Friday, September 2, 2011

Good For What Ails You

Where to begin? The two weeks since I last posted have been much of the same. Lots of feeling off balance and not quite sure where or when to drop my next step. Knowing that I am resting just beneath the skin that craves stimulation, touch, something, anything that makes my skin pull tight, my breath leave without my control…my groan rumble deep in the pit of empty that has been growling, begging to be fed.  Going through the motions as we all do when life grips its fingers on the plate we stand upon and gives it a fierce and hearty spin…find myself feeling like that five year that twists round and round only to find when I stop, things are still moving. My eyes trying to catch up and make sense or shape of what’s happening around me. Fucking August. I actually dug deep into the archives of this blog looking for something, a summer rerun to post and found that last year I was in the same kind of funk. Another maudlin post whining about the heat and how things just didn’t feel right…chose to spare the five of you that are waiting, (and sending me emails….you guys killed me yesterday by the way) from having to read that, again, hell I didn’t even want to read it again.

I would like to assure everyone that nothing tragic has befallen me. My health, marriage, family and job are all fine. Just seems that since the beginning of this summer something has been out of place; the husband has been traveling for work…a lot, staff members on vacations, friends that withdrew to handle their own inner strife, alone, Jeremy’s announcement that he will be away, further away, for longer and then the final blow, my Merritt leaving The Wine Country. I’m pretty flexible, can bend to fill in and adjust to most any situation but, well I think my elasticity was feeling a little brittle. Fragile and in need of some time where it wasn’t being pulled so fucking taut.  So I too withdrew a bit. Got lost in countless televisions shows and whatever movies happened to be on. Wasn’t really listening or watching mind you, just letting shit happen that didn’t require me to feel anything or react. 

Spent the days when I wasn’t working either moronically gazing at the humming box of flashing pictures or tucked into the corner of my couch, book stretched between my palms, dish of truffled almonds and glass of Fino Sherry at my side….all day. My nights were for tiptoeing out to my little stream, or slipping past the metal gate to the pool (which is almost always deserted after 9:30 PM)  where I would dip my feet into the still water, be captivated as the tiny disturbance gathered at my ankles and slowly, silently, spread across the length of the pool. Breathe out audible bits of frustration, releasing them has my feet, knees, thighs, hips, breasts and shoulders dipped in and out of water so creamy and warm that it made me feel like I was swimming in someone’s mouth. Somewhat entertained by my own crazy. Feeling this crushing amount of lonely and I find peace by being alone even more?! Whatever. On the walks back home from the pool, towel around my waist, jeans draped over my arm, hair drenched, flat against my scalp, dripping water down my back….the slapping of my still wet feet against the cement,sipping on a glass of whichever wine I chose to share my quiet time with….well, it felt kind of soothing. For a bit.

“Chicken soup. I’ll make a pot of chicken soup” I told myself as I walked into Vons last night. My husband is still away on business so a big pot of soup hadn’t really been on my radar much as of late but last night, it blipped on my screen and I made my way to the produce department to gather the standard fixings for the soup that literally changed my life fifteen years ago. It was upon tasting my mother in-law’s, (she wasn’t my mother in-law then) “fatty chicken soup” with the bottle of 1989 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicholas Francois, a bottle of Champagne I had brought to impress them, that I fell madly and completely in love with Champagne. It started that evening and I knew, just knew that I was in the right place working at The Wine Country and that my life would forever be changed by what was in my glass. That simple soup is anything but simple to me, it’s affirming.

Got the onion, carrots, celery and before I knew it my basket also contained cilantro, garlic lemon and ginger…what the hell? The soup has always been, carrots, (only two dammit. I took over the making of his mother’s soup when my husband started putting way too much carrot) onion, celery, a whole chicken, salt and pepper. Always. What the hell was this other junk doing in my basket? I actually uttered that aloud in the produce department there at the Vons which sent me scurrying off for the chicken and small shelled pasta, feeling like a fucking nut case. Didn’t put the unneeded ingredients back, just grabbed the rest of what I needed and headed home.

Dropped the grocery bags on the kitchen table, flipped on the music, changed out of my work shirt and made myself a gin and tonic before I started chopping. Got out the big soup pot, put it on the stove, twisted the knob until I heard the click and whoosh of the flame before covering the bottom of the pot with a glug of olive oil. Cutting board out, the clink of ice swimming around in my drink as I took a sip and I began pulling the veggies from the bags. Onion chopped into four pieces, check. Six stalks of celery roughly chopped, check. Two, only two, carrots also roughly chopped, check. Jalapeno?! When did I grab that? A shrug of my shoulders and it too was sent into the pot of sizzling and sweating veggies. Figured it couldn’t hurt to toss a few garlic cloves in and ripped a handful of cilantro from the bunch, whacked off a knob of ginger and swung my hips to Mary J. Blige, “Real love, I’m searching for a real love, someone to set my heart free, real love” as I plunked those into the pot of “whoever’s” chicken soup I was making. Chicken washed and waiting I grabbed the soy sauce, white wine and a half used carton of stock that was in the fridge. Cooled the veggies with a splash of both soy sauce and wine, scrapped the bits of brown from the bottom of the pot, plopped that big ass bird, (dude, seriously, chickens are like morbidly obese now a day) in the pot, emptied the stock carton and added water. As I grabbed the lid for my giant stock pot I looked at all the bits floating in the darker-than-normal liquid, wondering what the hell had come over me and I heard her voice. “Um, I love your blog”. 

A customer I had been ringing up and helping for years. Beautiful, blonde, gorgeous eyes full of sweetness and a voice that dripped honey as she spoke to us in her southern drawl. I was taken aback a bit as I never think our customers read my silly shit here but there she was, a long time customer telling me that not only did she read it, she liked it. I felt the little hairs on my arms stand tall and my cheeks begin to feel flush as she, almost embarrassingly, told me that I should write a book. I was bagging her wines and I found myself trying not to make eye contact, awkward for a moment and I wasn’t sure why then she said, “I feel like I know you” that was when I looked up to see, through my own watering eyes, that hers too were filling with tears. “If you read my blog, then you do know me” I responded. We said our goodbyes but this time with something shared between us. Something beyond the wines I sell her. Connected beyond a bottle that gets tossed at the end of the night. Amazing.

“I thought, that must be Sam but why isn’t she coming to talk to me” the soft voice said as the tiny fingers gripped my wrist. Alice. I was standing next to Alice Feiring and she was happy to see me. The second I heard that she was going to be in LA to promote her newest book, Naked Wine, I knew I simply had to try and meet her. Alice was a fiery, red-headed voice of reason to me when I first started getting involved in the writing side of wine. At the time I had been skimming websites and books that all seemed so much the same to me. Talking about the same wines, the ones that weren’t my cup of tea and then I stumbled upon this big voice that oozed about Champagne, grower Champagne and wines from places, and estates that you rarely read about in other publications. Wines that I also loved and oozed about. And while I don’t agree with everything she is passionate about, (I dig natural wines but they have to please me first. If they smell of nothing but poop, well I can appreciate it but I sure as….shit, aint going to drink them) I admire her fire and strength. I had told her as much and was floored to find that she had read some of my writing and actually thinks highly of it. Amazing and now here I was, in a rather weird little wine shop in Downtown LA talking, getting books signed and sharing a glass of Champagne with her as she said things like, “Now what are we going to do about this memoir that you need to write” Unreal.

I tore more cilantro and placed it in the bottom of the bowl, topped it with chunks of boiled chicken and a couple scrapes of Parmesan cheese before showering it with a couple ladles full of jalapeno scented, richly colored, noodle studded broth. A quick squeeze of lemon and to the table I went with my bowl of weird soup. Took one bite and all the pieces were there; the pungent chicken flavor, the slightly oily texture, the sweet bits of cheese, the squish of slightly over cooked noodles….the soup that changed my life but, then came the little hint of spice, the vibrancy of cilantro, the tang of lemon, the flavors I crave most often and use nearly daily when making my own dishes. My soup.

 The sweet southern lady, two emails yesterday from readers letting me know that they miss me, Alice’s beautiful face, tiny hands, big “voice”, her encouragement and urging me to “unzip” my writing. The late nights alone with my body plunged into calm water while my head, and heart tried to make sense of the tidal wave that was battering away inside me, all if it filling me with each bite of my crazy, mixed up soup. Life is always changing, a recipe that needs tweaking and adjusting….that and a willingness to explore each bite, see what you can do without and what additions might actually enhance the flavors of your personal dish. I’m still working on it but last night, I tasted me in another bowl of life changing soup and for the first time in months, I felt full.

Soup, my soup....our soup, it’s good for what ails me…..


Thomas said...

Never knew that you had left...not.

Marcia Macomber said...

Gads! Could use some good chicken soup myself right now. Yours sounds perfect. ...All better now with a new post! :-)

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

In a year you put out more brilliant work than any other blogger out there. That's spiritually and emotionally taxing, and you deserve all the time away you can stand.

We're just SansDosage addicts, and we can be demanding little bastards. It's good for us to go cold turkey for awhile. Makes us appreciate you more that way.

Life is like a bowl of soup. The older it gets, the more you have to scrape the scum off the top.

I love you!

My word verification, I swear, is "renewe." Which, I think, aside from the obvious, can also mean abusing a sheep a second time.

Samantha Dugan said...

Yeah, okay tough guy....I shan't expose your soft under belly. Nice to see you kid.

Well if this made you feel better than I am thrilled. Just so you know, made me feel better too. Gawd, I've missed just typing away....and hearing from all of you.

Ron My Love,
Felt like I couldn't stand it much longer. The thing is, being here, releasing my thoughts, emotions and voice does far more good than the time away ever does. Felt so much lighter and more alive today. You think you guys are addicted? I think that it is I that suffers that particular affliction.

Thank you so much for being so supportive of my time away and being there, being you. Sheep violation conversation aside, I love you very much!

Do Bianchi said...

that's so awesome that you connected with Alice! TWO OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD! I LOVE IT! :) let me just say it again: :)

Also, so AGREED about the carrots...

And man, when you write, "as I walked into Vons," it just brings back so many memories of life in So. Cal...

and o yeah, so friggin' glad AUGUST IS OVER!

abbraccione j

Thomas said...

Oh, I forgot to say something:

Yeah, I agree about the carrots, but strongly disagree about the celery. Since my youth, I've found celery to remind me too much of kerosene. As an adult, I discovered that replacing celery with fennel is much more pleasurable to my taste.

Valerie said...

Look at you - recipe, book rec, and wine rec .. all in one blog. Feeling you on the 'fucking August' thing, by the way. Happy to show it the door. xo

Anonymous said...

Totally with both you and Valerie on the 'fucking August' thing. It's like the heat of summer has sucked all the joie de vivre out of so many of us.

Glad you're back, my lovely Sam, you know we've missed you! Weeks are richer when they're filled with your words.

Okay, enough blah blah.

Love ya.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Unzip your writing - geat phrase.

Although I think you bypass the zippers and buttons and go straight to tearing them words off!

Really enjoyed this one, Sam.


Samantha Dugan said...

Totally cracked me up that you and I were reading and commenting on each others blogs at the same time! It was lovely to finally meet Alice face to face and she is even sweeter than I imagined.

Well amigo, we finally have a split, I love celery. What's not to love about a veggie that not only tastes fresh and delicious but acts as floss?!

Did I give a wine rec?! I was thinking that I did another post on my, "Wine Blog" that was in no way wine related. So nice to be back!

Another Day of Crazy,
You are far too sweet lovely lady but thank you so much and with any luck I will be back it with full steam. I miss you!

I stole that phrase from Alice's inscription in my copy of Naked Wine. Loved it though it made me blush. Thanks for stopping by sweetheart always makes me beam with pride when I move you enough to comment. Big hugs being sent your way.

Thomas said...


I didn't know that the taste of kerosene (celery taste) was fresh and delicious...

But I agree with your rhetorical question: what's not to love about something that tastes fresh and delicious, like fennel?, and it's sweet too.

chris said...

It's good to hear your voice again.

Charlie Olken said...

Ah, Sam. What is there about August? Maybe the French have it right. Just take the whole month off.

As for Alice, well I tend to share Jose's view of her, but her advice to you is so spot on that maybe, just this once, I want to kiss her.

I have felt and told you that your writing needs to take a step up. It's beauty weighs you down, which is not as strange as it sounds. Ron's writing does the same to him.

But, yours is different. Your writing grabs us by the short hairs and says, "listen to me".

Alice is right. It is more than the five or fifty of the Sam Sans addicts who will love an organized set of your writings.

We love your blog. We love it when you speak from your heart. You turn a bowl of chicken soup into a joyous ride. Yes, Sam, unzip your writing. Let it take you on a magic carpet journey. Let it take us along too.


Samantha Dugan said...

Still struggling with....well time seems to be the biggest issue, but I am liking the way it feels to stretch my "throat" muscles again.

Sir Charles,
It is a special brand, the kind of wrecking me that you do. Your comments always feel like arms wrapped tight around me, a whisper in my ear and a curled finger beneath my chin....holding my head just a little higher. Love you so much for that.

It's not the writing that weighs on me love, it's the other bits of life that seem to divide my time, that or flavor my mood in such a way that I think it's best to settle before returning. Make any sense? This has never been work for me this place, this is where I come when my heart is too full to contain, my irk is in full steam or, at times, when I ache to feel like what I have to say matters or that my touch is being felt. I am a poodle for sure and your petting, some of the best there is. Thank you Charlie. Thank you for everything.

WIney the Elder said...

Welcome to September:

May not be your cup of tea but the poignancy echoed of your previous posts. May be good for what ails you?


Wp said...

Thanks for linking this from the facebook page.
Home sick today so decided to give this a try. Wow! Everyone loved it and my daughter's last comment was to make this on "other days too, not just when someone's sick." Will do.

Thanks again,

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe William I'm so glad you tried it and liked it! Gotta save some face after that whole pork issue! Get well you and as always kid, thanks for reading my silly nonsense.