Re: that fucking wall

Anthony Bourdain wrote:

“Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs.” But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as a prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, probably, simply won’t do.

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.

So, why don’t we love Mexico?

We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dress up like fools and get passed-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.

In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in L.A., burned out neighborhoods in Detroit—it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead in Mexico, just in the past few years—mostly innocent victims. Eighty thousand families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.

Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness. Its archeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivaled anywhere. And as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime. It is in fact, old—older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention. The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation—many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe—have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling heights.

It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, and was there—and on the case—when the cooks like me, with backgrounds like mine, ran away to go skiing or surfing or simply flaked. I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them. To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North. I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand from their hands to mine.

In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather around a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious salsas, drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, and listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.

The received wisdom is that Mexico will never change. That is hopelessly corrupt, from top to bottom. That it is useless to resist—to care, to hope for a happier future. But there are heroes out there who refuse to go along. On this episode of “Parts Unknown,” we meet a few of them. People who are standing up against overwhelming odds, demanding accountability, demanding change—at great, even horrifying personal cost.”47180743_10161065587235514_5300303815826735104_n

Original Post by Samantha Rose on Facebook.

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April Wines

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La Perdrix is a Roussanne/Grenache Blanc from Nîmes that retails for $16.

The Cuvée Vincent is Côtes-du-Rhône 100% Syrah that retails for $19.

French map

I am addressing the next phase of my wine education by trying to learn where the wines I enjoy come from with an eye to elevation and soil.

Michelle Gibson, the owner, manager, former wine distributor and all around sweetheart at the Cork and Cow is always very informative if I know the correct question to ask.  But, my geography class was a very long time ago.

I found this map of France and have saved it so that I can have a peek at the topography of where the French wines I like come from.

French regions

The wine shop in Hillsborough has maps on the walls that I can use when I’m there and my iPad has begun traveling with me to Burlington.

March wine

My choice at the monthly wine club was 2 bottles of Oak Farm Vineyards Zinfandel from Lodi, California. The vineyard was installed in a place that had an oak grove and the owners refused to remove the trees in order to plant the grapes, thus, the name. The wine is aged in oak casks, too. This gives the wine a delightful and unexpected spiciness.  It retails for $20.

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Friday is usually “shopping in Hillsborough night” with a stop at the Hillsborough wine store for a taste and a glass followed by dinner and grocery shopping at the Weaver Street Market coop.  There is usually a distributor doing a little wine tasting at the coop, too.  So, between Tuesday at the Cork and Cow and Friday in Hillsborough, we have a nice range of opportunities to taste a lot of fermented grape juice.

Last Friday netted us 2 whites that are intended to go with mussels the next time we find them.

The Maz Caz is a 2016 French blend from Costieres de Nimes in the southeastern region near Marsailles made of 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Roussanne. We got that from the tasting table at the wine shop.  It retails for $19, but was on sale for $14 because it was part of the tasting.

Our second purchase was a surprising Muscadet that is absolutely not sweet and has a nice body. Château de l’Oiselinière is in the middle of the west coast southeast of Nantes. This one cost $11.

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December Club Wine

We are members of a wine club.  The wine bar we frequent has weekly wine tastings that cost $5/person for 4 tastes and a bite of cheese. Club members (and their significant other) don’t pay for the tastings. And the tasting the first week of the month is “club wines;”  you choose 2 bottles to take home.  Those tend to be in the mid- to upper teen$.   It saves us money by not paying for 8 tastings a month plus 2 bottles of wine.  It costs us for the additional glass of wine and snack we usually have when we go to a tasting.  I think everybody wins.

I am bad about remembering where we have gotten various wines.  So, I’m planning to try to remember to at least post our club wine selections here. I may run out of steam.  We’ll see.

This month we brought home 2 bottles of Shebang! Red from Sonoma, California.  It is “Mostly Zinfandel blended with Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Syrah, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Syrah, Barbera and a touch of whites for aromatics.” Thus, the Whole Shebang.  Cost at Cork and Cow is $16/ bottle, $7/glass.

Distilleries

Distilleries I have visited in 2017:

Fainting Goat Spirits in Greensboro, North Carolina (Lovely herbal gin and very smooth vodka)

Broad Branch Distillery in Winston Salem, North Carolina (The blueberry flavor of the Smashing Violet whiskey isn’t nearly as strong at the color suggests)

10th Ward Distilling Company in Frederick, Maryland (We brought home lovely applejack)

McClintock Distilling in Frederick , Maryland (We went to a party they hosted. The cocktails were lovely. We didn’t, however, bring any home.)

Dark Corner Distillery in Greenville, South Carolina (Tasting room, not the actual distillery. We brought home Mountain Peak Espresso flavored rum.)

Copperhead Mountain Distillery in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina (Brought home their “Scotch” which tastes more like Irish because there is no peat.)

Dragon Moonshine in Charlotte, North Carolina (I brought Apple Pie and Amaretto rums home.)

My liver may be in danger.

Time to eat!

The other day, I got to pondering the words we use for meals.  I was on my way to my favorite wine bar where I intended to have an early supper/late lunch and the fact that American’s don’t have a word for that meal got my brain spinning around the ways we talk about dining.

Breakfast, break fast, is just the first food of the day.   A light breakfast is light in weight and doesn’t usually last very long.  Toast, maybe an egg.  Granola.  Hot cereal like oatmeal that you can eat standing up.  A big breakfast has a load of protein and is meant to stick with you.  Frequently there are vegetables, too.  Potatoes in the form of hash browns. Sliced tomatoes in the summer. Onions, peppers and mushrooms in the omelette.  Fruit on egg bread, waffles and pancakes.  A big breakfast isn’t a meal that you grab as you run out the door.

Brunch is a word that means garnish and, frequently, alcohol in your fruit juice.  Brunch is languorous.  It also means I’m not doing anything that takes effort before noon.

Lunch is the middle of the day meal.  Big lunch means you will wish for a nap, later.  Lunch happens anywhere from 11 AM to 3 PM.

Supper is the evening meal.  Dinner is the biggest meal that is not breakfast.  So, lunch or supper could be dinner.   Sunday dinner is almost always lunch.  But, a work day dinner is usually supper.

So, the question that came to my mind was “what is the afternoon equivalent of brunch?”  Turns out, it’s afternoon tea.  My Canadian friends tell me that tea is served around 3:30 or 4:00, there is tea to drink and something light to eat.    We chuckled over a young acquaintance who had fussed at her sister to “eat your tea.”  But, I think I want to adopt that usage.  It’s a handy definition. And while a cream tea is one that includes jam and clotted cream in the snacks, I think a wine tea may become my occasional earlier-than-supper afternoon meal.

And, according to my English friend, high tea is a heavy meal served as workers come in from their labors ready for serious eats.  I expect it comes from afternoon tea that waited a little too long and needed to be more filling since you were ravenous by the time you finally got have food.

Another word I am going to adopt is “fika.” It is a Swedish word and it means to have coffee and a bite and a chat with friends.  It is a thing I love and now have a word for.  It is not time specific.  It is activity specific and it an activity I enjoy immensely.


Addendum:

I learned another meal word from my Spanish friend.   “In Spain, there is an actual meal between lunch (which for them is always the largest meal of the day), and dinner, which is a lunch-sized portion late in the day, like 8 or 9 pm. I was always offered this meal, each day, even in the hospital! “Merienda”. It corresponds to the “tea” idea, but without mentioning tea. Coffee or tea might be offered, or beer or wine, and deli slices, bread, cookies, fruit. Oh, it happened around 5 pm. Very confusing.”

Portrait of a marriage

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This is gorgeous, rich, lovely mousse. It is made from avocados and organic cocoa. You know. Healthy stuff. 🙂

One of us skims from the top, slivers, slices, layer by layer. And the plastic protector is stretched across the top without risking the loss of any of the tasty, tasty treat.

The other one eats in from the edge and covers the part that is being saved for tomorrow (because it is very rich and luscious) with plastic wrap that is tucked in, blanket-like, around the little mound of delight.

This is us.