The Backyard Red

IMG 1993 polarr

When Mark Leavy and I went to Italy in 2007, we stopped in at some mountain town in Tuscany for a few days. We got in after 8. It was darkening and there was a light drizzle that was nearly a mist. The old medieval streets twisted and wound up the hill, leading onto piazzas and views of the valley. We would have lingered in the streets drinking in the vibe of what had been, but we were hungry, so we stopped at one of the only places open at that time. The waiter, a middle-aged man, lead us into a dining area that was almost deserted. The chef seemed to be available to put together a meal, not in any hurry, but it was a practiced act, like a dance, not the focused work of an industrial kitchen that it would have been in the States. 

We must have had Bistecca a la Fiorentina. That was all the rage with us at the time. A giant hunk of the smoothest ruminant animal you can imagine, buttery and rare, about a pound of meat each. 

There was also braised rabbit, a dish I will remember for the rest of my life — and never be able to replicate. 

There is a magic in cooking that is specific to place and culture. Nothing ever tastes the same. My abuela’s tamales will never be on earth again. That I know. 

There was a salad of a handful of ingredients. The Italians know how to put oil on grass and it comes off with the lightest touch, not annoying like regular salad, but a miracle of balance. 

And wine.

We asked about the provenance of the wine, certain to have a similar lengthy recitation as the preparation of the meat and the history of the pasta, as in France, where the vineyard, the year, the textural and metaphorical qualities would be enumerated: chocolatey, blackberry, tannic. You know the ropes.

The waiter, who went on to spend the evening discussing politics, history, and economics — including a side jab at the Pope — with a couple of educated Americans, in very good English, said, “Oh, the wine — it grows out back."

We were tickled. There we were, in Italy, us, with the shared culture of Mexico, the street sense of the Anglo laboring class, and in a slush of techie wealth, this waiter's sentiment jibed with our own sneer at the facile pretentions of the nouveau riche

As it turns out, my extended family has a vineyard and puts out a local wine. Lupine Vineyards.

There is an awful lot in the right marketing, and plain folks are not really fancy in quite the way of the French. But they do a good wine. 

The right thing to do is not to belabor the point but relax and enjoy wine. This.

The backyard red.


© Joann Farias 2024