Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No Substitute For Touch….

“Yes, you can help. Grab that step stool and crush the garlic in the bowl with the cheese” my tiny head looking for this mysterious stool thing as my heart raced at the very idea that my grandmother might let me not only help with something pertaining to dinner but would let me be alone with her in her kitchen. My big green eyes spotting an odd tiny ladder, two steps, just the right height to lift me high enough to reach the large off white bowl with the blue trim that held the smashed bits of Roquefort. I sucked my breath deep into my chest, wrapped my arms around the midget ladder, metal and rubber digging into the tender bits of flesh on my arms as I wrestled the lifting furniture that I’d hoped might bring me just a little closer to her level, making sure not to scrape the kitchen tiles or make too much noise…sure that any tiny bit of me being a kid, my mother’s kid, my mother’s daughter, might make her think twice about allowing me this access. 

“Okay grandma, what do I do now?” my whisper of a voice pushing through deep swallows of fear and demanded intimidation. Her perfectly quaffed head spun around and again my eyes were wide and breath dove deep in my chest. She rested her vegetable peeler on the towel beside the sink that was deep enough for me to bathe in, wiped her hands on the stark white apron that protected her breathtakingly beautiful and agelessly hip one of a kind pantsuit. Her long stride slow and deliberate, coming at me and making my entire body vibrate with anxiety as my neck stretched and craned looking through the dining room, trying to find my mother just in case I needed to run. Her knees pushing the stool closer to the counter, her perfume flavoring the air I was desperately sucking in, her thin frame pressing against my back causing me to jump and stand soldier like as I felt her arms fold around me. “You take one of these, drop it in here and squeeze. Just like that. See?” as she placed the press in my hands, flipped it open and dropped the firm cloves of garlic in the small cave, pulled the lever down and with her hands as my guide gave the press a firm squeeze, her chest and shoulders resting across my back, my teeth sinking into my bottom lip as I fought back tears. “That stuff smells strong” the words I was able to come up with to explain why my chest was heaving and eyes were watering as that cold woman laid warm against my little back, held my hands and taught me how to make blue cheese dressing. 

Not sure she ever looked my way again but I stood on that tower of a stool, mixing and mashing blue cheese with my pressed garlic, grin from ear to ear and to this day I can still remember that dressing. The cool and crunchy hunks of iceberg lettuce, shaved carrots, black olives, thinly sliced cucumber and my “tall as her” dressing. The only time I can remember my mother’s mother holding me, not out of want, but that sink hug and lesson, they are alive and thriving each time my teeth sink into greens bathed in blue cheese dressing, our blue cheese dressing that I have now made for years and shown my son how to make. 

Been reading some blog posts lately that at first twisted my crunders into a knot but eventually had me wishing I could stand the writer upon a stool, push them closer to the sink and show them the way it actually works. Images as a tool to sell wine…sigh. Nothing drives this wine slinger more batshit than reading and listening to some blogger or critic pontificate about what they think will sell wine. Here’s an idea, how about you try selling the stuff before you tell the rest of us, that are in the trenches and dealing with the honest to god consumers, with their impossible menus, needs for a gift for, “She’s an Asian heart surgeon that doesn’t eat meat…” and “I want something that tastes like Caymus Cabernet but is white and costs $9.00.”  what will and will not move the public. Now I know a picture is worth a thousand words and all, am well aware that we are quickly becoming a nation of skimmers, 140 character tweets that pretend we are actually friends with those 300 plus people on Facebook but…where are you going when your heart is broken, you need real advice and are truly looking for actual recommendations? If your answer is Twitter or Facebook, my guess is you aren’t drinking as richly and suited to your palate as you could or should  be and your depth perception might be a tad off…

The use of images along with content, a back story, well that does in fact move people but I can tell you, as someone that has shared both pictures and stories, it’s never the picture that those consumers remember, it’s the story. I’ve taught I don’t know how many classes in which I pour a wine from Didier Dagueneau, held up a picture of him…his wild mane of hair, bandana and overalls before telling one of the handful of precious memories I have of my time spent with him. His image unforgettable and maybe a bit shocking to people that think winemakers are like fancy and junk but not once have I had a customer return and ask, “Where is that wine from that guy in the overalls”. Not once. Always some tidbit of the story, “That guy from the Loire that loved margaritas” or more heart sinking, “The one that made those amazing wines from the Loire that died in a plane crash”…sketches and photos, shots of plump grapes and dusty boots…they can be, are parts of the story but without words, without connection to the people in those pictures, the wines made from those ancient presses or some sliver of human behind them, they’re worthless. Might not need a thousand of them but words, they matter and far more than some bloggers and marketers might have you believe. 

How many images do we see each day? A woman in high heels, stockings stretched against her amazingly perfect thighs…what was she selling again? Dunno. The guy in a ripped up pair of jeans, rippled and tight tummy with some kind of slogan scrawled across the bottom of the page, a family sitting around the table laughing, a can of some junk on the table…flip, flip and flip again. If you think skimmers are more inclined to remember a picture than a story, well you might be either retarded or so steeped in your marketing degree that you’ve forgotten how powerful actual touch is. If I weren't so irked I would feel sorry for you, but seeing as I am in fact dealing with those connection seekers, like first-hand, I'm going to ignore your shallow advice and keep....talking. On the eve of one of the most horrifically shaking moments in American history we will be seeing image after image of pain, sadness and destruction…just ask yourself, is it the picture or the story that brings those tears to your eyes? The remembering of where you were, who you knew, waiting for the call as those towers crumbled.

“When did we get these?!” my voice raised and nearly cracking as I grabbed the heavy metal tool and looked around the room. “I need one of these” as I pushed the garlic press across the counter with my weekend purchase of wine. Seen hundreds of pictures of them in my cooking and cookware magazines but to hold one in my hand, find one there in the store where I work, feel its weight and remember that stool and moment, smell her perfume and see the slight crack of a smile on a face that wore a lifetime of disappointment…worth a thousand words.


Anonymous said...

I found my garlic press, last weekend, as I was sorting through a pile of miscellaneous odds and ends to give to charity. Never used it but once in my life, but holding on my hand brought back that memory, that happiness, the love I had at that moment. It ended up with me during the division of 'his' and 'hers', something stupid that neither of us would ever use. But there it is, back in my drawer instead of the donation box, something tangible that will make me pause and remember when I see it.

Totally unrelated to wine, I know, but thanks for bringing back the memory.

Thomas said...

Amen, Sam.

Still, words of caution: I have gone through numerous garlic presses. They generally suck.

Samantha Dugan said...


When my grandmother died there were two things of hers I wanted, one was that garlic press. Sadly through all her moves and reduction of items, it was long gone. Still a powerful memory...

Thank you my dear and trust me, I bought a press years ago and had it break on me after a year or two. Never replaced it and opted for the smashing with the back of a knife with kosher salt but seeing that press in the shop, had to have it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I know your pain. A lot of bloggers and critics write about wine lists and snooty sommeliers and give advice about what constitutes a "great" wine list without ever having done the job with all its restrictions and battles and foolishness. It is the glory of the Internet--everyone's an expert about everything.

You're probably nicer about it than I would be. But it's all just so much puffery. Or, really, buffoonery. They're entitled to their opinions but it's our duty to tell them they are full of crap.

Meanwhile, lovely story, if a bit sad, about your grandmother. I thought a garlic press was what the Italian basketball team used on the US squad at the Olympics. So I guess you don't really use it to create turnovers...

I love you! Wouldn't I look great in those sheer nylons?

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Sexy Stocking Wearing Love,

Yeah, why is it those that ache to be in our position, the one where you actually sell wine, can't help themselves from telling us what we should be doing and what is gonna work? Um, shut up. Try it then come talk to me...seems too many are too busy tied up on junkets and meetings, desperately trying to get their foot in the door without having the actual experience or even once ounce the knowledge, not to mention the talent. "I like wine" doesn't make you good at it and those that have never been in the business, that are puffing their goofy chests out and calling the rest of us out, like pointing fingers and "you should be doing this"....well I welcome them to spend a week, let alone 16 years in my shoes...or thirty in yours. Kind of makes me laugh and want to pat them on their cloud filled delusional heads. If you have it right and are so good at this, I have to ask, how come no one has hired you? Just sayin'

I would love to see you in those stockings...and I love you so!