Tastes like love…
January 3, 2011 in Uncategorized
So, a new year…. The festive season at last over, for me a last week of leisure before going back to work next Monday. Cleaning up today, I found a forlorn sparkling wine cork which must have rolled under my grocery cupboard, a free standing old wardrobe which I had given a French paint finish a couple of years ago, a poignant reminder of quite a couple of toasts and well wishes which had been spoken out loud in this apartment since Christmas eve, or maybe even before that. I love sparkling wine and usually offer it as an aperitif when I have dinner parties…. So this cork could have been from any number of occasions here, from intimate dinners for two, to dinner for 6, which is how many my dining room table can comfortably seat. One day I hope to have space for a really long table, which conjures up for me images of lunches and dinners which last for hours, and from where everyone eventually very reluctantly get up from.. There’s this wonderful scene at the end of Mostly Martha (the original German movie, not the rather insipid Hollywood remake of it) where a long table is set with white linen outside on a terrace, the Italian landscape a breathtaking backdrop to everyone talking and drinking and laughing and eating, champagne or sparkling wine or Lambrusco corks popping… Doesn’t have to be in Italy, or at a villa in France: a back garden will do, or a long stoep which stretches the entire length of a house… one day….!!
Of course by now everyone knows the often quoted exclamation by the Benedictine monk Dom Perignon when he happily discovered (or so the myth goes) Champagne: and likened it to tasting the stars….
Long before I heard that story, my much beloved grandmother on my father’s side, Ouma Ann told of her love affair with my grandfather. I used to sit with her at her grey formica kitchen table, having tea and melting moment biscuits which she used to love making: the dough squeezed out onto a baking plate through flat steel disks with curious holes in them, from a tube shaped implement, and the cookies when baked would almost magically resemble stars and flowers…she stopped making those only when her hands became too weak and arthritic. But she never stopped telling me the story, her eyes lighting up each time, of the first time my grandfather kissed her: I could not get enough of it. She was 16 when they met. He was a couple of years older than her. She had just been discovered by an opera singer of the 1920s and was getting singing lessons from him: I saw pictures of her at that age: she was slim, but curvy: small waisted but with voluptuous breasts and good legs, auburn hair tumbling over her shoulders, and even though she scowls into the camera on that particular photograph, she was undeniably a young beauty. And then she met my grandfather. His pic shows a young man with blonde hair, combed in a side parting away from a high brow, a confident smile on his face, dressed smartly, leaning casually against his Lincoln.
He pursued her relentlessly, sending notes, which she would send back, refusing to see him, wanting to immerse herself in her singing training. And then eventually she agreed to see him, and he visited her at her parents’ house one evening. She said goodbye to him at the front door: very shyly and formally she put out her hand, but he drew her to him and kissed her… and for her it was as if there were: “a thousand champagne bubbles bursting in my head”: and in that moment she fell in love with him.
A thousand champagne bubbles: I could not wait to taste champagne. I could not wait to have a first kiss!! I had Champagne first: well, in my young mind I did not know the difference between carbonated sweetish wine and Champagne, and I felt vaguely disappointed. My first kiss at 19 was less disappointing, I am happy to report!
I still smile and think of her and sometimes my first kiss whenever I take a first sip of even a good South African Methode Cap Classique: I think that we have sparkling wines made here which compare very favourably to the much more expensive French Champagnes.. but oh what a luxury to open a bottle of vintage Moet et Chandon, or Tattingers, or Veuve Clicqot: for me strictly on very very special occasions….
Even the vintage Krone Borealis (which cork I found) of which a couple of bottles were consumed this festive season was wonderful, tasting of stars and kisses and love….and blessedly no special occasion needs to be waited for or created to experience that….