Family Tradition

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This month’s wine writing challenge is Traditions, and I can’t think of a better way to honor tradition than to tell you how I got into drinking wine. Really drinking wine, that is–not the sneaking sips out of everyone’s glass when nobody was looking drinking wine…

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Picture it: Holland 1994 (and before you write in correcting me that it should be The Netherlands, please know that I lived in the province of Zuid-Holland, so…Holland).  I was a Rotary International exchange student. Even though “no drinking” was one of the five major rules of being an exchange student, I had the great fortune of having host families who took that to mean no excessive drinking when they were not around. Nearly every evening meal included libations of some sort (beer was an equally popular choice). My counselor’s family preferred beer and sweet sherry. My first host family loved white wines, especially white Burgundies.  My second host family prided itself on serving the appropriate drink for whatever dish or course, such as the occasion required. For the record, I never appreciated this until our 12-course Christmas dinner, with–oh yes!–12 different wines and apperifs! But it was my third family who taught me about wine and thus, my third host family is why we’re here today.

When it came to wine, my third host family only drank two kinds: Champagne and wine from the Rioja. My first night in the house, my host father took me to the wine cellar and asked me to pick something to drink with dinner.

I was at a loss. First of all, I am from a family of beer and whiskey drinkers. The wine drinkers (at least when I was growing up), leaned heavily towards the sweet stuff and I certainly didn’t see anything that looked like it was sweet. Secondly, I was wracking my brain to remember everything my second host mother lectured me about in terms of pairing wine with food, but I COMPLETELY forgot to ask what was for dinner. However, both of those were trumped by my awe of staring at the most wine I’d ever seen in my life outside of a wine or liquor store.

Uhhhhhh……

Uhhhhhh……

Uhhhhhh…..

Finally, I grabbed the nearest bottle to me and held it up for inspection. Hmmm…it was red and from Spain and I was quite sure I wouldn’t like it, but I was committed to my choice.

I held it high, like a trophy I had proudly won!

My host father asked why I picked that one.

I hung my head and lowered the bottle.

Ik weet het niet.

I don’t know. I shrugged, he chuckled, and we went back upstairs with my prize bottle, where he made me open it so it could decanteren.  What?  So it could…what?  More chuckling.

Breathe!  It needs to breathe!

At this moment, I was starting to panic that I selected a $300 bottle of wine.  My host mother sensing my panic, assured me that I made a good choice, as it was the house favorite and not to worry, she was sure they still had 5 or 6 cases left.

I’m sorry, 5 or 6 what?  Yes, yes, I knew what a case was, but the thought that anyone would have multiple cases of wine at one time and then have numerous cases of THE SAME WINE…and then to think to that they had a particular amount left, but not even be sure?!?

I was stunned.  I was flabbergasted.  I.WAS.SPEECHLESS!

My host father decided that he would take me under his wine wing and teach me all there was to know about wine.  He and my host mother patiently answered a plethora of questions about wines and grapes and buying and collecting and serving and tasting and on and on until finally I asked about their wine room and how they kept it so well stocked.

Oh you know, we make a trip to Spain every year.

He said it with such aplomb and nonchalance that I was picturing all of Europe flocking to the south to stock on on wine. I was–at that very moment–planning my move to the continent!

So you just drive the car to Spain, load up, and drive back?

Well, we stop in Champagne on the way back as well.

I’m sorry.  You drive the car to Spain, load up on wine, swing by Champagne buy a bit more and then come back?

HA HA HA HA…of course not.  We take a trailer, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.  That’s why we have the big BMW.

So let me get this straight.  You hook a trailer up to the car, drive to Spain, load up on wine.  Drive to Champagne, get more wine and then drive back?

More or less, yes.  We love Spanish wine–and well, who doesn’t love champagne?

You are certainly right about that [champagne].  Wait, wait, wait.  Start from the beginning, alstublieft.

Well, it started over 30 years ago–on our honeymoon.  We drove to Spain and just fell in love with the wines from Rioja.  On that trip we came back with a couple of cases of tempranillo, and since it was our honeymoon, we stopped in Champagne on our way back and got a few bottles of champagne as well.  We loved that trip so much, we decided it would make a great yearly trip.  So, every spring on our anniversary we would get in the car and head to Rioja for wine.  Soon it became our little tradition.  Every year , however, we came back with more and more wine.  Finally, we just stopped pretending and stressing about getting it to fit in the car and bought a trailer.  Of course then we needed a bigger car to be able to pull it back through the mountains.  Now there’s no stress, a lot of room and we are able to purchase enough delicious reds, whites, and bubbly for the whole year, and in the process, get a vacation.  Beautiful country, beautiful wife, beautiful wine–life doesn’t get any better than that.

No…no, it certainly does not.

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Easy as ABC…

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Now that you have The Jackson Five playing background music in your head, I have a confession.  You know those silly/annoying emails that circulate every couple of years in which you answer questions about yourself?  Yeah, I’m one of those annoying people who not only fills them out, but sends them to nearly everyone in my email address book.  I’m a details kinda girl and I love collecting tidbits of information about people.  Who knows what you might learn about your friend that you’ve had since the 2nd grade or some great blackmail information on the annoying coworker 4 desks down?

A couple of months ago I saw a getting to know you post in the format below.  It’s been a long time since I filled one out (probably because everyone on my email list has a secret pact with each other to NEVER EVER send me another!).  Aaaaand it is different than any other that I’ve seen, so I thought I’d give it a go!

How is it different?  Why, thank you for asking: rather than answer questions, you simply list (although WARNING: I never list–I always have to explain!) 26 interesting things about you, each item starting with a letter in the alphabet.  While I’m horrible at explaining, I know that you’re brilliant and by the time you get to “A,” you’ll have it figured out!

One last thing before I begin: individuals did not make this list.  So if you are just reading this in search of your name stop right now and go back to work, uh, I meant lunch.  Don’t pout–invariably I’d leave someone out and then I have to endure years of guilt trips.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  And honestly, how am I supposed to pick between Bubba and beer?  Although, actually that’s rather easy because I’m 250% sure that Bubba (aka my brother) would agree it should be beer.

Now, back to the task at hand.

The ABCs of Shez:

A is for Addy, my darling pupcicle (you know, in case you weren’t aware that I had a darling pupcicle whom I adore!)…and before you call me out on it, yes, I broke the “No Individuals” rule, but it’s the ONLY time I promise.

B is for Beer…mmmmmm….beer (I hope you heard that in a Homer Simpson voice!).  I don’t think that needs further explanation.  Plus you should have seen it coming.

C is for coffee.  Again, no further explanation is needed, especially those who have had the “pleasure” of seeing me in the morning before coffee–it ain’t purty!

D is for dogs.  Pupcicles are special because they bring so much love and joy into our lives–in so many ways.  Of course, it ain’t all sunshine and roses, particularly when you live in NYC and have to pick up poop for a very large dog.  But they make our lives whole with their amusing antics and unconditional love.  PS–if you’re wondering how much I love dogs, I picked them over dessert!  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!

E is for Eso se que es, which literally translated is confusing so I like to go with the loose translation of “it is what it is” and whenever I say it, people look at me like “did you just say socks in the middle of my rant?”  No, but yes.  Anyway, it is a reminder that life is bigger than all of us and that any time you think everything is perfectly mapped out, the Fates will take the opportunity to intervene so they can laugh at you.  Thus to keep sane, I like to remind myself of three things: eso se que es, que sera sera, and Lord give me coffee to help me change the things I can, and wine to help accept the things I can’t.

F is for FOOTBALL!

G is for Grace.  By that, I don’t mean elegance or beauty or charm.  Did I mention I was clumsy?  Well, I am.  I come by it honestly (right Auntie K??).  As such, my Ome would always call me Miss Grace (as in, I am anything but).  To this day whenever I hear the word grace, I think of my Ome.

H is for Hamburgers.  Preferably ones with cheese and bacon and avocado and served with onion rings….but any ol’ burger with cheese will do! 😉

I is for Ice cream.  And anyone who doesn’t think it should be on EVERYONE’S list is just wrong.

J is for Jigsaw puzzles.  I love to put them together–although I haven’t put one together in a long time.  Why?  Well, whenever I find one that I love and makes me want to set up a card table and put it together, I remember that I live in a house with Princess Adelaide Grace, who is so named because like me, she is anything BUT graceful…

K is for Kaas (Dutch for cheese).  I couldn’t leave cheese off the list, thankfully the Dutch helped me out a bit.  And before you accuse me of using Google Translate to find a language where cheese started with a different letter than C, I will have you know that I was a Rotary Exchange Student to The Netherlands.  How does this relate to cheese?  I used to live about 6 miles from Gouda and would go on Thursdays to the cheese market…because…how can you go wrong with a cheese market???

L is for Laughter, because it truly is the best medicine–unless you have TB or malaria or something like that, then I would highly recommend medication.

M is for Molasses cookies, my favoritest cookies in the world!

N is for Nelson, as in Willie (and Waylon and the boys).

O is for Oven–I love baking and roasting and I can go without a lot of things, but an oven ain’t one of them!

P is for Peckish.  For most people, it means slight hungry.  But I’m never slightly hungry, so when you hear me say peckish know that it means “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider, but I don’t want you to think me gluttonous, so I’m going to just pretend that I’m kinda hungry and then either eat all of the snacks you foolishly set out or go back for seconds and thirds when we do eat.”

Q is for quixotic, which is just fun to say…quixotic, quixotic, quixotic!

R is for reading and don’t ask me to pick a favorite book.  I’m still trying to narrow my list down to 10 so I can post it on FB (and we’ll just pretend I wasn’t tagged to do it a month ago…sorry Becca!)

S is for Shiner…and failing that, Stella (and don’t tell me it’s cheating because I’ve already listed beer…it’s MY list!)

T is for Tolkien.  You thought it would be TEXAS! didn’t you?  I just wanted to share a line in a poem in Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, which completely sums up my life:  All those who wander are not lost.  I do hope, though, that you appreciate that I was still able to work TEXAS! into the T slot 😉

U is for umbrellas.  I totally have Mary Poppins to thank for my love of umbrellas.  Ironically, I hate using them in NYC.  People here are oblivious when using them and tend to poke other people in the head, repeatedly until I feel an urge to grab the umbrella out of their hands and give them a good smack with it.  I refrain, of course, but I know that I’m one huge rainstorm away from needing bail money.

V is for vino.  What?  It’s a word.  It is in my house….and that’s all that matters.

W is for wanderlust.  The reason wine is called vino in this list.  Traveling is truly my passion.  Even more so than eating and drinking.  Luckily, I consider imbibing in the local food and drink an integral part of traveling!  I was bit by the wanderlust bug when I went to The Netherlands (see K is for Kaas) right after high school–and I have no plans to stop any time soon and “I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list.”

X is for Xi, which is one of my favorite words to play in Words with Friends.

Y is for Yoga, something I’ve recently started doing.  Who knew stretching and finding on your inner zen could be so draining?  Please don’t write in and tell me yoga is more than stretching and finding your inner zen.  I know it is, but when you’re watching others it looks so relaxing and graceful.  I’m here to tell you for me it is neither relaxing nor graceful, but I do enjoy blundering through class–even if I look like a bull in a china shop.

Z is for zazzy.  And yes, you have to say it like Sheldon.  And if you need further explanation, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore (if you’re worried about it, I can totally be bought with wine, beer, and cheese….but not crappy cheese–if you’re trying to bribe me, it had better be aaaaaaa-mazing cheese!).

And that’s me in a nutshell!

For the record, this was a lot more tedious than I thought it would be, so not as easy as the Jackson Five would have you believe!

Thanks for indulging me!

hey mom are you done with the stupid laptop yet?

hey momma are you done with the stupid laptop yet?