New York Times bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver has written a book entitled "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." It chronicles her family's resolve to eat seasonally and locally in order to reduce their collective carbon footprint and to be more in touch with the world around them.
In this enlightening text she recounts a jaw-dropping story of a neighbor's son who watched her husband pull a carrot out of the ground in their vegetable garden.
How did you get that in there, the boy wanted to know. Barbara's husband explained about root vegetables and asked if the boy could think of another root vegetable.
After a long and thoughtful pause, the young boy said, "spaghetti."
Our pre-packaged food system has divorced society from knowing that beef is cow, that blueberries grow on bushes and that turnips grow underground. Many of our beverages are made in factories from chemicals too long to pronounce.
Most of our foodstuffs spend far too much space telling you what's not inside: no trans fats, no saturated fats, no GMOs, no artificial colorings or flavorings. Now with reduced salt. Now with reduced sugar.
A dietitian once confided to me over a glass of wine: "If you want to live a long and healthy life, shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That's where you find fresh produce, meat, poultry, fish and dairy. Don't go down the aisles."
A mortician once confided to me over a glass of wine: "Did you know that our slab time (the amount of time we have before we start to decompose) has increased due to the amount of preservatives we ingest?" Seeing my face, he added wickedly, "Some of us will never rot."
Ok, so maybe that is an exaggeration on his part, but it makes you think about the old adage: You are what you eat.
There was a time in history when water was riddled with cholera, typhus and dysentery bacteria. Water killed. No wonder French chemist Louis Pasteur commented, "Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages."
The overwhelming majority of all the wine made is made from grapes. Wine is the end product of fermented grape juice. Most of what is bottled has some sulfur added to prevent microbial spoilage, browning and oxidation. But that's the only additive…and it's an element of the earth.
Wine is a seasonal item, made just once a year after the grapes ripen. Unlike grain-based beer or spirits whose base ingredients can be stored after harvest and put into production when needed, wine has a once-a-year production window.
Most wines are marked with a vintage date. The wine inside the bottle reflects a growing season that is captured in time allowing people to connect to the world around them in a freeze-frame way. Grapes. Place. Time. It all gets rolled into one liquid message.
Vintages have more meaning than Parker wine scores. They reflect a solar calendar as transformed by chlorophyll into flavors in the glass.
And here's the best part: Every year is different, so the wines are too. If you cellar wines, this allows you to re-live a growing season. Time travel is a wonderful option/opportunity. Imagine doing this at the kitchen table with nothing more than a corkscrew and a wine glass. No spaceship or quantum physics needed.
I'm always hunting for 1986 Madeira, Port or Armagnac. My daughter was born that year. It was the year of Halley's comet. So my "little one" will be 76 when it next comes a callin'. I want her to be able to open a bottle of wine made in the year of her birth while watching that chunk of celestial rock complete its circumnavigation of the sun…again.
Does anyone experience the same sort of "wow" popping the top of a can of soda?