NYE (which as we got older went from a sip, then 1/2 glass, then glass). And as we got older we were allowed to drink at restaurants as long as we were of legal age for that country.
Once we went to college my BF's parents allowed us to drink w/dinner. When we went out to restaurants w/them they told us that we could could have wine or beer w/our meals if the waiter initiated the order/poured a glass, but that they wouldn't order it for us.
My parents never drank with meals. I had a sip or two of Dad's beer, but never liked it (I was 10ish).
I think the first step is to start with food, not wine (this is only if you haven't explored either subjects). Something about an inviting meal well-presented always makes me put away the water glasses.
Dad always let me have a sip of his martini, starting when I was ten. By twelve, I, not mom, mixed it and greeted him with this wondrous beverage when he got home. Made me a confirmed rummy for life.
No, because my parents weren't wine drinkers. The only "wine pairing" at my house growing up was a jug of Carlo and Rossi on the table for spaghetti and meatball night.
I was allowed to drink beer at home once I was college-aged, but this had nothing to do with food or with "teaching" me about alcohol. I just liked beer.
I am 65, just to give you an age reference. I always had the opportunity to take a sip of beer, wine or a mixed drink whikle I was growing up. I did not care for the taste, however, so it wasn't really an issue. In my late teen years, when I was in college, I did enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner at home, but was never allowed to drive afterwards.
My mother, who was born in 1915, always drank beer as a child. It was the drink of choice at all meals. You have to understand that TB (tuberculosis) was common at that time. My grandmother had often seen people spitting into the glass milk jugs left on porches for the milkman to pick up, so she would die rather than have her children drink milk. They drank what she considered much safer -- beer. A common remedy for teething at that time was rubbing a little sweet wine on the baby's gums. Of course a common remedy for colic was paragoric, or something called "Mother Fletcher's Soothing Syrup". Both contained tincture of opium compound. Times have changed!
At my grandparents house, I can remember having a glass of Asti Spumante at each holiiday for as far back as I can remember - It was very special indeed!
At regular Sunday dinners, my grandpa always used to let us have red wine with sliced peaches.
The wine/drink was a very important part of the meal, and to me, it still is and always will be.
Interestingly, none of my siblings grew up with the same feeling. Not one of them enjoy wine with their meals, or wine in general. I can't understand it, because we all grew up with it being so integral to the meal.
My parents used to give us each a glass of watered down wine (white or blush) with Sunday dinners. I tasted red, but didn't begin enjoying red wine until I reached my twenties. Now it's white wine I don't like and I only drink red. They also gave us a sip of their beer on occasion, but that was more for my sister than for me. I didn't like beer then, and still can't stand it. They never let us sip a cocktail, but would occasionally let us chew on the celery stalk from a bloody mary or eat the olive from a martini.
It never seemed like that big a deal, but it did make me feel kind of privileged. I didn't stop me from acquiring the party spirit by the time I reached 16, though! My first experience of getting drunk (wasted drunk!) was with wine when I was about 15 or 16. I drank two very large glasses of a mixture of white and red wine from a couple boxes my parents had left over from a party. I mixed the red and white together thinking it would be less noticeable that some was missing. Man, was that a mistake!... But I didn't quite learn the lesson about drinking responsibly for another 10 years.
I was allowed to as an older teen. But it kind of had nothing to do with pairing wine with dinner. My parents are beer and liquor drinkers. They had a lot of parties, and after about age 16 I was allowed a beer ot two then or a cocktail on holidays.
I think it made me just very aware that you can enjoy a couple of beverages without getting plastered. I was a lot more responsible with alcohol than a lot of my friends at that age.
I did become an unabashed underage at home drinker when I became a child bride (lol) at 20. I was living out west for the first time and the microbew industry was really blowing up. I figured that if I was old enough to set up my own household, I could certainly enjoy some tasty beers! And heck, I was only 1 year away...
I was allowed to taste what my parents were drinking, although I usually didn't like it. No pairing, but the exposure I think made me more able to take alcohol without going crazy in college.
Most of my family, parents included, were strict religious conservatives, and as such didn't drink at all (or smoke, or swear, or have fun). They did let us taste the coffee! :)
However, my mom had a not so secret midlife crisis for just a few years when I was a young teen and did imbibe away from home (thus not at meals with the family). *shrug*
I never did acquire a taste for wine, which wasn't 'cool' when I was younger and trying stuff. I did sample a variety of beverage options before concluding that I was pretty much a drinker of pale american beer.
Yes, my parents served the children wine, especially on the sabbath and holidays. Also, non-sacramental wines with supper from the age of 8 on. We travelled regularly in Europe and consumption of wine at meals by children was not unusual.
I do the same with my children, we dine as a family, not just eat.
I don't recall at what age my parents started (occasionally?) offering me wine, but it was definitely some time during my college years. The only thing I liked initially was very sweet German wine; I then expanded my horizons to "better" whites and reds. Their appreciation of wine probably did contribute to my appreciation of it.
I have never liked beer, so I don't know if my parents ever offered it to me. I don't remember if they ever offered mixed drinks; I never drank those much, either. I drank in college, at parties (illegally, of course), and I doubt I kept it a secret from them. But I rarely had more than one glass of anything, and I probably told them that, too, so I guess I was a responsible drinker from the first.
My husband's parents grew up in a non-drinking culture, so wine was never served at home. Interestingly enough, though, his "godparents" were European, and always had wine with meals. When he visited, he did too. He's always equated a good meal with good wine, so that must be where it came from.
We offer our kids wine with dinner, occasionally (we have wine with dinner a couple of times a week). Our 15yo will not drink wine at all (don't you just love "holier-than-thou" teens?). Our 12yo (it's legal in our state to offer our kid a drink in our house) will usually have a few sips, especially if dinner is something like steak. So I think it is adding to her appreciation of a good meal.
I'm pretty sure it's legal in every state for a parent to serve his own child (and no one else's) alcohol. Otherwise, the state would be interfering in the practice of religion, since some religious rituals involve small amounts of wine.
But to answer your question, yes, we were served wine on holidays. I also drank the occasional glass of sherry when my mom wanted someone to share with. Whether this practice works to deter alcoholism or increase the appreciation of food and wine, I can't really say. I love good food and wine; one of my brothers drinks only beer, and rarely; the other has beer or wine in moderation, and another is an alcoholic/drug addict in recovery.
Absolutely not. They drank to excess and smoked like chimneys but God forbid we should get caught doing it, there would be hell to pay.
Later on they both looked forward to having somebody to drink with. The irony is not lost on me.
Yup, pops would occasionally hook me up with a couple of barley pops after we finished the weekend chores, or after we went hunting or fishing. My family wouldn't let any of us boys have any liquor until after we had joined the military and had successfully passed Basic/OSUT.
My very Southern grandfather said to my younger cousin (after he complained about me drinking a shot of whiskey with the adults), "When you're man enough to fight for this country, then you'll be man enough to drink with us." So my cousin joined the Marine Corps the next year.
If we didn't join the military, then we had to wait.
>>>We often hear the oft-repeated refrain that parents aren't cooking enough or making enough wholesome meals at home for their children.
>>> I just wonder if parents were in the habit of pairing a wine with whatever they happened to be plating that night if that wouldn't make the parents think harder about what to serve -- instead of just mindlessly popping open a blue box and boiling some water ... which is not say a good Chardonnay doesn't go well with Mac 'N Cheese ...
>>> Would drinking be a "gateway habit" to better eating?
Using that logic, the parents would have to have some knowledge of wine and someone who isn't making wholesome meals, certainly isn't going to be wine-savy in terms of food
I lived for a while with people who ate only processed food. When an aunt would come over and cook from scrath the teenage kids would say that she was making "wierd food". The parents let the kids drink wine with meals ... Arbor Mist. The purpose was so they'd learn how to handle alcohol at home and not get wasted with friends.. Given the parents were pot-smoking musicians, I'm not sure how that worked out.
I think though there is some merit to that. If it doesn't become a big deal, it is not the forbidden fruit. There's a picture of me at 9 months sucking on the business end of an empty Balentine Ale bottle ... I assume I got to it after it was empty.
My parents didn't drink much, but they never said I couldn't. I'd take a sip of the foam on my father's beer. At holidays, I'd have a glass of Mogen David with the meal. When an Italian neighbor would make wine, I was allowed to have some. Highballs at Christmas ... sure ... but I was more interested in the cherry in the drink.
I don't drink hard liquor or beer much and prefer wine. However, coffee was forbidden to children. As soon as I could, I became a life-long, must have my daily coffee fix addict
So I think de-mystifying something has its merits. If booze or coffee is the measure of adulthood, I think lots of kids want to have at whatever to be a grown-up.
But that isn't your question.
No. I don't think drinking would be a gateway habit to good eating.
Once I learned to appreciate wine more, it didn't change my eating habits ... I was always attracted to good food.
I have a 13 year old stepson who might have some alcohol issues. His father won't let him have a taste of the occasional beer, and it has become a big thing to him. I'm pretty sure he swiped a bottle of dad's beer once.
At Christmas he was saying over and over "Quiero vino". I thought that was weird and out of context. Could not imagine why he would say that. Then at Christmas dinner as we opened the bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider, that's what he was talking about.
I'm up in the air as to talking his dad into letting me teach him a little about wine and food pairings when we get back home to California. I'd like the kid to understand that alcohol isn't only about getting a buzz or a badge of being an adult.
The kid is also a really unadventurous eater. Do I think wine would wet his appetite for more interesting food. Absolutely not.
Should I do the food/wine pairing with him, would it inspire better meals. Absolutely not.
It would be a matter of matching a wine to whatever we were having for dinner anyway.
we were allowed sips of wine from about 12 or 13, and a glass if we wanted it from about 15 or 16 (it was never a "ooh, you're old enough", more just a progression) After the legal age was raised to 21, we were allowed harder liquors from about 18 on (again, it wasn't a concrete date, so I don't remember exactly).
Neither of us (nor my husband's siblings, who were far more numerous but raised with the same framework) were binge drinkers in high school or college -- yes, there were a couple of hangovers, but never the progression of foggy, painful Saturdays and Sundays spent face-down on the sofa like so many of the people we knew went through -- the ones who hadn't been allowed to drink at home.
It wasn't ever a forbidden fruit for us, so there was no sense of getting away with something -- if we wanted a drink, we just went and got one. (of COURSE there were rules, and adult supervision...but we never broke them.)
Now that I'm living in Europe and raising a family, it's really interesting to see the difference between the two cultures. Here, there is no legal drinking age if you're with your parents, although it's frowned upon in public less than 15 or so -- legal age for wine and beer is 16, with 18 for hard liquor.
It's not problem-free, but boy -- there are sure a lot fewer problems here with teenage drinking and DUI than there are in the States...but I'm not nearly enough of a social scientist to connect the dots definitively.
We were served a small, well watered glass of wine at special dinners (Christmas, Easter). My drank on occasion but didn't drink with dinner on a daily basis.
I'd say the wine had a minimal effect compared to the fact that my parents enjoyed food, were good cooks, and prepared tasty home cooked meals on a daily basis.
As an aside, we also had wine with communion from the age of about 9, but that's certainly not an incentive to enjoying alcoholic beverages.
Even though the legal drinking age is 18 in Australia, not 21, my parents did serve me the odd glass of wine with dinner as an 'underage' drinker. I believe in Australia (and I could be wrong) that the law recognises a parents discretion to offer a small glass of alcohol to children on celebratory occasions.
I wouldn't say my parents knew anything about food and wine matching, however it taught me that wine was enjoyable with a meal and that alcohol was really no big deal at all. For me I didn't actually start drinking more than the odd glass of wine with a meal until I was at least 26. I do like to cook wholesome meals for my family and when my son is old enough (many years to go yet and a call I will be making on his maturity, etc. when he is older) I would like to be able to offer him the same small glass of wine to sit down with at family meals. I believe dining together as a family is a pleasurable ritual and I hope that in the process my son will be able to further develop his love of good food. And bad food on occasion for that matter.
My parents did not make a big deal of alchol. My dad was not much of a drinker and neither was my mom, but they did not treat drinking as though it was "evil"--we are of Irish descent.
That said, the only drink I can remember having as a kid was "Cold Duck" during the holidays. I don't even know if "Cold Duck" was alcoholic or not. In addition, we would always have a sip of whatever it was they were drinking during family parties and it usually tasted disgusting.
When I was very little, I would get to suck on the ice cubes out of my grandmother's highball :) As a teen, I was infrequently allowed a wine cooler if my mom happened to be drinking one during the summer.
With my boys, I let them have a little sip if they are curious. They usually smile, giggle, and then go off and play.
My parents started drinking wine with dinner in the '70s when I was a teenager, and I was allowed to have a glass. I don't think I drank wine every night but it wasn't just a matter of holidays. I have been a moderate drinker ever since. I never went through a binge-drinking phase.
My one child is 13, and she's never had more than a sip of any alcoholic beverage. At some point over the next few years I guess I might start serving her a bit of wine. But there is so much more negative stuff out there in the culture about teen drinking, I'm not sure if I could be as comfortable with it as my parents were.
all the more reason for you to teach her about alcohol and its presence on the table. That it's a normal thing for an adult to consume in moderation...and how to consume it in moderation.
Or you can keep her wrapped in cotton and bubblewrap until she goes away to school and decides to undertake a lifetime of alcohol education in a single weekend. As parents, we wake up screaming at night having nightmares about ANY of those scenarios.
It's not as interesting when it's not forbidden...or when you've been there and done that.
I agree with you about educating kids re: alcohol while they're still in their safe home environments, but what I think NYCkaren is talking about isn't the danger of teen drinking, it's the judgment and hypocrisy in our communities.
Last autumn, I went to a forum on teen partying, which was packed. Based on the comments, you'd have thought that every single parent there was raising their kids with the idea that no one should have a sip of alcohol until 21.
But the reality is very different. Most people I know do give their teens alcohol at home, but they'll confess it sheepishly to their friends. No one will stand up in public and say "why don't we have a comprehensive alcohol education program that really works? Or lobby to change these laws that clearly do not work?"
We were allowed a (small) glass of wine with Sunday and holiday dinners when I was a kid, I guess from age 12 or so. We would have a couple of sips, but what we really craved was a glass of ginger ale - soda was a much rarer treat! My mom is Italian, and her family used to make their own wine, but by the time I was a teenager I guess everyone was getting too old, and they just bought it.
I have 4 children of my own, and I've allowed them small amounts of wine with special meals from about the same age. All of my girls like wine, but my son, the eldest, can't stand it. He is now 18, and in college - I do allow him a single beer sometimes when he's home, such as when we're grilling hamburgers or steaks. I'm very clear with him that while he is allowed it at home, he's absolutely not at school. This is not because I don't think he can handle it, but because the consequenses are completely out of proportion with the offense.
<This is not because I don't think he can handle it, but because the consequences are completely out of proportion with the offense.>
That I think is one of the best message a parent can give a teenager. Not that something (drugs, sex, alcohol, etc.) is necessarily evil, but that there are consequences. And to plan their actions accordingly.
I used to teach health education for college students, and that is more or less how I framed it for them as well. I couldn't tell them it was OK to drink alcohol before they turned 21 outright, so I just told them to understand the law, understand the physical and mental effects of alcohol, then make smart choices. When I was their age, making smart choices meant having a drink or two at parties in private homes, never in the dorm or at frat parties, and I absolutely never tried to buy alcohol when I was underage.
Prior to college, I was allowed to have a glass of champagne at special family events (weddings, major birthdays, New Years Eve). The first time I remember having more than a taste was at my mom and step-dad's wedding when I was 11. I was also allowed to have whatever beverages were legal for public consumption while traveling overseas (i.e. wine with dinner in Paris when I was 14). There was also one restaurant we frequented for special occasions that would discretely our half a glass for me when pouring wine for my parents. It was completely illegal, but they always offered, and I never turned it down.
This reminds me of something my grandma told me.
She was raised by her French grandfather and German grandmother, who she described as very "old world.' Her grandfather made his own wine. Her grandfather sent her to school with watered down wine to drink, in kindergarten lol. Apparently one day the teacher noticed and tried to have words with her grandfather, who of course stood his ground on the matter lol. So she continued with her watered down wine. She also told of a time she asked her grandfather why he never drank straight water, for he was always with a glass of wine. He told her "Because water will make your insides rust!"
The rule in that house and ever since in our family is you absolutely do not ever cook with a wine you would not drink. If you won't drink it, it is not fit to cook with.
As to myself, I was always welcome to a drink of mom's glass of wine, and in fact she encouraged me to try some. I never developed a taste for alcohol though. Mom used to take me wine tasting with her, and I would always eagerly sniff the glass, but each time I went to taste it I just couldn't get past the inherent alcohol flavour, at least not at that strength, though I am a huge fan of cooked dishes containing alcoholic ingredients; in fact a nice reduced white wine makes a great sauce in my opinion, and rum sauce is wonderful.
These days I can sip an occasional sweet Riesling, but I don't make a habit of it.
At least everybody can rest assured I will never be at risk of becoming an alcoholic lol
Not a drop, given that, back then, there was always plenty in the house as we owned a liquor store in Meriden CT.
Of course they did. I honestly find it a bit ridiculous that alchol is a forbidden substance until age 21 in the US. It doesn't seem to stop anyone from overindulging in it! My parents taught us about the pleasures of good wine when we were quite young. When we had guests, we'd have a taste of their wine, and a tiny glass of our own if we enjoyed it. My brother didn't, so he never even started drinking. And my father taught us the perils of overindulgence in it by (bad) example. I enjoy white wine, champagne, port and liquers, but I don't drink any more (DH is an alcoholic) and I don't really miss it. Sometimes I miss the very pleasant flavours of the aforementioned beverages, but I sure don't miss the alcohol.
In Australia, your parents were responsible for your alcohol intake as long as you were with them. I couldn't walk up to a bar and ask for a glass of wine, but if my parents ordered me one nobody would bat an eye. It's not like I was bathing in the stuff...
Certainly I drank alcohol at home with dinner on occasions as a child - from about the age of 14 or 15.
We have always offered alcohol to our nephews and nieces (from around the same age or a bit younger) on occasions when the adults are also having alcohol. It would seem odd to do otherwise.
Ah, but Harters, you are in the UK, are you not?
The attitude and culture regarding alcohol -is completely different to ours here in the states.
It is completely normal to offer young teens a bit of alcohol in the UK, but most Americans actually, would be horrified by it.
I remember when I first met my English hubby...\
While vacationing in Majorca, I met a very nice English woman. she was extremely well educated, and had a really impressive high powered job. We were having a good chat, when a very drunken young boy (15) came in to talk to her...she introduced me to her son.
He got another beer and carried on. She had a good chuckle about how drunk he was and continued our conversation.
I remember being absolutely appalled!
Honestly, I could not believe that this intelligent, well spoken, thoughtful woman would have such an attitude about her 15 year old son being drunk!
I remember speaking to my (future) husband about it, and he too, didn't see any big deal. I was incredulous!
It wasnt until I lived in the UK awhile that I realized that it IS no big deal to the English, it's simply a part of becoming an adult.
Yep, I'm in the UK. And I'd agree that we seem to have a generally different attitude towards alcohol here in Europe than many people in America seem to.
However, there is a world of difference between a child having a beer or two in the home, or a glass of wine or two with dinner in a restaurant and a child getting extremely drunk in public. That said, for the most part, I think most of us would regard getting drunk at a young age as something of a rite of passage. My father was only shocked at my first example of this because it took place in the pub he used to drink in - and thought I should have held my alcohol better there. He was right - we moved to different pub after that and left the old uns to their place.
Legal drinking age, for pubs and bars, in the UK is 18 (in line with our definition of adulthood), although I'd suggest that there has long been a tradition of young peopel being served in such places much younger. Certainly I had little problem being served at the age of 16 , back in the mid-1960s.
In contrast, it seemed most peculiar on our first trip to America in 1980 that one of our party, then aged 19 could get a beer with dinner.
"Under 21" only applies in the US, probably the only non-Muslim (or Hindu) country with such ridiculous drinking laws that allow young adults to enlist in the army or get married at 18, and drive much younger, but not have a drop of beer or wine. I live in Québec where the drinking age is 18 (and when I was young, it was not enforced at all). I believe that it is 19 in most of English Canada.
Yes, I was allowed to have a glass of wine with supper. We didn't really drink beer with meals, though sometimes my parents would have a glass on a hot day (I didn't like it). A small amount of good liquor at Christmastime.
What causes this bizarre attitude towards (moderate) use of beverages containing alcohol in the US? Is it the presence of religious fundamentalists? The prohibitionist undercurrent in MADD's campaigns? (I agree with MADD about strict drink-driving laws and enforcement, but there is a nasty fundie undercurrent in their literature that goes beyond that obvious safety measure).
It certainly hasn't contributed to more responsible drinking or public health.
Paraphrase of Menken's definition of a puritan: The haunting fear that somewhere, someone is enjoying themselves. Fortunately, when I was growing up, the legal drinking age in my NY State county was twelve years of age (with a learner's permit).
My folks would allow us wine on family occasions (namely Passover and NYE), but it wasn't a routine thing. However, my dad was pretty liberal about letting me have a beer with him once I was past 16, which was certainly not legal in CA., but it's not like we were in public or anything. : )