June 30, 2008

The structure of recollection

by winecountrydog

Food, wine, cats, and M.F.K. Fisher: That's what dog-ma delighted in talking about the night of the summer-solstice full moon in the Valley of the Moon. I can still taste the bites of domestic, washed-rind cow's milk Muenster cheese. It paired nicely with an intense, fruity, young Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Or so I heard. (As a dog, I drink beer.) Apparently the bottle was a nice guerrilla vino from a local wine writer.

I'm still thinking about all the palate-educated humans and four-footeds who've pawsed in and around this northern California valley. Jack London's dogs pawsed here with their author/guardian, who wrote the 1913 novel The Valley of the Moon.

M.F.K. Fisher pawsed long enough to become a cherished Valley human. She was also an esteemed author and pioneer of the culinary memoir. She lived in Glen Ellen and liked cats, you know. I can see Ms. Fisher's Siamese in a photo of the back cover of A Cordiall Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man & Beast 'cuz the book's setting on dog-ma's dresser.

M.F.K. Fisher wrote about a lot of receipts. That's old school for recipes. For me, dog food recipes are woofable heaven.

The paw-point I'm getting to is that, to recognize good recipes, you've got to have an educated palate. And you get one by trying new things all the time.

One of my favorite veterinarians, Dr. Jona Sun Jordan, says a young cat is in need of having her palate educated by eating a variety of foods. This applies to all of us, pets and people, but it's crucial for cats. Eating a wholesome variety of fresh food gives us good mental and physical health for today, and nice memories and nostalgia for tomorrow.

Dog-ma says that Marcel Proust, early 20th century author of A la recherche du temps perdu, left us with the best quote about gastronomic nostalgia:

"The smell and taste of things . . . bear unfaltering, in the tiny drop and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."

Pawse here. Read that quote again. Think about how smell conjures up memories. The more I sniff, the more I want to sniff. . . .

Author Joan Reardon, expert biographer of Fisher, said of Proust's writings on nostalgia: "In pursuit of vanished time, [Proust] found a transfiguring moment in the taste of a madeleine dipped in a cup of lime flower tea." . . . Goosebumps.

Ms. Reardon reviewed The Future of Nostalgia, written by S. Boym. Reardon said, "Harvard professor Svetlana Boym says that the word [nostalgia] was coined in 1688 by the Swiss doctor Johannes Hofer to identify the homesickness of Swiss soldiers who reacted physically to the hearing of certain folk melodies and the eating of rustic soups while on missions away from home."

Ah, food and music! But back to feline palates. There are ways to prevent pussins from being overly fussy eaters. We understand now, thanks to Dr. Jordan, that we have to make sure the pussin palate is educated. We also have to make sure the food is FRESH and species-appropriate. Cats respond to instincts that help nurture and protect them; when they reject food, they're expressing their need for SAFE, FRESH sources of protein and other nutrients.

I'm sure cats would rather eat the way they did back in the day: whole-prey dining. . . . Now that's nostalgic. By the way, a cat's digestive system and instincts render her unable to tolerate stuff that we dogs inhale without a first or second thought. I think Ms. Fisher would say, "A pussin always displays good taste."

A snippet from M. F. K., the 1992 documentary by filmmaker Barbara Wornum:

Cats must really like Fisher's recipes. As a recipezaar blogger reported: "MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating contains her most famous 5 novels in one! Anyone who loves food should try and get a copy. . . . My cat scratched the index pages to shreds."

June 29, 2008

Dog for cork

In a popular wine blog, I came across this entry title: "Mothers against Cork." Why would mothers be against the little chewy things my buddy Jack corgi and I enjoy? The blog subtitle tells us "Opening Wine Should not be a Chore." Oh howl!

I showed "Mothers against Cork" to dog-ma. She scowled and said, "This was written by a guy at Wine Enthusiast. Not someone I usually think of as lame." What got dog-ma's back up is how the writer referred to his mother, making her sound like she's got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

He said, "[Mom] started trying to use it [the two-handled corkscrew], but she couldn’t manage. Her grip is not as firm as it used to be, and she couldn’t get the screw started with one hand while trying to steady the bottle with the other. When you think about it, this is a very tough job for an elderly person."

We don't want to think about it. And I'll bite you if you ever call me "elderly." I'm a dog for cork. I say just dig the darn corkscrew in, turn, pull, and bite.

That blog entry must've been a veiled plea to end the use of cork as a bottle closure — a topic that hits a little nerve with dog-ma. She says, "I'm not sure what all the anti-cork crowing is about, especially given that other closures are unproven, and that today's cork suppliers do massive QA and QC to avoid cork taint. . . .

"You can pull a cork out easily if you're shown how and have the right opening device — a sommelier's corkscrew — not one of those silly two-handled things. A wine bottle's only hard to open when the cork is dried out or welded into place."

Woof? I have more to learn about human behavior. I don't see why anyone would waste time welding a wine bottle closed.

June 28, 2008

Dog days in wine country

by winecountrydog

Are you a dog headed for wine country? . . .
It's not easy in summer for a dog traveling in hot California, Oregon, and Washington wine country. Where are you gonna hang out and stay cool? Dog-friendly places? . . . In California, you can't go in restaurants or farmer's markets, and relatively few winery tasting rooms. There are few places that'll let you inside with your guardian/owner. Yet you could die from heat stroke waiting in the car.

I've got to admit that, if I were a tasting-room manager or gift buyer, I wouldn't want rowdy dogs wagging merchandise off the shelves. And as a winery patron, I wouldn't want to run into big rowdy dogs, especially in crowded tasting rooms.

So what's a friendly dog in wine country to do?

1) Get to googly pawing. Find dog-friendly tasting rooms, not just dog-friendly wineries — there's a difference. Ask wineries whether they have shady outdoor spots for us dogs. And look for other dogstinations — you know, dog events like Bark in the Park, Graton Day festival Pet Parade, and Healdsburg Dog House Halloween parade. Always make sure you've got your dog bytes right though: Contact wineries, inns, and events to confirm their dog policies!

2) Make a plan for how you're going to stay cool, which means all day long in summer. Don't worry about evenings; it cools off before sunset. You could get a professional dog walker, doggy daycare, or a dog spa visit along your travel route. (Consider a single-run kennel 'cuz you might get overwhelmed by strangers.) Tell your people to see about advance reservations and other requirements!

3) Pack everything you need to stay cool: your water bowl, plenty of water, your leash and outdoor tie-down, cooling bandana neck-scarf, cooling pet mats, Cool Vest, shade umbrella, and a stack of towels. Towels soaked in cold water and wrung out will help you and your people stay cool. Remember, too, to pack your food, treats, travel ID, toys, emergency contacts, vaccination records, and other regular stuff.

4) Get a good doggie seatbelt harness. I wear my Ruff Rider Roadie harness and wouldn't do car travel without it. Forget the dog crate! You'll suffocate inside that thing in the summertime here.

5) Tell your people to sit-stay flexible. Be prepared to change the itinerary on super-hot triple-digit days. We have only a few in a row, then it cools off again. On the hottest days, head for wineries and recreation spots in the cooler Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. (See WineRoad.com.)

6) If you get desperately hot on the wine road: Ask your driver-person to stop and buy bags of ice to arrange close to you — not directly on you!
Even with ice and cooling mats, you cannot survive long alone in the car. If your people park in the sun instead of the shade, you're done for. You're taking a risk if you even try to stay in the car, so just don't let your people leave you there.

7) If your people have an emergency: Tell your guardian/owner to speak up, and go get the people at the winery or restaurant or wherever to let you go inside with them while they take care of the emergency!

June 27, 2008

Blogging is good for you

Everybuddy thought I was silly when I said I started blogging to keep my mind off my problems after major back surgery. But I knew blogging is good for you.

Howl if you still want to, but consider the May 2008 Scientific American article "Blogging — It's Good for You," which is about studying the therapeutic value of blogging:

". . . Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity . . . and even speeds healing after surgery. . . . Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a 'placebo for getting satisfied,' Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly. . . ."

Dogs have stressful experiences, like my recent veterinary emergency. I don't complain about that 'cuz I'm grateful to be able to walk and be pain-free.

But I do admit to whining about what a dog-un-friendly world it is. If only I were allowed to sit-stay and write at more cafes and wineries. . . .

June 26, 2008

Long liver

by winecountrydog

To begin at a happy beginning, I've picked a special birthday: HBD, dog-ma!

My buddies — Jack Welsh Corgi (aka pawlitico) and Ani Siamese — and I had plans to surprise dog-ma with a cake. Last night, we waited till after dog-ma had gone to bed. Ani, an artist, insisted we do a Neo-Synthesist interpretation of a cake. She had it in her head to use raw liver to symbolize longevity as a wish for dog-ma, and to call the cake piece "Long Liver." Ani's a deep thinker, but we thought we knew where she was coming from.

What we didn't know was where the raw liver was coming from — not till Ani dragged out long pieces of liver she'd saved from dinner. One by one, she dragged them out of her bowl and carried them across the kitchen as if she were doing a performance. There were little red splotches everywhere she pawsed with the dripping pieces.

Ani's animated performance had an unintended effect upon Jack.

Jack began following Ani back and forth to try to snag some liver. He woofed at her like he always does when he wants to play. I had to muzzle him with my mouth. I reminded him that we didn't want to wake dog-ma. I really thought I had things under control. I didn't realize that none of us can resist raw liver for long. Before I could say woof, we were all pulling at the pieces, which became longer and longer. . . .

So we had to celebrate sans cake. We made do by holding the BD candles in our front paws. And we gave dog-ma a nice bottle of Freestone Fogdog.

corgis Tilin and Jack