It’s not that simple of an ostensibly rhetorical question to answer. There are so many powerfully conflicting aspects to this friendly, aromatic herb. It is pleasurable. It is dangerous. It is socially unacceptable in some societies (most of the so-called ‘advanced’ ones, ho ho), while it used to be considered ultra-chic among the stars (Gable, Bogart, Turner, Brando, Davis, and I could go on and on, drearily on with all those black and white ghosts, many of whom paid for their tobacco habit with their lives: Hepburn, Tracy, Wayne, Grable).
One reason inadequately championed for the popularity of tobacco, especially in gregarious societies like China, is the essential friendliness of tobacco. Where there is smoking there is agreement in the (smoky) air. People get along; even in darkened bars, where the magical Arabic elixir of al-cohol is ingested by angry jocks, there is aggression, but smoke has the power of calming feelings everywhere.
Cigars particularly are friendly items, faintly comical and glowing. Stuck right in the face, they need tender care at all times, careful handling and a continuous slow draw, to keep from going out. The guy smoking the cigar is usually minding his own business, and not sticking his nose into yours. Bear that in mind.
And it’s not just the gents who love their stogies! Women have been smoking away right beside their men all down through history. Clicky-clicky on this URL for a much more delightful exposition than this humble writer could ever hope to provide: http://www.cigarwoman.com/articles/archive/2-98/2-98-1.html. Here’s the hostess of the site:
The pipe is the instrument of peace. That’s how potential adversaries sat down to settle differences, and with a good smoke suspicions melted away. Peace pipe.
You may indeed be wondering what this has to do with the wondrous (if occasionally smoky) atmosphere of Yaudah Bistro. Well well well we are a marvellous social destination, for friends and family, enemies as well if you want to bring them along (and hopefully turn them into friends). Yaudah Bistro has been a culinary home to both locals and travellers for four decades, first on Jalan Jaksa (where the Morrissey is sited today) and today near the crazy ‘caglak’ intersection on Jalan Johar, next to the Dreamtel.
And now most spectacularly in Jogjakarta, the cultural center of Central Java, where friends and families enjoy the best and most hygienic cuisine at right prices.
We serve great European, Indonesian and Asian foods, most prepared by hand by our industrious elves.
And – unlike those freezing fast-food dens and expensive name-brand clip joints that set you down, stuff you full of food (fast cooling in the extreme air conditioning, so you have to gobble it down before it solidifies) and get you out – we welcome patrons to take their time, talk, joke, argue and even sing, not omitting to order another round of drinks for one and all.
And smoke. Yes, our open-air eatery is ideal for lovers of the aromatic leaf to kick back and enjoy that pipe, kretek or stogy, smoking to your heart’s content.
(This writer, working as an English teacher in Osaka, once had the most amazing experience with a businessman-student. To celebrate the conclusion of our conversation class he invited me to one of the ultra-expensive sushi joints where you impress clients by splashing down five hundred bucks for a meal. We sat in front of an aquarium and I was prodded to indicate what I wanted to devour. An innocent prawn swam by and I pointed a crooked finger at it, sealing its doom. ‘That one’ I thundered. The sushi chef dunked his hand in the tank, scooped out the bewildered shrimp, slit it open and popped off the head, set it on a slab of cold vinegary rice and handed it to me in a flash. As I slipped it into my mouth I could still feel the last flickers of life as it squirmed on my tongue. That, friends, is the definition of fresh!
I turned to exclaim to my host how delighted I was with this sushi-fest – which I could never have afforded on my own – and was amazed to see him pop an acrid unfiltered Japanese cigarette out of a pack and light up. He smoked with one hand and shovelled sushi into his face with the other. Talk about doubling your pleasure!)