To Sink or Swim in a Glass of Grenache

Grenache Wine

While most fathers try to teach their sons useful, practical things like how to change a tire or fix a leaky faucet, my father was bent on teaching me how to make wine. Every Saturday in October when I was growing up in Swansea, MA, just over the border from Providence, he would rouse me from bed at the Dickensian hour of 8:30 a.m. I’d stumble out to the acre of grapevines in the backyard and sleepily eat a bowl of Count Chocula cereal while he quizzed me on whether the grapes were ready for crushing. The tiny vineyard, along with a sizable vegetable garden and a dozen and a half fruit trees, was a holdover from his youth in Portugal. As a child on São Miguel, the largest of the Azorean Islands, he helped his father make the family wine. Now, apparently, my Dad felt it was my turn. As he droned on, I fantasized about sticking my tongue to one of the cold metal poles that held up the vines, just so I could make him stop. Read more “To Sink or Swim in a Glass of Grenache” »

Fat, Fat Everywhere But Not a Drop of Lard

Swift's Lard
I am a haunted man. I don’t mean haunted in a supernatural sense (although there was that house I rented in Rochester, New York, with an attic that burped strange noises). No, I am a man haunted by culinary specters — ghosts of meals past that linger longer, and more pleasantly, than the memories of most romances.

My recent visitation was by a sour cherry pie I had eaten on Martha’s Vineyard. Not the pie, exactly, but the crust: tender, flaky and made with — gasp — lard. It came on gently, almost imperceptibly, at first. A craving here, a longing there. Soon, though, it was shamelessly seducing me with its memory of a crust that was, medically speaking, to die for.

I had only one option left: exorcism della torta. The only way to free myself from this phantom was to summon it in my kitchen, wrest the secret of its crust, and forever be its master. Read more “Fat, Fat Everywhere But Not a Drop of Lard” »