Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The "No Thank You Portion" - Giving food and wine a second, third and fourth try.

My former co-teacher once told our students about a rule that her family had about food. She said that when she was growing up, her parents made sure that their three daughters never said no to new or disliked food by instigating the "no thank you portion" rule. In her family, if you thought you weren't going to like the food being served you would still get a no thank you portion; just enough on your plate to give that undesirable item a try. This rule helped the girls expand their palates but also didn't let the prepared food go to waste on an abandoned plate.

My family had a similar policy, though it was never stated as an explicit rule. I was expected to give new food a chance, but I was never forced to eat anything I didn't like. In fact, I felt bad for my friends who had the "clean your plate" rule enforced in their families because as my parents explained it to me, food should never used as a punishment and children should be given the opportunity to learn when they are full. Portion control has clearly become an issue for a large percentage of American children.

My co-teacher and I were lucky that we had parents who tried to strike a balance between fostering open-mindedness and gratitude with autonomy and choice. As a result, I have a positive and healthy view of food and I will try anything (that is eaten by other people) at least once. Both my co-teacher and I tried to bring this attitude into the classroom. Over the three years that I was teaching I challenged my students to be adventurous and even daring eaters. I even went as far as scavenging through the Chinatown markets for packaged jellyfish. The kids responded with, "Chewy!" "It tastes like a rubber-band." "Yum, can I have some more?" In my experience, children are often more open minded than we give them credit for; its the adults who are harder to coax into being adventurous.

Adults can be just as picky about their wine as they are about their food. Too often I have hear, "I only drink white." "I only like full bodied red." "I hate buttery Chardonnay!" "I love California wine." "I prefer only old world wine." People get set in their wine drinking ways and go for the tried and true on every visit to the wine store. I do understand why people get in a wine-buying rut. After all, whether its $3 or $300 (gasp!), a bottle of wine is an investment. We want to know that we are going to be satisfied by what we have bought. But the problem with buying the same wine, whether its the same brand, same region or same grape varietal, is that you miss out on the adventure of trying a new wine on many occasions.

Unlike the "no thank you portion" a bottle of wine should be given, at least 4 chances:
1.Your first sips and first impression. Don't like it? Did you just brush your teeth? Just pull the bottle out of the fridge?
2.Give the wine a second chance in an hour. The air has mixed with the wine. The wine has changed temperatures and your tongue has had a chance to acclimate to the wine drinking conditions. Still don't like it?
3. Try it with food. Some wine is just meant to be drunk with food. It won't ever taste great without the fat, acid, flavor and texture that food adds. Still not a fan?
4. Leave the wine (cork in) overnight on your counter. Let it "relax" and give it time to "open up." No, I'm not talking about your recent date, I'm still talking about that questionable wine. Give your wine another chance on the second night. If you still don't like it, give yourself permission to let go of that bottle. But don't give up on the wine completely. You never know... After all you like asparagus and onions now don't you?

Tasting Notes:
Domaine Bernard Moreau
Chassagne Montrachet Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2004
A place known for its incredible whites - how would this red hold up? First sip - not good. Second sip - still not good. Fletcher wouldn't drink it either. The second day - really really bad vinegar finish. I tried another bottle - not quite as bad. This wine is very high in acid, very low in fruit. In other words it was tart and also had a woody component. It was interesting, and did cut through the fat of our steak sandwiches. I think I'll have to give it another try... next year.