The doctor calling in to National Public Radio’s Car Talk in Washington D.C. had a particular problem; he loved to idle his way to work and back through rush-hour traffic with a good cigar.
His issue was not that Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States; he makes do with an American or Italian. Nor that he was a doctor who smokes, “everything in moderation,” he explained, but his wife would occasionally get into the car and complain about the smell. Yes, she had her own car, but she’d get into his.
It was a problem that taxed him and the male co-hosts of the show. No one suggested that he give up cigars. But there was lots of considered thought as to what should be done about the wife.
Learning how to pursue your passion without the person you love losing their passion for you, can be a challenge. For some cigar connoisseurs the way to marital bliss has been to smoke among friends in special smoking lounges or clubs.
But even foodies face challenges. What surprises the gourmet is that what you love someone in the family is going to hate. It’s either too smelly (gorgonzola, Stilton, cigars), expensive (champagne, whisky, brandy), fattening (Brie, pates, sausages) or not yucky looking (brains, oysters, frogs legs).
If you’re a determined gourmet you’ll know how to polish off haggis (heart, liver and lungs mixed with oatmeal, suet, and onions) with a great Scotch all the while quote Robbie Burns:
Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.
Or if you know how to tango, you should know how to combine morcilla (pork blood sausage) with a perfect merlot (wine).
Are you already reeling from this page in disgust? Do these gourmet treats make you head for the nearest take-out?
Pause and consider this: loving good food and wine demands an interest in other peoples and their cultures. It tells a lot about history and legend as this example shows; tortellini the famous Italian ring of pasta was created, Italian lore tells us, when a pasta maker stared through a keyhole and saw the navel of Venus and so he created a pasta to honor her perfect belly-button.
Eating the foods of different cultures tells us too about literature and dance, romance – I bet you have a favorite romantic restaurant - and a love of travel.
It may even embrace new trends; perhaps you shun salmon and tuna for only sustainably fished gifts from the sea. Or you artfully mix purple corn chips and dark grapes on a silver platter with pale cheeses.
How you serve food also makes a statement as personal as how well you dress.
It’s now fall and if you’re like me you’ve already taken out your crockpot and had your first slow food meal. The slow food revolution is part of the organic, environmentally sensitive movement: it uses minimal cooking fuel, is easy to put together and not a single iota of healthy vitamins or proteins are lost. It is well worth investigating if you’re into healthy living.
For many, knowing what to eat, drink or smoke at the right time is a journey of ongoing pleasurable discovery. Most cities and towns abound with courses, clubs and fun evenings and afternoons of people who gather to learn more about whiskeys, brandy, wines, champagne, cocktails, gourmet foods, and the never-ending world of cheeses.
It’s probably a good idea to get into a good exercise routine when you begin these courses, because they can be tough on the liver, lungs, and stomach girth, and exercise creates a natural control on indulgence.
Charlene Smith is an award-winning journalist and an authorized biographer of Nelson Mandela. She lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.