Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Toasting the Wonder Bread of Wine

I've said pretty much everything there is to say about Thanksgiving in previous blogs and columns (like here, and here) so this year I will focus on the REAL symbol of the holiday: Georges Duboeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau. Sure, it's a crappy wine in a tacky bottle, but similar to cranberry sauce (both in taste and color), it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

The gimmick is that the wine is the first of the harvest and vintage. In fact, it's so fresh, in order to have it on store shelves in time for the holiday, the first shipment has to be sent over by plane, which adds a couple bucks to the price. You can get the exact same bottle for $5 less a week later when it arrives on our shores via boat. But where's the fun in that?

Plus, like I said, the wine itself is crap. A glorified fruit juice that just so happens to get you drunk. You don't have to be an oenophile to know that young wine is not a good thing, but that's Beaujolais Nouveau's claim to fame.  "We're first!" they proudly shout, which is much different than, "We're Number 1"  (although it does tastes like it!)

So why do I celebrate the day with bad wine? And how did it become my personal symbol of the holiday? To tell you the truth, I have no freaking clue! Much like how no one really likes fruit cakes or Hickory Farms gift baskets at Christmas, yet they still get them, this fruity wine winds up on my table every year. The only difference is I go out of my way to buy it (well not that far out of my way, as I'll already be at the package store buying lots of real wine and good beer, but you get the point.)

What you still don't get is why. And neither do I. It just somehow became a tradition. And like most good traditions, it defies logic. There's nothing rational about running around the house beating on a pot with a wooden spoon to ring in the new year, but we do. There's no real reason for hiding, and then trying to find, the Christmas Pickle ornament on the tree, but we do. And there's no point in putting out a bowl of mixed nuts still in the shell that no one ever eats, but we do it every year. Because it's tradition. It's what you do. Some are fun, and some are just done. But you have to do them because holidays without traditions are just...days.

Which may be why I mark this particular holiday by drinking a wine that is literally days old. When we toast to the days past, and to the days ahead, and drink to the times we've had and to the time we have, the unaged wine serves as a reminder that while things do get better with time, we need to appreciate the present as well. Even if it is overly sweet and fruity!


My favorite Beaujolais Nouveau story comes from Thanksgiving 2008. What happened was, after finding out in July that my wife was pregnant, I voluntarily gave up drinking as a sign of solidarity. At the time, I didn’t consider the calendar, which was a good thing, as I would have noticed that nine months starting in the middle of the summer would take me from the height of picnic season to Oktoberfest, and straight (literally) through the holiday season. But since I loved my wife, and don’t drink alone, it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal.  And it wasn’t. Much.

I made it all the way to Thanksgiving, where I was enviously watching my brother open "his" second bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau when my wife picked up his glass and took a sip.

“What was that?” I asked in disbelief.
“What? It was just a sip…”
“I know, but you’re drinking…”
“No. I took a sip.”
“Yes, but technically, you’re drinking. You just drank wine. And I said I wouldn’t drink until you could.”
“So? So you drank! That means I can too! Pass that bottle over here!”

Had this loophole not been discovered, I would have dutifully carried out my commitment through April. But once you open Pandora's Box, or bottle, it's hard to put a lid on it. Thus began a several months of me forcing my wife to sip off of things I wanted to drink. Sometimes I’d just dip my finger in a glass and touch it to her lips. So long as she imbibed first, I was in the clear!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Cativersary!

It's been one year since Steve the Cat showed up on our front porch, so in honor of our First Cativersary, I wrote the following poem:

You shed
and shred
and lay upon
my bed

You leave things 
that are dead 
in places you
know I'll tread

You puke up on the rug
and drink from Eli's mug
You give the plants a tug
and sound gross eating a bug

You sit on my knees
and make my wife sneeze
you bring in ticks and fleas
and gave us poison ivy

Your claws are lethal cutters
You're always licking butter
You chase anything that flutters
and ignore all of my mutters

Your nine lives are eight too many
and I've seen better tails on a penny
If it were up to me, we wouldn't have any
When it comes to pets, a goldfish would be plenty

But since my kids love you so much
I'll ignore the scratches on the hutch
But give my leg lamp another touch
and you'll be walking with a crutch!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Mitts are Coming Off!

I don’t have the voice of Bruce Springsteen. Or the oratory skills of Bill Clinton. Or the money of Bill Gates. Or even the talent of Danny Devito. I’m just a blogger with 76 followers, so unlike them, when I endorse Barack Obama, I know nobody’s listening.

Nor should they, as I know jack shit about politics! I don’t know the difference between the trade deficit and the federal deficit. I couldn’t tell you how a bill becomes a law without singing the Schoolhouse Rock song first. And up until ten minutes ago, I thought Medicaid and Medicare were the same thing.

So clearly I’m no expert on the election. But I need you to listen to me anyway and vote for President Obama.

And here’s why…

Four years ago, I was honesty afraid for our country. Banks were failing. Car companies were going under. Screenwriters were on strike! Not to mention the mortgage crisis and rice prices and all the major companies and institutions that were filing for bankruptcy. It was truly scary. I wanted to hoard food and build a shelter and move to Vermont, which is unusual, as I’m typically a very laid back person.  And even though I didn’t have any money in the market, or a home to buy, nor did I particularly care for rice, I still felt really stressed and anxious and concerned for my well-being.  With so much happening all at once, I couldn’t help but feel in a constant state of panic.

But I don’t feel that way anymore.  And I haven’t in quite awhile. Now, I’m not na├»ve enough to think that President Obama stepped in and saved the day like some sort of Superman. I know markets correct themselves, things happen in cycles, and pendulums swing both ways – but – I also know that during that terrible time, he gave me hope. I felt confident and comfortable with him in charge…and I use that term loosely, as I also know the president is not really in charge.

I see the role of president as being closer to a figurehead than a dictator. Certainly he (or she) has more executive powers than say Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles, but when it comes right down to it, the president still needs the approval of Congress (I think) and other legislative bodies in order to make any lasting decisions. So when we elect a president, what we’re really doing is choosing someone to serve as the face of our country and the embodiment of our values.

And while President Obama is much smarter, taller, and blacker than I’ll ever be, he is still the best representative of how I want to be perceived as a person and as an American. He’s real. He’s candid. He’s funny. And he loves his family (and who wouldn’t, with such a hot wife!) Mitt Romney and his little sidekick may have that all-American look, or at least the type popularized by all those 80’s movies about frat boys and jocks, but is that the image we really want to portray? Are they the people you really want representing you? Do you want us to be cast as bullies who look down on others and believe success is measured in dollars? Or do you want to be seen as intelligent, compassionate people who recognize that hard work pays off in more ways than one? 

I hope you see it my way and vote for Obama. I’m sure it’s cooler to obey The Boss, or the Bills, or even Danny Devito; all of whom are risking their reputations and fan bases with their support and endorsement of the president. But for me, the stakes are even higher.