Guest Post: Our Somm Life

One of my favorite bloggers, Bryana Howe writes tastefully and poetically on her site, oursommlife.com. You can taste those canned peaches as if they just popped out of the jar.  Enjoy

What Defines Your Delicious?

Some of my fondest memories from childhood commenced on the long rocky roads that led to my grandparent’s farm.  Our windshields would be thick with red dust, a cemetery for lovebugs, moths, and mosquitoes, while Kenny Rogers, John Denver, and Neil Diamond kept us company on the three hour journey into muggy, blistering heat.  The air was stagnant, reminiscent of the southern marshes of Louisiana or Mississippi.  Coined “Czech Country”, my family was from just West of Houston and South of Austin, where rice farms donned the landscape and steer grazed empty fields.  My ancestors emigrated in the late 1800s from Moravia, and my mother is of the third generation to be born here.  Her family was so engrained in the Czech culture that English is her second language, and Shiner beer was a mainstay at early family gatherings.

My grandparents owned a small ranch, where heifers, bulls, and cows roamed behind bob wire fences.  There was a pond, which my grandfather filled with catfish, and where my cousins and I would swim, imagine western shootouts, and stare into the southern starry sky.  In the mornings, my grandmother would wake me up to feed the chickens and gather eggs; the blend of brown, cream, tan, and white shells filled my basket, and when I returned from the coop, my grandmother was in the kitchen, warming the cast iron skillet on the stove.  The smell of strong coffee permeated the house. Breakfast was served with sausage and white bread, mustard always on the table.  On special occasions, we would partake in kolaches, but mostly these were reserved for parties and reunions, weddings, and funerals.

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There was a garden patch where tomatoes, corn, onions, green beans, and cucumbers sprouted from the earth.  Even though peaches were not plentiful in this part of Texas, during early summer, my grandmother would buy them on the side of the road and can them.  We ate peaches at every meal I can remember at the small farmhouse.  The fruit so vibrant and fresh, the syrup so viscous, it would creep down the side of my mouth as I engorged my stomach with goodness.

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I suppose I came to associate the smells, tastes, and traditions of my family’s table with my proclivity for well prepared foods.  I watched my grandmother pluck and clean a chicken in her kitchen sink, then break it down, batter and season it, and fry it to create the most amazing dish I have ever eaten.  My mother is able to do the same, although, farmer’s markets were not as popular when I was a teenager, and store bought chickens just aren’t the same.  Country mashed potatoes with sweated onions were just as important to the table, with specks of black pepper and melting butter.  Fresh green beans with bacon rounded out our meal, with a bowl of peaches for good measure.

I believe that a big part of what defines us as a people, a culture, lies in what foods we are exposed to and learn to love.  For me, it was what was found on the farm, coupled with a Czech heritage of sausages, kolaches, stews, and potatoes.  I am partial to brown eggs, soda bread, okra, and coffee.  I find myself longing for liver and onions, not only because it was introduced to me in that kitchen, but because the pasty texture and unusual flavor are among my most preferred tastes.  I can eat peaches every day.   For me, my heritage has come to help me define delicious.  I crave fresh, vibrant, and juicy.  I devour homemade.  I reminisce about family.  That is why we flock to chef owned restaurants and progressive menus, like Bin555, Restaurant Gwendolyn, and The Sandbar.

When I was in college, I waited tables for an amazing entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio.  We had daily specials like pecan crusted sea bass and apple-glazed pork chops (circa late nineteen nineties, folks!); each plate was carefully paired with a varietal, nothing too fancy, but this is where I learned the basics of Sonoma Curter and Beaulieu Vineyards.   After my career started and my heart led me into the sommelier’s arms, I began learning more about wines, and how to pair them with my favorite foods.  One of my fondest memories is of my first date with my husband.  He led me to a quaint French restaurant in a well known part of town, whose menu comprised of such fabulous choices as escargot, mussels, frog legs, pate, steak diane, cassoulet, and duck.  Of course I ordered the liver and onions.  And he ordered me Bordeaux.  I fell in love with the earthiness of the wine, the way I could taste the soil, the labors of the field workers, and the smell of dark fruit.  I decided he was a keeper, and my wine education began.  (He would later say he loved me for ordering a single malt scotch for dessert.)   Today my favorites range from a nice summer Rose to a refreshing Lambrusco, and a simple Cote du Rhone to a dry, yet rich Amarone.

All these encounters have shaped my palate, from learning how to articulate the ingredients in a Chef’s special, to watching my grandmother batter chicken.  Discovering how to pair that crispy bird with a nice sparkling Rose is another acquired skill.  I have found that these events are part of my unique family culture, which I lovingly refer to as sommfamily.  The point is, the continuation of the farm fresh culture of my youth must press on and become part of our sommfamily’s culture.  Our heritage.  Our DNA.  One of my main jobs as a parent is to help our children define their delicious.  I know it can’t be found in a box, package, or container, but rather, what fresh ingredients can be compiled, deconstructed, and thrown together in cast iron skillet.  And paired with a nice Chateauneuf du Pape, of course.

Eat well. Drink well. Cheers.

The Best Meal WE Can Give Our Children

Yes, I’m a mom. No, I aint perfect. In fact, I relish in the fact that I am far from perfect. I’m me. I try my best to be a mama who is kind, makes healthy snacks, plans fun events, plays, laughs, throws random dance parties, shows and lives what love is through example. Yet, I sometimes react in ways that aren’t ideal. Sometimes…I loose it. I get grumpy when I’m tired, I get really grumpy when I’m hungry and hide your cat when I’m tired and hungry. Yikes. I wish I could take back those moments when I lost my cool over spilled milk, or didn’t answer that sweet question because I was too busy texting a friend some nonsense, but I can’t. To be honest, I think my flaws make me more human and someday my children will look at me as a person they can relate to rather than a robot they feed rubber carrots to only on holidays.

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Lately I’ve been into eavesdropping on conversations between parents and their children. I’ve been hoping to learn some new tricks, and I’m nosey  curious. I have found more often than not, people talk to their children like they are dog poo. I get it, mamas and papas, I’m stressed beyond stress too and heck if you were to hear me sometimes I might sound like a bit** on a broomstick also. However, I’ve been thinking… All this talk about what we feed our kids, how much T.V. they watch, if we breast feed or not, and I still think all those topics are important, but what’s more important is how we talk to them, especially in public. Let’s take a deep breath before going for the public rip down. Let’s close our eyes for a second, take a long breath, and pause for a second before totally loosing it over a lost bathing suit or spilled goldfish. Because at the end of the day, we will erase all of our efforts in giving our children great foods and a healthy upbringing if we verbally poo on their heads. For those of you reading that don’t yet have little stinkers grabbing cheese sticks out of your shopping carts, you take a breather before judging us, please. You try having your 5 dogs in your shopping cart and ordering a half a pound of honey turkey from the deli then we’ll talk. Perhaps, instead of your  best death glare, go over to that stressed parent and give them a your best loving smile? Maybe that bit of support will spread like melted butter and make the world a happier place? I don’t know, but I’d like to be a part of that cause. Because I think the best meal we can feed ourselves, our children and others is respect with a side of kindness.

 

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I’ll follow my own advise.

 

A Recipe For A Delicious Life

I’m HERE!  I know it’s been longer than a Phish show since I last posted. I’ve been blissed out on fresh water lakes and the hot dog days of summer.  I could have posted sooner but I was eating too much NY pizza and I skipped out on the finer dining details and food related topics for 2 months.  Yes, the pizza was that good. Oh, and I was enjoying this…

 

 

And tasting vintage wine with my brother.  I’m so proud of my bro, he just got a job at Noma in Denmark.

I had a lot of time to enjoy mountain air and that awesome feeling of cool green grass between my toes. I was tucked away in an adorable cottage in my little hometown of Lake Placid, NY for two months. As crazy as it is, a summer apart from my husband and the utterly blazing heat of Texas is seriously the key to our marital success.  For two months a year, I live my life, he lives his and then we come back together and redesign our lives together.  I always learn a lot about myself and our relationship.  My kids had the summer of their lives as well dancing around town, making new friends, staying with extended family, going to weddings and swimming in the angel water lakes of the Adirondacks nearly every day.  It took being around people that have known me for years to remind me that even though I may not be 18 again, the essence of my personality expands much further than my roles as Mom and wife.  Having a husband that works 100 hours a week and nursing 2 children for almost 4 straight years caused me to lose sight of this.  My essence loves charachters, the colorful people of the world that define variety. I cherish those people. My essence loves being in the moment, flying by the seat of my pants and flowing from one social interaction to another, starting my days with conversations and ending my days with insights, smiles and vivid memories. My essence is outgoing and it lives to say the things that are on everyone’s mind but no one wants to say. Some call this “stirring the pot,” I call it, honesty.    I was surrounded by people this summer that appreciate and honor these traits and they nursed my spirit out of hibernation.

So I’m back in Texas running from one A/C unit to the next yearning for just one more day of summer livin. I know that my life and my family will only thrive with some balance. This balance is elusive.  My identity tends to be shadowed by my roles of mom and wife to a Urologic sugical resident who works 100+ hours a week saving the penises of wounded soldiers. As honorable as Matt’s job is, it can take a toll on family life. I know it seems crazy, but I want to find my own job, outside of my house. I need a reminder that my life is not just making dinners, eating dinners, cleaning up dinners, changing diapers and retelling the story of the three little pigs.  Many of you will say, “but being a Mom is the most important thing you can do and it IS a full-time job.” Of course it is, but I’ve been doing this job for 4 years, I’m damn good at it and I need a promotion.

So my dream job is becoming a restaurant promoter, working for badass restaurants and promoting them with all my heart, tasting the foods, giving honest feedback and giving the worlds best chefs the business edge to make their restaurants boom. Beautiful universe and beautiful readers if you know people who would like to hire me, let’s get it going. Eventually, I’d like for Gail Simmons to retire and I will step into her position permanently. In the meantime, I will live as vividly as possible following my newly created recipe for a delicious life.

Recipe for a Delicious Life is:

100 cups of love

101 cups of self-love (including: good eats, yoga, wholesome friendships, coffee shops, etc)

25 drops of FUN

10 pinches of a passionate outlet

Combine:  gratitude, acceptance, integrity, playfulness, spaciousness, dance parties, tea parties, romance, adventurous date nights, girlfriends and more girlfriends, coffee shops, farm fresh foods, generous smiles, wind blown hair, mustard colored handbags, chocolate chips, red objects, downward facing dog poses, pedicures, clean teeth, courageous acts of kindness, laughter, fort building, pillows fighting, loving souls, autumn leaves, pumpkin bread and a lots of spooning.

Mix throughly and enjoy as often as possible.

 

 

Tell me, what’s your recipe for a Delicious Life?