New York Times food critic Frank Bruni talks about writing about food, but could be talking about writing about wine.
Too often, those of us who swim deeply in the food culture of the moment give the impression that every dining choice made is a deeply considered one, that life is a series of carefully researched, freighted judgment calls about the content, and destination, of every single meal. But is life really lived that way? Can it ever be? Do any of us really have the time or energy (or budget) for that?
I know I don’t. And as often as not, when I wrap up a day on the road around 9:00 p.m., I’m tired enough or eager enough for a solitary moment or interested enough in NOT thinking so hard about eating and food that I just get room service, or plop myself on a bar stool at a restaurant that I select spur-of-the-moment, or do something along those lines. I make a deliberate decision NOT to deliberate too much.
Good wine demands attention and respect. Tasting tires me out. I always considered that a weakness rather than a human frailty until the end of last Winter’s Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. We’d been tasting and focusing on wine and eating extraordinary food for five days. (I know; it sounds like a nightmare.) The last morning — let me emphasize again: morning — we tasted 60 Chardonnays and 60 Cabernets.
When I was done I begged out of a nice lunch offer and drove my rental car instead to Taylor’s Refresher in St. Helena for a burger and chocolate shake. Looking around the picnic tables in back of Taylor’s I saw a half-dozen other Symposium participants, wine writers burned out on perfectly paired food and wine, chowing down on burgers and fries.
One of the things I’ve learned hanging around the periphery of the wine business for the last 18 months is that wine is work. I guess I should have known that. Things that look like fun to non-participants are often not that much fun in practice. I’ve been a writer my whole career and every time anyone says to me, “Oh, that must be fun,” I remind them of Hunter Thompson’s reply to similar enthusiasm: that while sex may be fun for amateurs, old whores don’t do much giggling.
I tease wine writers, once in a while, for taking wine too seriously. We would all do well to, as Mr. Bruni does when he gets tired of taking food seriously, order a carafe of the house red and focus on the friends we’re drinking with rather than what we’re drinking. That’s how most people approach wine, and it’s how we should, too, at least sometimes.
Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.