Consider, with Barthes, the 'mythology' of steak.1 Is it not true that, when we eat a piece of steak, what we enjoy is not just the material steak itself, but also the idea of steak? For steak represents to us a kind of power and heartiness: to eat steak is to eat powerfully and heartily, and to have the feeling of living a powerful and hearty life. Or as Barthes puts it, steak represents to us 'the heart of the meat . . . meat in its pure state', and 'whoever partakes of it assimilates a bull-like strength'.2 A particular piece of steak has the interpreted cultural 'glamour' of all Steak-hood, long before it comes into contact with the taste-buds. (I use the word 'glamour' with something of the sense that it originally possessed for nineteenth-century Theosophists, the sense of a non-physical aura surrounding a physical body.)

Similarly with wine.3 Wine is not just a taste but also a visual

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image (liquid colour, sparkling glass, etc.); and not just a visual image but also an imaginary ambiance (candlelight, sunlit terraces, etc.); and not just an imaginary ambiance but also a whole implied way of life (leisure, chic, style, etc.). Doubtless, the special 'glamour' of wine is not unrelated to its intoxicating effect, yet the 'glamour' itself is almost diametrically opposed to the clumsy and inelegant reality of drunkenness. (Indeed, it is perhaps this peculiar cultural interpretation that keeps drunkenness under control in western societies, and the absence of this interpretation that allows it to wreak such havoc in other societies.) A glass of wine is no mere functional means to an end, but an end in itself-to be dwelt upon and lingered over. Hence the many minor ceremonies that have come to be associated with the drinking of wine: the uncorking, the pouring, the swirling, the sniffing, the manner of holding the glass, and so on. The drinking of wine, even more plainly than the eating of steak, is a ritual. And the purpose of the ritual, as of all rituals, is to make the particular object stand for a general meaning, to make one particular glass of wine stand for the idea of all Wine-i-ness in general.