Tag Archives: cooking

Wine Tasting and The Art of Living

23 Jun

Step one: Pour the wine.

Step two: “Waft” the wine. Smell its “bouquet,” or the light odor that comes from moving it around.

Step three: Wiggle your glass. But don’t wiggle it wiggle it, wiggle it with some grace. Check the sides of the glass to see how many “legs” follow the bulk of the wine in its circular journey. These little lines dictate the alcohol content of the wine.

Step three: Sip. Hold the wine lightly in the front of your mouth and swish it around a bit. Kind of like gargling, but much more elegant, of course. Optional addition: make weird sounds that your mother would kill you for but that somehow become part of a sophisticated wine tasting.

Step four: Attempt to say something intelligent. “Mmmmmm….” does not cut it. “Ah, this is a nice dry combination of flavors with – is that a hint of? – yes, an apple and pomegranate bouquet” does.

(Secret step five: Eat lots of cheese and prosciutto in between each bottle. If not, after your ninth tasting glass, you will be sloshed in front of your teachers, and you will have to sneak off into the kitchen to gulp down four glasses of water. On your way, your friends, all of whom are in similarly compromised situations, will wink at you and giggle amongst themselves because “we’re getting two credits for this.”*)

*For the record, the professors are the ones who tell us to finish each of our glasses. And who are we to argue and cause trouble? I have the utmost respect for my instructors in all situations and wouldn’t dare go against their wishes; clearly, they have our best academic interests in mind.

Christoph setting up for the tasting.

From the above preview, please deduce the following:

1. We are having our second of two wine tastings tonight, both as a full class, both conducted by a wonderful man who wrote a book (in Italian) on how to teach your children about wine.

2. I am an extremely inexperienced socialite. So inexperienced, in fact, that when Christoph (the wine author) started doing his swishy-sucking noises to decipher the flavors in his mouth, all I could think about was my brother when he was really young getting chastised for slurping milk at the breakfast table – the sssslurrrrpppp, sssssipppp were too reminiscent for me to handle.

3. I will use this experience for the rest of my life.

By #3, I don’t mean that I will be sniffing my beverages ’til the day I die (in fact, I really hope I don’t — that’s a surefire way to get myself tagged as “that weird nose-in-drink girl,” and I could do without that particular title). Instead, I’m talking about what’s at the heart of our wine tastings – the slowing down, the attention to sensory detail, the appreciation of artistry. I am so accustomed to eating without emotional attachment, to walking without attention to surroundings, that this wine tasting is a gigantic, and welcome, stop sign. And whether or not I am able to take it all seriously (and, to be frank, I just can’t; while I can tell you what I like or don’t like about a wine, I don’t think I will ever have the desire to dissect its makeup piece by piece or wax poetic about each gulp), I am able to appreciate the act of thinking while consuming, of conversing about the process of consumption.

Because, at a wine tasting, you pause constantly. You look at the label of what you are drinking. Not for prestige, but for knowledge. What region is it from? What does that mean? How is it classified? What do you think of this classification? Only then do you pour. Then, before even bringing it to your lips, you examine it with your other senses. What does it look like? What season does the smell remind you of? You are fully engaged with this one little glass in a way that few people engage with entire steak dinners. It is amazing the depth of observation that we are capable of when we focus only on the tiniest sip.

Our cooking classes have similar lessons. We spent a morning making tiramisu last week, and only two of us decided to go, so we had a lot of time to talk with our instructor as we worked through the recipe. “You just have to always taste it,” she kept telling us. “Taste and then adjust. Cooking is like being in a play — if you botch up a line here or there, you fill in with your own; as long as you deliver the right ending, the audience will clap.” It reminded me of learning how to make meatballs with Nana (hi, Nana!), when the sauce on the stove simmered for hours and hours but we, in passing, would always stop to lick the spoon and throw in a spice here or there. Were we too rushed to decipher each spoonful, the depth of the end product would suffer. In this way, to cook and to drink well requires an embracing of the ingredients and an embracing of the moment…a sense that this act of consumption is an individual one and worthy of its own itty-bitty mental pedestal.

This is the act of savoring — and this, to me, is the integral art of living.

"If you truly want to share Italy with your family," Pauline, one of our professors, told me last night from across the table after I told her about my blog, "Let me take a picture of you eating those strawberries. That's all they need to see to understand how much you are getting out of every moment here." And so she did. (And let me tell you...those were SOME strawberries)

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The Road to Blog is Paved with Good Intentions

23 May

Though the roads to Rome are mostly paved with these:

Aw, quit groaning, already. The last post already warned you about my dreadfully corny sense of humor. I can "cobble" together a few more examples, if you'd like...(oh, NOW you're getting the hang of it!)

When it comes to this blog, I should make a few things clear. The first is that I don’t take myself too seriously (you should be able to tell that by now) – until, that is, I’m writing about some new urban social issue or some truly good pesto and then I will be very serious indeed. But I recognize, just like everybody else there in the blogosphere (or the people I like to read about, at least) that this is nothing more than a soapbox of sharing among many other (even taller, cooler) soapboxes in the world. In short, I’m writing as much, if not more, for me, as for an audience – because writing is how I process the world, because words can sometimes almost capture the curve of a streetlamp, because when I don’t have a pen in my hand and the world is happening around me I don’t know where to keep my memories. Plus, for all of the effort it took to be in Daily Themes, I kind of liked having that moment-with-self-and-language at the end of every day, and I’d like to continue the habit heading into this summer.

The second thing is that I am no expert. At anything. Not travel, not Italy, not card castles or foreign languages or mathematical theorems (especially not mathematical theorems). So if you are hoping for another version of a decornographer, I may not be the gal for you. However – and this is kind of the point of this blog – I am someone who wants to DO everything. Why have limits? Why ever have limits about what to read or see or help or learn or fail at or dive into? If this sounds naive or hopelessly dreamy, fine. You’ve pegged me. I don’t make a very good cynic mainly because I’ve always been raised to spend more time discovering the world than knocking it. Ah, lost, wandering, bright-eyed soul that I am — somehow I think I’ll survive. And probably have a pretty amazing time while I’m at it.

Okay. Enough with the explanations; time for a rapid fire list. A few activities that will probably recur on this blog (amongst much miscellany and more comments from my wonderful Nana — hi, Nana!!!): walking, cooking, attempting languages, failing at languages (see Frances’s comment on my first post for details – fyi all, cannoli is a both plural and delicious word), examining a city from as many angles as possible, eating, life-listing, checking off life lists, making super sly allusions to my family back home (ay, ay? mom? that was for you. thanks for subscribing to my posts), reading, late night existing. Did I mention cooking and eating??

Also recurring: embarrassing photos. Like this one of me eating my "The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia" Cookbook. Mmmmm.

Ciao for now!!