Friday, October 28, 2011

Wine for Creatures of Habit

My father recently suggested that in this blog, I spend more time on food and wine pairings and less time on "psychic revelations about my youth".

This suggestion caused me to ponder....which caused me, of course, to have a psychic revelation...

I am so used to the way I write this blog, it is a kind of ritual, so to speak. And it made me think of how much we, and other animals, are creatures of habit.

I brush my teeth the exact same way, every time. I have a specific way i wash my face, put on my various creams and hair products, put on my make-up, and if I try to do these things in a different order, I inevitably forget one of the items, like blush, or the eyeliner on one of my eyes, and I wind up looking a bit...odd.

If Steve and I go to Half Moon Bay, one of our favorite places in this area, we always go to the same place and do relatively the same thing. One day Steve suggested going to a different beach, and i immediately felt agitated. "But...but...that's not what we DO!!"

Our puppy Tuco, is, we realized recently, even more of a creature of habit than we are.

On the weekdays, Steve gets up around 6am, takes Tuco out for a pee, and gives him his breakfast. Then he puts Tuco back in his crate and leaves for work.

What Tuco doesn't understand is the concept of a weekend. So even though Steve doesn't need to wake up at 6am on Saturday and Sunday, right around that time, Saturday and Sunday, there goes Tuco, barking away to the sound of his interior alarm clock, telling us it's time to give him his breakfast and take him out. Because that is what we normally do every day.

The same goes for the ritual around actually eating his food. As soon as Tuco hears the sound of a Tupperware container being opened, or the sound of his metal bowl on the counter, he comes running into the kitchen, where he lies on the floor and waits for his meal.

Once we have finished preparing the food, we have him go into his crate and lie down, then we say "OK!" and he runs out, and either sits on his mat or goes right to the place-mat, depending on where we have put his food.

Then he eats, and when he has finished, we give him an extra lick of food off the spoon, and out of the measuring cup. Then mealtime is over.

The other night, Steve was already asleep, and I started to prepare Tuco's lunch for the next day, thinking it would be fine since he'd already had his dinner. Boy, was I wrong.

The second he heard that Tupperware open, there he was, by my side, staring up at me with those eyes. I tried to ignore him, figuring he would remember he'd already eaten and go back to snoozing in his bed.

I finished preparing his food, put everything away, put Tuco in his crate, and tried to get in bed.

Tuco went berserk. I was violating every part of the ritual...this is not how we do things!!! What was I doing??!!

OK, I thought, I'll give him one of his little frozen treats in his crate, and after he eats that, he'll go to sleep. Wrong again. As soon as he finished that treat, the barking started again.

And that was when I realized it wasn't about the act of eating; it was about all of the rituals we do surrounding the eating. Those were what he needed to do.

So that's what we did. I let him out of his crate, and then I had him go back in. Then I said "ok" and he ran out, and I gave him the tiniest bite of food, let him lick the spoon, and put him back in his crate. Where, perfectly contented, he went to sleep, ritual completed.

The final one I'll mention is our trips to Peet's coffee. There is a Peet's a couple of blocks from our house, and almost every day we walk Tuco there, sit outside with him and enjoy a drink. He loves going there. He skips ahead as we get closer, head up, and beelines straight for an outside table.

The problem comes when we try to walk him on a different route, or indeed, try to take him somewhere other than Peet's. He knows the different routes to get there, and if he senses we are not going that way, he will lie down and refuse to move. Be it in the middle of the sidewalk, or the middle of an intersection, he will lie down and not budge, so your options are to pick him up, drag him across the pavement like a sack of potatoes, tempt him with irresistable treats, or turn around and walk toward Peet's.

I have tried them all, with varying degrees of success. I have run ahead of him with an open can of baby food, which is effective but messy; and I have pulled him, but people look at you strangely when you walk around dragging a limp dog behind you, and I have tried to pick him up, but often he just lies down luxuriantly and waits to have his belly rubbed, which is very cute to the passing motorists who laugh at me stuck there in the middle of the road with my prone pup, but a bit frustrating for me.

So often, he wins, and we head over to Peet's. It is, after all, what we do.

My wine for Creatures of Habit is a 2005 Skipstone Ranch Oliver's Blend red wine blend from
the Alexander Valley, CA.

A relatively new winery, the 2005 was their inaugural vintage, and is a Bordeaux blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot.

This wine is ripe and fruity, but not overly so, with beautiful black and red fruits along with earth and spice. What is so nice about this wine is its round plush mouthfeel and balance. Neither alcohol, acid nor tannins shout out to be heard. Instead they all work together.

A while back, at the restaurant, we had a delicious venison dish, with a dried cherry sauce. I think it was cherry, there may have been some other berries in there too. But the sauce was kind of sweet and fruity, and that is what I would want to eat while drinking this wine.

However, since i can count on no hands the number of times I have had venison with cherry sauce in my own home, I would also just drink this wine by itself. With Steve.

It's kind of what we do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wine for Why I Can't See the Movie Contagion, Part Two

I think my obsession with cleanliness really took hold when I lived in Brooklyn. One trip on the NYC subway should be enough to male anyone want to take a Silkwood shower.

First there are the close quarters in each individual subway car. Especially at peak travel times, there is not a sneeze or a cough that is not shared by one and all.

Then there are the poles on each subway car, which you have to hold onto when there are not enough seats to go around. These poles are invariably greasy and slimy, and do you know why? It's because many people have sneezed into and/or licked their hands and then gripped these poles. You and I then get on the subway, grasp these same poles, and then hop off the subway and get a bagel, which we, of course, eat with the self-same hands that have just been touching the Ebola pole.

Add to this the fact that I once saw a man cutting his toenails on a subway car, and you can understand why my ideas of what was clean suddenly changed drastically after time in NYC.

People sometimes think it is odd that I don't wear shoes inside my house, and that I ask visitors to remove their shoes as well. I was raised in a house where we didn't wear shoes inside, so for me it has always been the way things are, but I continue to do it, because when I lived in NYC and walked around those streets, I realized how much disgusting matter was on those streets, and how much of it probably adhered to my shoes.

When I thought about how, if I walked into my bathroom with those filthy shoes, I was transferring that filth to my clean bathroom floor and then stepping in that dirt when I was nice and clean from the shower, I vowed to never wear shoes in the bathroom or house again.

Have I taken it too far? Probably. Especially when you consider that once you start really thinking about the nature of dirt, germs and transference, the realization hits that nothing is ever really and truly clean.

And there is mounting evidence to show that all of this cleanliness, and use of anti-bacterials is in fact creating stronger and stronger bacteria and viruses and weakens our immune systems.

But even though I know this, I also know that, were I to sit through a movie which spends two hours focusing on the minute and insidious ways in which germs spread and transfer, with disastrous results, I would be unable to resist the temptation to carry Clorox wipes with me wherever I go, and wipe down every one and every thing I come in contact with.

And let's face it, that might just be perceived as odd.

My Wine for why I can't see the movie Contagion, Part II, is not a wine at all, but rather a recipe for macerated strawberries.

I bought some beautiful organic strawberries from Trader Joe's the other day, and I took a few handfuls of them and cut them in quarters.

I put them in a bowl and added half a tablespoon of super-fine sugar, a tablespoon and a half of Cointreau and a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh mint.

I mixed it all up and covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

They are absolutely delicious, goo enough to just gobble up with a spoon. Or, my favorite, spooned over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

a flavor that is sweet, refreshing and, of course, clean.