giovedì 9 gennaio 2020


About Maigret’s propensity to alcohol

Sulla propensione all'alcool di Maigret
À propos de la propension de Maigret à l'alcool

Much has been said about Maigret's propensity to eat and drink. It’s one of the strong characteristics of the character, which, together with his pipe, contributes to constitute some of his highly recognizable features. Drinking, eating and smoking... in short a character who enjoys life although his profession gives him problems and important preoccupations.
When Simenon built his character, he wanted to create one that was very near to common people, and thus Maigret’s passion for drinking and eating is not sophisticated (even if the Chief Inspector often shows a certain gastronomic culture), but addressed to simple tastes, popular dishes and drinks. Of course, in the about hundred cases written by Simenon, Maigret drinks and eats everything. Various occasions make him drink whisky, even if he didn’t like it. The same with champagne, which leaves him rather indifferent. On the contrary he drinks willingly Martini dry, or even more cognac, of which he keeps a small stock in his office, for long nights of interrogation, or to have something to offer when needed. Armagnac is also a part of his preferences, but above all calvados.
This alcohol takes his name from the homonymous northern region of France, and it is an apple distillate. In the 30’s this was a very popular alcohol, economic and without great pretensions. Maigret drinks it often and willingly, above all during night stalking or chases that force him outdoors during the cold Parisian winter nights. Then calvados became sophisticated, manufacturers began to make it age in oak barrels, then in barrels where cognac had been aged. Nowadays calvados has become a valuable and expensive distillate.
Beer is another “must” of the Chief Inspector, typical of those trays ordered from the famous Brasserie Dauphine, when interrogation of suspects last the whole night and make Maigret and his inspectors skip dinner. Thus they drink beer and eat sandwiches in the Chief Inspector’s office. Beer is also a refreshing drink during summer months, when mouth is dry because of heat, and often it gets Maigret back on his feet in the middle of a difficult interrogation.
Does Maigret never get drunk? Generally no. It’s not in his character. Impressive tonnage, used to drinking (sometimes Simenon makes him gobble a 65° double kummel), he definitely holds up alcohol very well. Also because, as we saw, there are a lot of occasions for drinking, for example the aperitifs, and then his preferences are for the very French pernod.
From beer and pernod we get to wine. When the Chief Inspector sits at the table, his preference goes to beaujolais, châteauneuf-du-pape, rosé de Provence, sancerre, but also sometimes to Italian wines like chianti. But here too, to make Maigret a man like any others, Simenon makes him drink often white wine, in a glass that Maigret throws down in one breath, maybe on the zinc counter of an old bar.
His friend Dr Pardon (with whom they exchange invitations to dinner once a month) notices Maigret’s propensity for drinking and from time to time he advises him to moderate himself. However for the Chief Inspector temptations are a little everywhere. Even at home, where the prunelle, made by Mme Maigret’s sister, never fails. After those dinners with fricandeau à l’oseille, guinea fowl in crust, or skate in black butter, all prepared by his wife, for digesting, with smoking a pipe, he’ll need a glass or two of prunelle…

by Simenon-Simenon

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