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A jug of wine

Food for Thought

I was strolling down the wine aisle in the supermarket, looking for my old standby, Blue Nun Riesling, which I have always thought was just right to serve with that Thanksgiving turkey. (Or any other turkey, for that matter.)
It used to be an easy bottle to spot, for it was the only blue wine bottle in the whole store. (About the only other things I remember being consistently sold in blue glass were Vicks Vap-O-Rub and Phillips Milk of Magnesia.) But, things have changed.
My, how they’ve changed! There were plenty of blue bottles, but not one of them the familiar brand I was looking for. Well, I thought, I’ll look for one that’s made in Germany, the Germans seem to understand Riesling as well as anybody. There were still several choices left to me, not one of them familiar. Then, I spied one with a picture of a jolly man wearing lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat. How charming. I’d give that one a try.
On my way home, I began mulling over some of the familiar quotes about wine I’ve heard for most of my adult life.
Probably most familiar was, “a book of verses underneath the bough / a loaf of bread, a jug of wine— and thou” from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.”
Then came “wine, women and song”. Where had that come from? My thesaurus provided several versions attributed to a bunch of different people; most of whom lived at least a century ago.
And they didn’t all agree on how they felt about that trio.
Johann Heinrich Voss wrote appreciatively, saying, “Who does not love wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.”
But Robert Burton, who wrote about 75 years before Voss, had different views of wine and women, though he didn’t seem to have such definite views about song. He insisted that, “the two main plagues and common dotages of human kind, wine and women, which have infatuated and besotted myriads of people; they go commonly together.”
Not very flattering for a woman to read, especially since it seems pretty evident that, by “human kind” and “people” he meant specifically “men.”
I noted that Burton, who lived from 1577 to 1640, also was responsible for a few more familiar quotes that have survived for four centuries or so. It seems he was responsible for the phrase, “Penny wise and pound foolish,” as well as, “Birds of a feather will gather together,” and “No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.”
I have to admire him for coining those statements that have remained valid for so long, but wish he hadn’t been so down on wine and women. Neither of us is inherently bad for people (men, to Mr. Voss), it all depends on how wisely the men treat us, I think.
Discounting a plethora of country and western songs and a few things Frank Sinatra might have sung late in the evening in a dimly lit nightclub, I can’t think of any modern quotes about wine and women, let alone wine, women, and song.
I do think that wine has risen above its undeserved bad reputation in modern times.
Some doctors tell us that it, in moderation, is actually good for us and I know for a fact that it is a real ally in the kitchen. A few spoons full of wine in just about any dish you prepare can improve it by blending flavors in a way that can otherwise only be simulated by long, careful cooking. That bottle of dry Vermouth, that once lasted for months because so little of it is necessary to make a good martini, really improves nearly everything from soups and stews, to sauces and desserts, to roasts and casseroles, and it takes so little of it because of all the good herbs that are incorporated in it.
It saves a lot of digging through the spice drawer and measuring out dashes and pinches of different things. And for those who avoid alcoholic beverages, remember that the cooking quickly evaporates the alcohol and leaves only the flavors behind.
I have also learned that white port wine is an effective preservative for a number of things that we don’t want to cook or freeze in order to preserve them. Those fresh, little, hot peppers can be preserved by simply removing the stems and seeds, placing them in jars, covering them with the wine and storing them in the refrigerator. The wine takes on the flavor of the peppers and can be used as a seasoning itself.
One of the best uses I’ve found for it, though, is in making pickled herring. The fish and onions can be pickled in salt, then preserved with spices in white port wine in the refrigerator. I don’t know how long it keeps because it always gets eaten up right away.