Dinner: An Essay Sort of About Wine

When i was younger i imagined that i wanted to be a chef. i did all the things that aspiring chefs tend to do, cooked nonstop, experimented, bought knives i couldn’t afford, worked a series of low paying jobs in all manner of restaurants (including, to my credit, that job every restaurant worker should have: the dishwasher). Luckily for me i realized early enough (before the three failed marriages and drug addiction) that i wasn’t particularly good at cooking. This isn’t to say that i didn’t believe i could cook, i just wasn’t cut out for actually being a chef. i can’t micromanage time, i’m not organized, neat, or obsessive, and i burn myself with alarming frequency.

So instead i opted out and went to liberal arts school (which is a great entree into the non-job “blogger”) and traveled to France where i worked for a friend in a champagne vineyard where i discovered wine the drink, as opposed to wine the intoxicant. For awhile i stopped cooking, partially out of burnout and partially out of finances, but i kept spending too much money on good wine (or what i thought was good at te time, i want my hundreds of dollars back, zinfandel producers).

When i graduated from school i took a left turn and went into the meat-grinder world of videogame design, which seemed to me at the time was great job, but upon reflection it turned out to be a terrible decision. Eight hour days turned into twleve turned into sixteen turned into to twenty and beyond, to the point where i was often at work for days on end, napping on a couch. My health suffered as did everything around me. This is when i started cooking again.

On rare days off i would hunker down in front of a stove and cook. i returned to the basics, no fancy anything or trendy anything. Butter, lots of it, cream, lots of it, handfuls of salt. Butchering, stocks, pasta making (i still cannot for the life me make good gnocchi), sauces, scratch. It made me feel sane again after thirty six hours of debug (ask my wife, who thought i actually was losing my mind).

It was at this time that i started to take wine seriously as part of this process, not just as an incidental. i began to read up on my wine and try to get the art of pairing down, and i was getting it wrong. Reading up on pairing is a bad idea and i don’t suggest anyone ever does it. The thing is that it generally is in the form of: Cooking X? Then the Y in wine Z will match W flavor component of X. So i would go out and grab a bottle of Z and wonder exactly what the hell the author was talking about.

So i continued to cook and educate myslef in a haphazard way in regards to wine until i realized that the only way to get it right was to drink more, not read more, just like cooking is about practice and taste, so is wine. Many bottles found there way down the drain, and many more a part of an expensive sauce.

i began this blog at the height of this phase, where all i was doing was either working, shopping for wine, or cooking, but not much of the cooking has made it into my writing, a wrong i hope to right in this next year. the are connected and it’s impossible to separate, so even though i’m perhaps not the best person to write about food, i’m going to try. Starting now i’m going to blog more about something i’ve been doing for almost two years now, the sunday dinner (many of which take place on saturday). Every week i get together with people, sometimes wine friends, sometimes non-wine friends and i cook for hours, drink too much and wake up feeling bad. It’s how it should be and it’s such a shame that this has been lost by so many.

So, just pictures this week, pork butt braised in milk, boquerones with spinach and manchego and sherry mushrooms (all from Penelope Casas):



~ by Cory Cartwright on January 13, 2010.

5 Responses to “Dinner: An Essay Sort of About Wine”

  1. One hundred percent agree. Knowing the flavours of varietals, vintages and vineyards is the only way to pair food and wine. Climate plays such a huge factor in the development of the grape. Tasting is the key to understanding wines. Not just drinking, but really developing your palate through verbalizing your olfactory senses. By the way, I really like your blog. Oh, and I remember when we were about sixteen and you asked your parents for an omelete pan for Christmas. Enough said.
    Stay Gold,

    • I meant to say that you “asked your parents for an omelette pan.” Sorry, we’re halfway through a bottle of primitivo…..

  2. You seem to be back in your element, cooking, drinking wine, hanging with friends, learning all you can about wine, oh, and drinking more wine. I knew that around your 30th b’day you would be coming back to what you love to do. Congrats to you in all that you have accomplished and best wishes for what lies ahead in your future. Now to just work in the travel/wine aspect would make for a whole Cory again. Can’t forget to thank Em for sticking with you and being such a big Cory supporter. Now when are you going to write a cookbook and share all your recipes and knowledge of wine with us.

  3. I think every person in the world should have to spend at least one month as a dishwasher.

  4. Brilliant post, Cory. Love that 98 pink Tondonia, too.

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