Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A food writer of sorts…

“Wine?” she said with a glint of aggression. She reached into the refrigerator, the corkscrew already in her other hand. “It’s a Sancerre, but not as expensive as it tastes, by far.” She wrested the cork from its hole with a faintly savage twist of her wrist.

The Great Man, Kate Christensen

I’m reading through a large pile (actually two piles and a shelf) of books I’ve accumulated over the past year or so. Having just finished, Careless in Read, the latest tome by Elizabeth George, a herculean undertaking given her penchant for long , satisfying books filled with fully fleshed-out minor characters, I picked up the relatively diminutive The Great Man, by Kate Christensen less than half the size of the George.

I’ve known Kate (in a reader:author sense of the word) for a long time and have read all of her books to various degrees of satisfaction. This one is a quick read and quite witty. Why I mention any of this is that she has a consistent theme in her works of food, beverage, and dinner table conversation, though not so overt as to end up in the genre of food fiction. This is perhaps best illustrated in her 2005 work, The Epicure’s Lament. Her latest novel, for example, starts with Teddy St. Cloud, the widowed-mistress of a great painter, preparing a snack and then a meal for a would-be biographer of the painter. She notes almost immediately after meeting her interlocutor for the evening that, “It’s amazing how well you can live on very little money.” For Teddy living “very well” is a matter of eating well, drinking well, and surrounding herself with individuals as diverse and as stimulating as the food she puts on her table. As the book progresses we hear of her bartering for gourmet foods, growing her own obscure gourmet lettuce, and in my favorite example there is her obvious devotion to Sancerre. While one’s first thought is that a French wine can hardly be a bargain for a retired secretary; for Teddy it’s a matter of value not merely cost. There is perhaps no clearer expression, no more elegant incarnation, of Sauvignon Blanc, than Sancerre, something that Teddy clearly recognizes.

As another hot and humid summer weekend fast approaches, though perhaps not fast enough for some of us, I recommended picking up a copy of The Great Man and a few bottles of Sancerre to round out the experience. A personal favorite, and in honor of Teddy a great value at $15, is the Domaine Franck Millet. The last bottle I tasted was the 2005 and I found it charming, full of citrus, minerals, and the crisp acid that make it pair well with food.

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