Friday, August 9, 2013
The Flavor of Time
Last night was maintenance night. This is the night once a month that I try and cram all my girlie shit into an hour or two. File down my freaking talons…my fingernails are like cement weeds, they are thick as hell and grow super long, fast. My sister got the killer laugh and amazing hair…I got the fingernails and ample rack, sigh…so not fair. I toss a coat of quick drying polish on them, piss and moan that my keyboard, “feels funny now” and then move on to the most hated maintenance day event…dying my hair.
I think coloring your hair is much like addiction, had you known going in that first time that it would be something that you have to feed even though you now hate it, well you never would have tried it in the first place. I thought it might be kinda hot to be that blonde that is just this side of platinum, no warm honey blonde for me. Nope had to go uber blonde and now I’m stuck with a goddamn root monkey on my back…dammit. Now when you are like a trained sniffer, one of those people that has a highly sensitive sense of smell, well maintenance day is a full on assault. I sit here in my living room, my now stiff and unpleasantly aromatic hair piled atop my head and glare at the microwave clock…”Fuck, it’s only been seven minutes?!” it’s wretched and the best part? This lovely chemical stank is shampoo resistant, get to relive the nose assault for a couple days…awesome.
Stinky nail junk, stinky hair junk, the smell of lotion, (which I needed after my get-this-crap-off-my-head shower) and I just knew it was not a wine night. Poured myself a tall glass of tonic with a splash of gin…trying to take it easier, and hunkered down in front of my laptop. I checked my regular blogs, made some adjustments to The Wine Country’s online store and settled on stalking Facebook. I was less than pleasant, offensively aromatic and wishing I had put more gin in my drink. Comment, scroll down, comment and that was when I saw it. A buddy, (I separate my Facebook people into two groups, friends & buddies, the later being people I actually know and talk to on a regular basis on Facebook or otherwise) had posted a picture of the meal he was eating, Boudin Noir.
Just looking at that glistening, darkly colored tube of pork bits, fat and blood, (shudder) and spices and I was transported to a tiny café in Paris. It was ten years ago and my first night of my first trip to France. I was with relative strangers, sleep deprived, had been crying in my room before dinner; feeling out of place, being away from my family, terrified of what the next twenty-five days were to hold. I was melancholy as we rushed through the Metro doors, Michael Sullivan barking at me to keep up, my fellow travelers appearing so much more…prepared, together, grown up. Part of me was aching to get left behind, preferring to sit alone in my hotel room than be the-one-that-didn’t-belong that was likely going to make an ass out of herself at a dinner table in Paris. I found a sliver of peace when we were seated in the low lit back corner of the bistro. Still feeling more alone and afraid than I had ever felt before but comforted by the soft lighting, the warm orange glow of lights reflecting off the restaurants copper light fixtures, the lulling hum of people enjoying a meal and each other.
Such a wildly different dining experience that first night in that tiny bistro, a world away from any life I had even thought of before. There was a palpable intensity to the diners a civility, a romantic rhythm to their conversation and appreciation of a meal prepared for them and shared between them…this is what stole my heart and attention.
My head was spun, my heart captivated, I was longing to melt into those dusky walls…be a part of every meal shared in that space…warm orange glow, gentle hum, the smell of freshly prepared food, herbs, freshly cut flowers, wine kissed mustard, decades of cigarette smoke, wine and Pastis dripping from the walls and straight into my veins. How could I have existed before I knew of this place?
“Sam try this” the sound of my own name pulling me back to the table, our table the reality staring me in the face and holding out a forkful of black sausage. I took the fork from Michael’s hand unsure if I was to deposit the oddly colored hot dog on my plate or be so bold as to put my mouth on his fork….I made the deposit. I so wanted to be cool, act as if I were not at all perplexed by the weird color and mealy texture of thing that I was being asked to ingest. Not wanting to be one of “those people” I speared the piece of offered food with my fork and brought it to my lips, the smell of iron and spices wafted through my nose and tried to prepare my palate for what I was about to taste…it failed, there was no way in hell I was prepared for the gawd awful flavor and texture of Boudin Noir.
Not sure if it was my eyes watering or the over exaggerated puffing out of my cheeks, (you know when you are trying to hold your breath and chew without having the flavor of whatever it is you are trying to force down actually touch your tongue) that started Michael’s laughter. “So what do you think?” he asked through his trying-not-to-laugh laughing. Now there were two ways to go here, I could have kept trying to be cool….pretend that it was fine or worse that I liked it but my fear of being handed another slice had me going with option number two. I swallowed the chewed-enough-not-to-choke, food and answered, “Yeah, that was pretty fucking gross…might just be the single nastiest thing I have ever put in my mouth” I said while reaching for my glass and taking a long mouth cleansing glug of Chablis. That was the beginning, me sitting across from a Michael I had just made laugh, a scene I would see hundreds of times again. Boudin Noir, a taste of things to come.
Always amazes me how the mind works, how we remember not only taste and texture but how those things can be and should be connected to something bigger, more important…a shared evening, a laugh, a night of self indulgence. Food and wine, the taste memory of both acting as snapshots, moments in time captured on the tip of your tongue. These are the things that matter, the things that can never be reduced down to a shelf talker or numerical score. What number should I give my Boudin Noir? On taste alone it would score very low but that moment, the friendship that began that night…immeasurable.
Jean Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc, the lip of the glass being titled against my collarbone…cold Champagne running down my bare skin….a mouth waiting to capture the, “Samantha seasoned” drops.
Agrapart Rose, six of my favorite people…big loud room, roasted duck, Amy excitedly picking away at beef noodles, shrimp dumplings and pork, “donuts”…Merritt’s birthday and Amy’s first dim sum.
Alliet Chinon, pan seared steak, salty batch of white beans with sage….a rare night alone and a meal prepared just for me.
Gosset Brut Rose, seafood tower…lemons and creamy dill flecked mayonnaise…three women…an order of fries…lots of giggles and a second bottle.
Tempier Bandol Rose, Randy and Dale’s backyard… aioli and grilled lamb....the whole Wine Country team….my son tasting with us….his proclamation that this “Is my favorite”.
I’m not trying to rage against the machine here, I’ve long since given up on fighting the point system of wine evaluation. It’s here to stay and I get that there are some folks that find it useful, my only hope is that people see it for what it is. I mean unless you are tasting that bottle in a lineup of others like it, sipping, spitting and jotting notes before moving on, then your experience is likely to be very different and it should be. Your meal, the rhythm of your own conversation, your moment, your “picture” of an evening or an afternoon spent with a bottle of wine, these things are worth far more than any score…