“Good food and wine make good friends.” (Steve Winston, The Spanish Table). Where wine is appreciated, it has the potential to contribute to the good things of life: attentiveness to quality in food and quality in relationships.
Over and over again my wife and I have witnessed the magic of this trio of food, wine and friends. We have basked in relational richness as the people assembled lend attentiveness to the food at hand, to the ingredients, to the wine being served. Here –for a few hours– the world is a better place, wine does its magic and the hard edge of daily responsibilities, mistakes and fears gradually take back seat to face-to-face communication, sensory delight, and the truth of just being. In other words, the trio of food, friends and wine, helps humanize us. I suspect that’s why most (but not all) biblical references to wine are positive and in the context of celebration. Wine obviously has naturally occurring alcohol but stands apart from beer, coolers and spirits, among other ways, in pace and manner of consumption. Wine is a cornerstone of authentic “slow-food.” Wine is intended to be about savouring –the notion of “knocking back” or “having a shot” of wine doesn’t really work.
I think that healthful consumption of wine has the potential to challenge the abuse of alcohol and food. And abuse there is.
Pain and Alcohol
Escape, numbing and fear are destructive reasons for consuming any alcoholic beverage. Sadly, for some, alcohol is associated with pain – pain inflicted on them by immature alcohol use. Hear the silent cries of young women who have been date raped in the context of alcohol. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. Or ask Bill, as I did one day at a friend’s wedding reception. For the celebration the bride and groom carefully chose a beautiful red wine from the south of France and an equally satisfying white wine from Spain; a bottle of each was set for guests at the reception tables (It was encouraging to see as much thought put into the calibre of wine as into the food at this important event). I was pouring for the people at our table and Bill said “No thanks, not for me”. I enquired as to why. Bill told of how as a small boy, his farming parents from rural Saskatchewan would decide to party from time to time in the local town while the kids would be left in the car – sometimes for hours. Anything to do with alcohol triggers Bill’s memories from all those years ago – long hours fighting winter’s cold in the back of a car with his siblings.
I often wonder how many people are crippled or brought early to their graves through the consumption of poor quality convenience food and/or too much of it. We eat out of boredom or anxiety and we eat badly: heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and cancer all point to a problem with our food intake. Saskatchewan is a vast agricultural tract that was settled a century ago with the conviction that it could become the breadbasket of the nation and much of the world. The reality is now different: Chemically processed convenience foods, GMO radiation-altered grains and corns and greens are the norm. These pseudo-foods are usually processed and packaged outside of our province and shipped to stores here, and that’s how we eat. Widespread food amnesia has set in. Most citizens of this agriculturally rich province have no idea of how to grow a carrot or potato.
Good wine from around the world is the juxtaposition of farming and art; wine calls out to true and healthy food. The more attentive your senses are to the aromas and flavours of good wine, the more you will grow restless with chemicalized convenience food in supermarkets and restaurants. You may start eating more healthily. Wine also calls out to sharing and people gathered, people attentive to each other.
And so with friends and food, we raise a glass of wine to our health.