My cup runneth over … literally. I have been drinking more wine during the last ten days or so on a daily basis than I have since the last time I was spending time with a group of friends and/or family for a few days in a row (which happened to be last August). I live for get-togethers and I do love to cook and eat well, eat good food. It doesn’t have to be complicated but it does have to be good. I am known for having shed a tear when a highly awaited dish proved to be direly disappointing. I very rarely drink at lunch time because it makes me sleepy afterwards and my energy levels tend to take a dip in the afternoon anyway. Come dusk or soon after, however, and I have an appointment with “wine o’clock”, a time of day that varies with the seasons, sooner in Winter and naturally later in Summer. In either case, if I don’t have a yearning for a glass of wine by 8 p.m., I begin to worry about whether I am coming down with something. A fairly long time ago now, I accompanied a group of girl scouts on a camping trip and was able to forgo wine for those three days sans problème and that experience reassured me that I wasn’t a lush. There have since been similar other occasions, admittedly not many, when for whatever reason I had to do without and was absolutely fine with it. I know of a few people who do not enjoy wine at all (a lot of my Italian girlfriends for instance), or who alter their temperament in a dispiriting way (“j’ai le vin triste” was the lament of one of my friends who was otherwise not at all a cheerless person), and some get contentious, confrontational or even aggressive after drinking more wine than they can handle. Me? I talk. And talk and talk and talk. And save the world. And look at the greater scheme of things. And come up with brilliant ideas that I promptly forget the day after. And tell people how much I love them or appreciate what they have done for me, even though they know full well and I’ve told them countless times before. And after talk, talk and more talk, if I have drunk more than my quotidian usual, I just fall asleep, the Latin god of sleep Somnus comes to fetch me, we’re pals. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, sometimes has a heyday (heynight?) with me and the next day when I wake up there are not a few questions coursing through my mind before I get on with the day.
Mostly, however, and here is the point of this oenologically imbued preamble, wine makes me feel good, takes the sting out of a long working day or lessens the hold of an ongoing worrisome problem, and opens up my mind to the probing question of what makes life worthwhile.
There is much talk of self medication these days and many would consider the quaffing of wine or other alcoholic drinks along those lines. All I know is that so far as my own mind-body-soul connexion is concerned, a glass of wine makes Socrates’s dictum “the unexamined life is not worth living” (here it is in ancient Greek if you can read it: ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ) very much smoother to embrace. Here is some enlightenment straight out of Wikipedia: “Socrates believed that philosophy – the love of wisdom – was the most important pursuit above all else. For some, he exemplifies more than anyone else in history the pursuit of wisdom through questioning and logical argument, by examining and by thinking. His ‘examination’ of life in this way spilled out into the lives of others, such that they began their own ‘examination’ of life, even though Socrates himself had lost his. Socrates was saying that a life without philosophy – an ‘unexamined’ life – was not worth living.”
Some examine life through vocation, religion, work, sport, meditation, art, music, physically challenging adventure, travel … there is no cut and dried rule and no one of these necessarily negates another. I find it pleasant and meaningful to undertake all this examining stuff around a meal, that’s all. A meal with a friend, a lover, a husband, a family member, a new acquaintance. It’s one of my ways of feeling ‘alive’ as opposed to merely existing.
It’s one of the reasons I started my first blog (www.myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com). Yes, the idea behind the blog was that it was supposed to serve as a marketing tool to entice people to want to come and do a cooking class with me in Rome (or in Frascati which is near Rome) but at the time I had one child abroad at university and another child who was going to go to uni in London too the following year. I nearly always had my children in mind as I wrote those posts, it was my way of extending the concept of ‘home’ to them at a stage in their lives when they were getting to grips with leaving home and my husband and I with the metamorphosis of the family nest. I also nearly always had one or another friend in mind, hoping that he or she would enjoy my post in lieu of a letter, an email or a phone call.
Writing posts can be very difficult, I don’t think many people realize this, it requires a right ‘frame of mind’ – well, it does for me at least. I shop for food and cook nearly every day of the week and don’t find that a ‘problem’, and it only turns into a chore when I’m in too much of a hurry or when I have too many other things to do. Writing about it all, however, takes mindfulness as well as practical considerations and time. And when life gets in the way, the will to write posts dwindles however stalwarth the desire to keep up.
I like my posts to reflect good cheer … I quote the following proverb on my About page: “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast (Proverbs 15:15)”.
But sometimes life stinks.
Disease needs to be dealt with and surgical operations have to be undergone. My friend and inimitable fellow blogger Gareth Jones (GarethJonesfood.com) died unexpectedly last July as did my adored whimsical Uncle James from cancer. My other one-of-a-kind friend, the exuberantly studious, funky historian and lover of life author Alan Epstein (www.astheromansdo.com/author.htm) also died earlier this year. Work situations change, and income and all that that entails becomes an issue. Living standards and expenditures have to be tweaked. A lot of time needs to be spent seeking work. Relationships have to contend with the resulting tension and dearth of quality time. Energy levels waver. Tempers fray. Depressing thoughts have to be fought off. Routine? There is no routine, it’s all very challenging, it’s not easy to figure out. My mother was hospitalized on the day my husband and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary last June. She ended up having to have an operation to remove a haematoma from her brain in July and stayed with us after being discharged until September 1st. This is Agnese, or Agnesina as she likes to be called. I have written about her indominatable character in a couple of my posts (www.myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/cant-forget-italy) and it was just awful to watch her have to go through it all; imagine my state of mind when I was asked to sign the release certificate for the operation where the first possible outcome read “death”. Not nice. My sisters rushed over from the UK. We didn’t know whether she would make it, she will be 90 in December. But make it she did, and taught us an incredible lesson in physical bravery, stoicism and the will to live. The best outcome was the shower of love she was bathed in, stemming not just from we three daughters and her brother but from friends and relatives everywhere. She was incredibly touched and moved and it was beautiful to behold. The whole experience (about six weeks in all) got in the way of our summer holiday and I had a long and difficult translation to do, and the fridge broke down twice, and the dishwasher too, and then cherry on the cake so did the washing machine: we got a new one installed just the other day … we spent very little time comparatively speaking in the rented house near the seashore at Sabaudia and we had to keep an eye on my mother all day long basically. But there were also visitors, my niece and nephew, and friends from decades ago. Fun, logistical chaos, get togethers, much talk, good food, plenty of wine, incredible bonding. Two beautiful weddings. One day at a time …
So yes, put it this way, I have been doing a helluva lot of ‘examining’ these past five years, these past six months. And, perhaps desultorily, not surprisingly, without any claim to a wow factor, all I can say is that it is love that makes life worthwhile. Love of children, family, friends, husbands and wives, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, pets. I woke up this morning fully refreshed after a lovely dinner last night with some of my neighbours. Tonight there will be a party in Rome at my brother-in-law’s restaurant with mostly Italian friends and family. And tomorrow there will be a party held in my honour, again in Rome, hosted by friends who are visiting from Canada … and the list is mostly comprised of other non-Italian friends who used to live here and who like to return as often as they can. Yesterday I was 59.8 years of age, tonight I shall be 59.9 and tomorrow I shall be hitting my sixth decade.
I awoke full of gratitude this morning. My cup overfloweth. A bit tired but lots of cheer coming to the fore. I still have the kitchen to tidy up and clothes to hang out to dry. Phone calls to make. Cake to pick up. Emails to write. I went to a catholic boarding school in England and there used to be a hymn that we all adored, “The Lord is my Shepherd”, the Henry Smart musical version. I could never hit the high note but never mind. I am no longer a catholic but that does not prevent me from appreciating music and words that move one. And I think that one can experience love and gratefulness as a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, an Atheist. This was the purpose of my blog post this morning.
If you are inclined, do listen to it … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0XwLfRY1VQ – I like the line “I will not by evil be ever dismayed”. There is much to be dismayed about in the world and we all have to do something to keep up and forward some good news!
Dedicated to Sarah Terzeon, Jenny Clark, Maggy and Glyn and Penny Averill in the UK, Alison in Samoa, Romina in Pakistan, Charlotte in Denmark, Debra in Hong Kong, Rosheen, Phyllis and Sandy in Canada, Diane, Judy, Kim, Elatia, Libby and Alanna in the USA, Jonell in Venice, Rachel, Maggs, Susy, Liz, Michelle, Victoria, Carmen, Judith Rose, Elisabeth, Carmen and Meera mostly here in Rome, Leanne sometimes in Rome, Marion, Tanya, Sally, Maeve, Frances and Pam from boarding school days, Aniko and Szuszanna in Hungary, my lovely family in Sweden, my husband’s cousins Gina, Gina and Gina in the USA, and my fantastic sisters J and J … I know you are the ones who read me the most.