Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift from the Sea, wrote “Europe…which we think of as being enamored of the past, has since the last war, strangely enough, been forced into a new appreciation of the present. The good past is so far away and the near past is so horrible and the future is so perilous, that the present has a chance to expand into a golden eternity of here and now. Europeans today are enjoying the moment even if it means merely a walk in the country on Sunday or sipping a cup of black coffee at a sidewalk cafe.”
Published in 1955 the near past she wrote about was, of course, World War II and German occupation, but she could have been talking about November 2015. After the November 13th attacks in Paris the French did what they do best – say “fuck you” to anyone wishing them to cower, with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In one aspect it fed into our stereotypes about the French, but it was remarkably valiant. The whole point of the attacks, like the assault on Charlie Hebdo earlier, was to frighten. There’s a big difference between survival and living. Survival is hiding. Living is saying “fuck you” …while holding a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Beaujolais Nouveau used to be a small affair. Fall announces the arrival of Beaujolais and the Nouveau was what the “locals” drank. This wasn’t, and isn’t, the stuff that’s going to the nice wine shops and the fancy restaurants. There’s no swirling, sniffing, sipping. This is the mason jar wine of the Burgundy wine region. It’s the wine that was made to celebrate the end of the harvest. Marketing got ahold of it in the 80’s and made it “a thing” here in the U.S., but if you look deeper, there’s tradition, meaning, and a valuable lesson.
Is there an agrarian culture that doesn’t celebrate the harvest in some way? It’s not only the culmination of hard work, it’s a prayer of thanks shared with friends and family. Perhaps we do it with food because it’s not only a celebration but a communion. An emotional investment in the future. We got through this season, let’s take a moment and relax and enjoy, because tomorrow we’ll get up and start the whole thing again. Think about that the next time you go out for a meal to celebrate the new house, the promotion, the engagement.
Yeah, it’s just the Beaujolais Nouveau, but it’s the wine that has been arriving every November, and it’s the wine that will continue to do so. Buy a bottle, share it with friends. The joy you get out of it isn’t in the wine, it’s who you choose to share it with.