Category Archives: Food & Drink

For Him The Bell Tolls

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased.
– Ernest Miller Hemingway (21 July 1899 – 2 July 1961), Death In The Afternoon, 1932.

Ernest Hemingway is one of those writers we associate with machismo, cocktails and rum. But he liked a good bottle of wine as well as any wine fan and wrote of it eloquently.

“In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.” – A Moveable Feast, 1964

I like that. It speaks to the fundamental nature of wine and its place alongside any, or every, meal. It is not for nothing that those who consume a glass or two each day live longer than the non-drinker. Of course, quality of life is also important, for living long is no boon if one is not healthy enough to enjoy a life extended. In The Sun Also Rises, published during U.S. Prohibition, Hemingway included wine (along with a variety of other alcohols) almost as if it were a character:

“I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company.”
The Sun Also Rises, 1926.

“This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.” – Count Mippipopolous in The Sun Also Rises.

In a scene where the protagonist, Jake Barnes, and his buddy, Bill Gorton, are fishing the Irati River in the Pyrenees (an area locals call Auniak which, I believe, means ‘barrier’) they cool their wine by putting it in the water. I tried this once by jamming my bottle amid ‘stable’ flotsam by the bank and falling asleep for an hour at my campsite. In my homage I lost a 1978 Bordeaux for not tethering the bottle at the neck with a knot.

The conventional wisdom surrounding Hemingway’s self-inflicted death is that it sprang from a major crisis, an inability to write a tribute to President Kennedy just after the 1961 inauguration. He had returned to Idaho from electroconvulsive therapy at the Mayo Clinic and found that the treatment pretty much wiped his memory. Now, medicine has found and implicated a new culprit, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), such as we are seeing in retired pro-footballers where an accumulation of tau protein associated with dementia and degeneration of brain tissue has led, it is alleged, to numerous self-inflicted deaths.

It appears that Hemingway’s self-inflicted death may have been assisted, or even put in motion, by the many concussions he sustained over the years: mortar fire (Italy, 1918); skylight accident (Paris, 1928); auto accident with John Dos Passos (Billings, Montana, 1930); auto accident (London, 1944); thrown from motorcycle while evading Nazis (Normandy, 1944); auto crash (Cuba, 1945); slipping on the deck of his boat, Pilar, (Cuba, 1950); Cessna plane crash (Uganda, 1954, minimal injuries); head-butt to break escape window in the crash of a de Haviland Rapide – the rescue plane sent for him after the Cessna crash! (Uganda, 1954); auto crash (1958) and assorted other physical knocks. Then there was, of course, the major league drinking he courted much of his life.

As if the above litany were not enough we now know he also had, as probably did his father, the blood disorder hemochromatosis, an inability to metabolize iron leading to physical and mental deterioration. This genetic fact might account for three (perhaps four) of his five siblings committing suicide as well as the self-inflicted death of his grandaughter Margaux. He once told Ava Gardner that he spent “a hell of a lot of time killing animals and fish so I won’t kill myself” (Hotchner, 1966.)

Wine was a part of Hemingway’s life to the very end: the day before he shot himself he went on a picnic lunch where he enjoyed wine and, in the evening, even went out to dinner with his wife Mary.

I, like most I believe, prefer to remember him in the early dawn, sitting down to write, freshly sharpened pencils lined up, changing the face of American literature.

“In wine most people at the start prefer sweet vintages, Sauternes, Graves, Barsac, and sparkling wines, such as not too dry champagne and sparkling Burgundy because of their picturesque quality while later they would trade all these for a light but full and fine example of the Grand crus of Medoc though it may be in a plain bottle without label, dust, or cobwebs, with nothing picturesque, but only its honesty and delicacy and the light body of it on your tongue, cool in your mouth and warm when you have drunk it.” – Death In The Afternoon, 1932.

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Slow News Day

Good thing it was not the Cannibal Chef!
Good thing it was not the Cannibal Chef!

As few of us work on New Year’s Day there is often time to search out the arcane and humorous. Here is what many journalists, yesterday, were calling the greatest headline in the history of The New York Times Newspaper. It appeared in 1922.

I have placed this entry under the category of Food & Drink  but, technically, there was, as far as I know, no drink involved.

 

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Freud in America

We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more. — Carl Jung

It was on this day in 1909 that Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) landed in America for the first and only time. Freud had been invited by Dr. Granville Stanley Hall, president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts to give a series of lectures on the origin and growth of psychoanalysis. Freud invited his Hungarian disciple Dr. Sandor Ferenczi (7 July 1873 – 22 May 1933) to travel with him as well as another disciple who had also been invited to Clark University, Dr. Carl Jung.

“After insuring his life for 20,000 marks (then equivalent to about US$4,764) Freud took a train to Bremen to join Jung and Ferenczi a day before boarding their ship. Hosting a farewell lunch, Freud ordered wine. Jung, a teetotaler, didn’t want any but at Freud’s insistence agreed to have a drink. Curiously, after Jung capitulated and drank, Freud fainted.”*

On the voyage across the Atlantic Dr. Ernest Jones, Freud’s leading British disciple and later his biographer wrote that “the 3 companions analyzed each other’s dreams — the 1st example of group analysis…”

Before setting sail Freud, a collector of antiquities, confided that all he wanted to see was the Metropolitan Museum’s Cypriot collection and Niagara Falls. While in New York the three compatriots also saw their first moving picture.

Although Freud was impressed by the following he had in the United States, enjoyed a long walk and talk with the dying William James, and received the only academic honorary degree he ever received, he hated the food that inflamed his already bad prostate; thought women led American men by the nose; was discomfited by American women, admitting they kept him awake at night, giving him erotic dreams about prostitutes; and disliked not being understood in German.

“Freud died still believing, as he had once remarked, that tobacco was the only excuse for Columbus’ great mistake in discovering America.”

* “Dr. Freud Visits America” from The People’s Almanac by Irving Wallace, © 1975 – 1981 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace.

— http://www.trivia-library.com/a/freud-in-america-part-5-feelings-about-america.htm

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The Master-Slave Relationship: More Kinship Than Cruelty?

The Paula Deen Implosion

I have mostly ignored the Paula Deen implosion. But a friend recently sent an email asking if I had seen her appearance at NY City’s October 2012 Wine & Food Festival. While there she gave a videotaped interview with The New York Times Atlanta Bureau Chief and, months before her recent trials and tribulations, it would not have been too difficult to see the mindset that would eventually get her into trouble.

Deen goes into some of her family history with a story of how her great-grandfather “was devastated” after the Civil War. He had lost his son and the war and “didn’t know how to deal with life, with no one to help operate his plantation. You know there was 30 something [35, actually] people on his books” [euphemism for “slaves owned] and then the next year zero. He committed suicide. She goes on to say, “I feel like the south is almost less prejudiced because black folks played such an integral part in our lives, they were like our family.”

(Presumably she was not thinking of dysfunctional families like the one in Cleveland where Ariel Castro is alleged to have kept three women and his child by one of them in captivity, often chained.)

The real highlight and moment of revelation that told me Cholesterol Queen* Deen is largely clueless, like many of her peers, was when she called one of her black employees Hollis Johnson, up to the stage. “He’s black as that board” she said, pointing to the stage backdrop, adding “Come out here Hollis, we can’t see you standing against that dark board!” The audience began to laugh and Hollis came up on stage as Deen talked about him, “This is my son by another father.” He bent over and gave her a peck on the cheek as he departed.

The whole scene was one of those encounters where you feel mightily embarrassed for all the people on stage. Deen, apparently, has no clue to how 21st century race relations ought to be conducted. It was similar to being at a dinner party where someone begins telling racial or ethnic jokes in a mixed-race crowd. It just isn’t done. Period.

See the lengthy New York Times event video here. Go to minute time stamp 40:09 for a look at her learning about her great, great-grandfather’s slave ownership. For her interaction with Hollis Johnson see time stamp 46:07 — 50:07.

*To be fair Paula Deen says she does not advocate eating, on a daily basis, the style of food she has become known for.

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