I am a thistle killer. Believe it or not this is one of my favorite activities at 9 Miles East Farm. Pulling these bad, bad plants is not easy. It is thorny business. However, the internal rewards are great, and I experience a feeling of supreme satisfaction with this task. At first I thought it appealed to the drop of OCD within. (I sure like neatness.) But upon further consideration, I realized that the task of weeding out thistles has something that a lot of other jobs in my life have lacked–purposefulness.
The simple act of ridding the soil of a harsh and invasive grower-of-thorns is an investment in the future. When extricating the weed from the soil, it is impossible to get the entire root. However, we weaken the structure and the next time he pops his stubborn head through the ground it is with less vigor. The farm-owner assures us that eventually, “we win.” The soil is better. The foot print of the gardens can expand, and we will grow more food.
The idea of purposefulness ties nicely into an other idea to which I have been exploring. Purposefulness in the consumption of alcohol, specifically wine. A wonderful co-worker, Jillian, and I share a passion for food, farms and service. We often converse about Thomas Keller and different recipes that we have tried from his cookbooks or something we would like to attempt. Last week, Jillian brought me Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch. This book explores the world of Per Se and the author’s relationship with Head Sommelier, André Mack. As warned by my co-worker, I became very anti-social for a few days, staying up late and devouring the book.
I started noticing the feeling of curiosity and intimidation that emerged when reading about wine training at Per Se and the work of the sommelier. I realized that although I love drinking wine, I have never embarked on the journey of learning about it. What little bit of knowledge I have accumulated sparks a real interest in me yet, I have been overwhelmed by the thought of trying to learn anymore than what randomly falls in my lap.
First of all, I don’t speak French so that makes me reluctant to say out loud the names of a vast majority of wines. I know that attempting to do so will indicate to those around me my lack of sophistication and proper upbringing. Then I found this quote from André Mack:
Wine is not a beverage reserved for the elite, but can and should be enjoyed by everyone. A wine’s place is on the table right next to the salt and pepper, as a complement–even a condiment to the food. It is not meant only to be collected, but to enhance your meal and your way of life.
Ahhh.. there it is. Permission for me to start learning without reservation or fear, and with that thought there is purposefulness. As stated in several of my other blog entries, I have been quite clueless where this is all leading me in terms of my relationship to alcohol. Mostly, whether or not my habits will have changed as a result of my dry year. Reading Service Included and pulling thistles (two seemingly unrelated activities) has led me to a new found idea–studying and sampling wines.
While gardening the other day, I thought of all the times I showed up at the wine shop and grabbed a standard bottle of chardonnay and left on the table (no pun intended) an opportunity to explore something new. That habit was born out of lack of knowledge and lack of significant purpose. That is the piece that I can change when this year is up. I am excited to create a mission– to study wine regions and wine making and to connect that knowledge while trying new wines. I can deepen my understanding, enhance my overall abilities to serve a really good meal and connect a mindful purpose to drinking.
And who knows…maybe write a blog about it.