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A moment of awakening

Sometimes things happen in the darndest way.

For years, I didn’t like onions. The only way I could eat them was in a liver and onion dish and I never asked myself why that was true. Then, one day, I had a moment of awakening — when the liver and onion dish was made, the onions became a bit caramelized!

From then on, I have tried to incorporate caramelized onions in any dish — you name it and I’ll do the onions for you. Sometimes I want the onion slightly transparent, but one can’t beat those slightly crisped caramelized onions! That little moment of awakening has opened new culinary delights to me.

In the same way, Julia Child opened a world to me with her cooking show. Her wonderful humorous personality and “what the heck” attitude appealed to me and, after decades of not being in a kitchen, I found a second home there. She welcomed me — a total knothead — into the kitchen with her admonition to never apologize for what happens in a kitchen, just do it and enjoy it!

She was a Francophile and never apologized for that love of French wines and cooking. I found delight in watching her cooking techniques and listening to her humor. As she said, cooking is always creative, new and fun — just do it! When she poured a glass of wine — always a Burgundy — it was like another light went on inside my head.

In her world, a Burgundy wine paired with everything because she seriously believed wine was essential to anything on the table. To Julia, it didn’t matter so much the specific Burgundy brand as the wine’s region in France. I learned to enjoy a Burgundy from her and still do today. Anything brand from Gallo to a specific Chateau in France is fine with me — I have taken to heart her belief that you should find something about which you are passionate and keep interested in it.

And what followed for me were many moments of awakening.

I crossed the border into Germany and found their excellent Riesling wines. I particularly enjoy a crisp Mosel Riesling because the wine’s taste reflects the slate covered soil, steep hills and the beautiful Mosel River. Clean Slate is a superb choice for a Mosel Riesling — it’s off dry a bit, has a wonderful light floral scent with tastes of peaches and minerality.

Julia wouldn’t be happy with me because I crossed that French/German border, but I think she would just nod her head and say something funny like, “It’s alright, Ron, you’re learning — now back to Burgundy!”

In retrospect, she was an early guide for me not only in the culinary world but also, she helped to introduce me to many wines. She always said to never be afraid to take a chance — whether it had to do with making an egg dish, baking a chicken or trying a new beverage. I liked that attitude and from her I was invited into the world of Italian wines.

Of course, the iconic Italian wine is a Chianti because it’s so usable in so many settings. Any wine from the Tuscan region of Italy is good for me. I like Biagio Chianti — not only because of its reasonable price but also because of it’s from Tuscany. It’s a medium-bodied wine with some plummy tastes to go along with a soft under current of cherries. In my mind, Julia would nod her head up and down as this special wine was enjoyed with one’s friends and family.

To Julia, after family, friendship was the most important thing in the world. In today’s world, her advice that people are the most important thing in life is sometimes hard to find but she would just keep smiling, cooking, sipping and urging us onward.

Throughout her career, she believed that you enjoy a food or wine by eating/sipping, savoring, discussing the experience with folks and then, learning from the experience. I got the biggest kick out of watching her television program and when she would drop a food item on the floor, she would just pick it up, laugh and say that nobody knows what goes on in a kitchen but the chef — just continue with your cooking!

The reason for all this about Julia Child is that I’ve forgotten to have those moments of awakening. Everyday is another opportunity to have such a moment — we just have to be aware and treat people with respect — find the humor, creativity and personality of the person. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

In honor of my early kitchen teacher, I raise a glass of Carletto Montepulciano D’Abruzzo — a beautiful Italian wine. I think she would just shake her head at me and say, “Oh Ron, you still have so much to learn.”

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!

Cheers!

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