I have one of my rare nights at home -- with nowhere to go and nothing to do but write my column. I don't even have to cook dinner. As I write this, my son and I are waiting for the pizza dude to show up with a large pie.

Even better is the fact that David is paying tonight: I neglected to stop by the ATM machine on the way home and I really don't think the 59 cents I managed to scrape from the bottom of my purse is going to get us too far.

I would normally have a glass of Riesling by my side, but lately David and I have been doing our own version of beer tasting, so tonight my glass is filled with a dark Scottish ale. More on that later

When I was growing up, alcohol was consumed by my Dad -- but only when he had a terrible cold. His remedy was to drink a shot of ginger brandy and go to bed to "sweat it out." (Try it at your own risk; I've never had any luck with it, but I have developed a taste for ginger brandy over the years.)

When I graduated from high school, the legal drinking age in New York and Vermont was 18. Massachusetts would soon follow and lower the age also. The first alcoholic beverage I purchased and I hate to admit what it was -- a cheap fruity red wine named Spanada, the poor teenager's version of sangria. (I could go on to discuss Boone's Farm apple or strawberry wine or Tango, a mixture of vodka and an orange-colored sweet syrup that was supposed to be like a screwdriver. Again, it was better than nothing -- and cheap.


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College brought the joys of weekend fraternity keg parties. The only problem was, I still didn't like the taste of beer. There were also dorm floor parties, where everyone brought a quart bottle of something, potable or not, and poured them all into a trash can (clean) to create trash can punch.

By the time I went to graduate school, the drinking age had returned to 21. Beer was also part of grad life -- all the journalism students would meet at a basement bar in Kenmore Square and talk for hours over $1 beers.

After that, beer and I flirted only when I was broke or if it was all there was to drink at a party. Wine, especially German white wines, became my drink of choice.

Recently, David started bringing home six-packs of assorted beers. For the price of one six-pack, you can mix the assortment. He brought me to the store and I was amazed -- row after row after row of beers just waiting to be tried. At night, we'll split a bottle between us and try it, comparing whether we like it or not. I'm drawn to the darker beers and ales, and shandies; David seems to like the light wheat beers and fruit ales.

As I sat here sipping my Scottish ale, I dug out this great marinade for beef. I think I'll use it on some sirloin tips in the very near future. I've never made it with anything but Guinness -- substitute at your own risk!

GUINNESS MARINADE

Yields 1 Cup

4 ounces Guinness Stout Beer at room temperature

1 ounce soy sauce

3 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon minced vidalia onion

1 teaspoon shallots

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon fresh tarragon

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

Finely chop garlic, shallot, onion, parsley and tarragon. Combine chopped ingredients with remaining ingredients and mix. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before marinading meat.

Marinade meat (pork chops, burgers, steaks, etc.) for at least 2 hours. Refrigerate remaining marinade and use to baste meat while cooking, or reduce over medium-low heat for a finishing sauce.

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And because I didn't go trick-or-treating , I'm going to whip some of these up over the weekend!

COCONUT MOUNDS BARS

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups flaked coconut

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix and pat into the bottom of one 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine the condensed milk and flaked coconut. Carefully spread over the crust. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top; bake for 2 more minutes. Spread melted chocolate chips to cover coconut mixture completely.

Let cool and cut into squares.

Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to mbutton@thetranscript.com.