Progress and Productivity in Stillness

Personal

A day at home, I wake up and I’m already in pain. It’s 7am, but I know that I have two hours to kill. I can’t help but refresh the mail app on my phone. I only get notifications for my personal email accounts, but my curiosity always gets the best of me and I look at how many emails await in my work inbox. My eyes just getting accustomed to the sunlight also squint to accommodate the small text on my screen. I feel my shoulders rise, though I choose to put my phone down or scroll through twitter instead. The shoulder tension moves up to my neck. The minutes pass, it’s 7:45 and I tell myself I have until 8 before I can get up, but I get up anyway. I putter about my house, make breakfast and just wait until it’s an appropriate time to open my work laptop and stare at a screen all day. But I can’t wait until 9am to work. I open my laptop (my non-work one that I also do work on) and start reading my emails and writing my social plan for the week. I convince myself it’s not work since it’s not for my salaried job. That somehow makes it better.

All the while, I see the babbling miniatures of a devil and an angel perched on my shoulders. Both of them look like me, and are dressed in pretty rad outfits because duh. One is telling me that I should do my work, continue to hold myself to my standards and ride it out while the other is telling me to sit back, relax and take care of myself. Take a wild guess at which is which. Of course, the devil on my shoulder eggs me to sit on my couch and watch movies. Why though? Why does my desire to pause coincide with devilish temptation? What harm is my inactivity really causing?

I think modern corporate labor has put too much of a value on professional productivity. Since high school it’s been ingrained that I need to be busy all the time – taking college classes, engaging in extra curricular activities, volunteering, studying – in order to beef up my resume and make myself look appealing on paper. Essentially, busy equals important, and if I can’t fill a page listing my accomplishments, achievements by age 18 then I am not somehow unworthy of a promising future making other people’s money. And I know this because I filled those pages and took those classes, and all that it’s given me was an inability to take care of myself because if I’m not advancing my professional career, I’m lazy. Right now, I resent my inability to separate my personal worth from an arbitrary value deciding my professional worth – a vanity metric in professionalism, a quantified value on my productivity and therefore goodness.

If it’s not clear, I’m a workaholic and compulsive people pleaser. It feels good to get that off my chest. While I do my best to be unapologetically myself, I have inherent guilt when I disappoint people. Even people I’ve never met before, people I hardly interact with. (“That’s crazy, Marcella.” Right?) I derive my individual value based on how many lines bisect tasks on a list, or how many Facebook users share posts and images I create. While I feel this way about myself, I preach and preach the importance of self care, of rest, because truly I can’t find myself worthy of that sanctity and peace, but others should do it for themselves. I’ve got to work. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

These tendencies have brought me some success but have mostly set me up for emotional failures, especially right now. Now’s not the time for sealing deals and expanding your audience. I’m hearing the phrase “business as usual” to describe operations right now and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Business as usual” is simply a guise for “we aren’t interested in hearing about your hardship.” The very “get back to work” mindset that will cause a mental health deficit once we crawl out of the collective darkness and resume a more lively, interactive “normal.”

It’s already hitting me: constant anxiety and tension from work-related stress coupled with the ambiguity of the future as we know it. I’ve taken my fair share of easy days, but it brings me more stress to try and justify the outcomes of my “laziness.” Who will have to assume my responsibilities? Will my boss notice? Will clients say something? It’s almost not worth that extra stress.

Oh, but it is. It’s worth it once you understand the incredible power and poise in stillness. Like I’ve always said (and “I’ve always said” because it’s been said to me so often), you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to refill before you can pour again. But also you have to drink from the cup too. You can’t keep filling up your own cup to continue dumping it. You can’t let your own well go dry without taking a drink. Because simply you need water to survive. And we’re all just trying to survive this one day at a time.

And while rest looks like physical inactivity, it’s just a different form of progress. There’s growth in rest. Humans, organisms do their most profound growth while resting. And it took a jar of sauerkraut and a walk in the woods for me to understand how my own stillness could transform me.

I’m no stranger to shoving vegetables in jars and turning my countertops into small-scale science experiments. I took an inexcusable amount of AP science classes in high school, and I would be remiss to not apply some of my “useless” knowledge to my kitchen antics. And when I made a big jar of sauerkraut I saw the possibilities in seeming inactivity. In a jar on my kitchen table, microscopic bacteria were engaging in fermentation. Though the jar didn’t move for days, invisible processes were at work. Upon each day’s burp (not me burping, but me cracking the jar’s lid to prevent too much gas buildup) I could see bubbles rise from the shredded cabbage and smell what could only be described as early stage sauerkraut. Beneath a seemingly unchanging exterior, a transformation occurred.

Human perception is also not the only measure of development. The existential “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it” scenario is extremely human-centric and highlights validation, not only as a marker of activity, but as a necessity for improvement or change. On a walk in the woods only a few weeks ago, I encountered fallen trees, cracked in the middle with the trunk and roots secured in the ground; the fallen limbs interrupting a trail. I couldn’t tell when it happened and I didn’t know if anyone could watch the top swing down and land on the ground. The fact is, yes, the tree still falls and still makes a noise. Because nature does not continue happening for the sake of human applause and validation. On my walk I saw dandelions both with shaggy yellow flowers and seeded white orbs, maturing at different rates but maturing regardless of my ability to notice. While we all watch the seasons change from inside our homes, the tides don’t stop because a boat is not gliding towards the shore. Instead the tides continue the ebb and flow, boat or no boat, surfer or no surfer, because that’s how the ocean moves forward.

But do you know how much the human body does daily outside of sending emails, holding conference calls and eating snacks? With each inhale your lungs fill with air, delivering oxygen throughout your body. Your hair and nails are growing. White blood cells are fighting like hell to protect your immune system from bad shit. The average human experiences cell turnover of 50-70 billion cells per day. I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, but that’s a lot of work for someone who might be eating Cheetos and watching Seinfeld on the couch. If I were the devil upon my shoulder, I’d use these facts to bolster my position, convincing all other parties that this inactivity is paramount for growth.

I know that this entire essay is entirely part of my problem, but I’m done I swear. You don’t have to be ripping your hair out and crying daily from stress to find self-worth and growth. I’m using “you” as a hypothetical as if I’m talking to myself. I haven’t gotten so far as to start talking to myself, but we’re starting new things here so why not. There’s an opportunity to disconnect and progress through rest, through stillness. It’s a difficult lesson I’m learning while adjusting to the ‘new normal.’ Resting to repair an immune system counts as progress. Reading because it quells your anxiety counts as growth. Don’t let anyone else define your growth in arbitrary metrics. To humans a cocoon hangs stagnant, if not for the wind, but inside a creature becomes a winged beauty.

Fall Leaves and Boots

My Mindful Exercise: 30 Days of Thanksgiving

lifestyle

Around 4 years ago I was spending too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself. Weeks of antibiotics took a toll on my physical, mental and interpersonal well-being – not to mention I was non stop working and taking pride in my inability to remember meals or get adequate sleep. It was a toxic form of Stockholm Syndrome where I was growing to love the alienated, unwell version of myself because I associated being exhausted to being important. This was my sophomore year of college, an extremely formative year not just in spite of but because of some of those hard times. This tradition grew out of something unpleasant and that’s always my hope whenever November comes along.

So this is 30 Days of Thanksgiving, a 30 day mindfulness exercise that not only changes my mindset but also prepares me for the holiday carnage. After Halloween ends folks jump straight to Christmas and sentences brim with “I want” statements. “I want a boyfriend,” “I want some new boots,” those kind of “I want” statements that seem greedy and sometimes unrealistic. It really changes the season of giving into a season of taking.

Honestly, slow down. Christmas will come like it does every year. It’s draining, and I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiety-ridden and stressed. What we miss by rushing through November is an opportunity to take care of ourselves and appreciate the little, every day things we take for granted. This is especially necessary before the draining, hectic holiday season. I mean, is anyone ready for heavy traffic and throwing elbows at the mall? I’m not.

How does it work?

This could very well be a journal activity, but I prefer to do this on Instagram as a way to bring realism and positivity into the social media realm, something lacking in a lot of hyper-produced, inauthentic content that circulates among the many genuine accounts. Every day, no matter how down I feel, I think of one thing I’m thankful for. It could be anything: people, places, things. You know the drill.

Now despite hard days that inevitably arise when it gets dark at 5pm, you have to keep going. Last year I remember getting a flat tire on my way to meet someone for dinner. It was a perfect situation: no tire iron, no car jack, no roadside assistance. Thankfully, the person I was meeting for dinner drove the extra hour to meet me. We called a local roadside service to change my tire, and after a few hours and about a hundred dollars we were en route to finally get some food. The CBD cocktail I drank with dinner made me ugly cry in the shower a few hours later, but despite all that (plus the next day’s waiting for new tires) I still could find something to be thankful for.

Personally, I find that putting this out on social media almost manifests a positive attitude. There’s something about writing it down and getting input from friends and followers that feels comforting, like we’re all living through November together. However, there are other variations depending on what you can manage. I mentioned bringing this exercise analog in a journal, but you can also verbally express thanks. Tell the people around you when you feel thankful for their presence. Tell your favorite barista that despite your long commute, you’re thankful for mornings because their drinks bring you comfort. Hell, tell the pizza guy that you’re thankful for that stuffed crust. Whatever you choose please don’t forget the reason for the activity. Keep your gratitude front and center even when you’re not posting about it on social media or writing it down in your journal.

Beaded Woven Purse

Thrifting Threes: Clothing I Look For

Vintage

I love thrift stores: the pre-loved clothing crowded on racks rich with past lives and probably dust, mismatched flatware and commemorative beer mugs so you can fondly recall the Stella you drank in Florida last winter, and the smell, a combination of attic-ridden Christmas decorations and your grandma’s closet (the one with the Danish cookie tin full of sewing supplies). Thrifting and buying second hand is on the rise as vintage styles undergo a renaissance and sustainability becomes essential to young people. I know I can’t resist a trip to the nearest thrift store. It’s an adventure that exercises creativity and allows anyone to push the bounds of personal style and expression. I personally go into thrift stores with no expectation so as to keep an open mind. What do I buy? When it comes to clothing, I typically shop within three main categories.

Basics

Your closet needs a solid foundation of neutral and practical articles that you can seamlessly accessorize and pair with just about anything. Here is not the time to harp on designer names. Second hand basics can come from anywhere, but it is nice to find higher quality pieces that will last longer. Beige, brown, black, white and grey items as well as denim are valuable finds at any thrift store. Also, staples that you have difficulty finding in your size at other retail shops. I’m 5ft tall (5ft short, rather) and can never find maxi skirts and dresses that don’t drag on the floor. With the range of styles, sizes and decades represented at most thrift stores, it’s easy to find size and shape outliers. It may take digging, but it’s worth it.

Quirky Statement Pieces

Thrift stores are treasures troves for weird and unusual clothing. Of my statement pieces, silly embroidered chambray shirts are my favorites. This is the time to bring retro patterns and colors into your wardrobe. It’s also the perfect place to find ugly sweaters and comical t shirts previously worn by cool dads and 80’s nerds alike. These pieces bring out your personality, and offer an inexpensive way to push your own wardrobe’s boundaries and have some fun. This is an opportunity to go wild in the accessory section and find the beaded bag or dad hat of your dreams. It’s an opportunity to look through all sections of the store, men’s, women’s, pajamas, to find the piece that suits you. It’s these pieces that rightfully garner the most attention from friends and colleagues, even if sometimes that attention is in the form of “what is that?”

Designer Labels and Luxury Pieces

Here is when the label matters. If you’re reading this, you definitely don’t get paid enough to drop cash on luxury brands or premium fabrics. Smaller local thrift stores or consignment shops typically offer a more curated selection, but sometimes increase the price knowing the value of what they’re carrying. No matter, it will still be less expensive and more eco-friendly than buying something brand new. I’ve been fortunate enough to find cashmere turtleneck sweaters and a brand new (tags! still! on!) Michael Kors pencil skirt for less than $10. My boyfriend scored with a full Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece navy blue suit (retailed at a few thousand dollars) for less than $15. Here is where you maybe want to also consider shelling out extra money for alterations if the piece is valuable and right.

Alternatives

Now I’m aware that not everyone can shop for new items at environmentally friendly, ethically made clothing stores. Some people may not even be able to shop at higher end consignment shops depending on tier, or even thrift stores due to travel. This doesn’t mean you can’t still wear sustainable clothes AND be fashionable. Swapping clothes with friends and family is an environmentally friendly and FREE way to refresh your wardrobe, especially when it comes to formal wear and highly seasonal or specific pieces. Cull your closet and invite friends to do the same. Dump your clothes out and swap.

Mexico City Pyramids

Five Days in Mexico City

Travel

I’m so so so sorry it’s been so long. If you follow me on Instagram (which, duh, you should) you’d know that I left my last job and have been in non stop motion since updating you last. You’d also know that I took a break from commuting and moving to go to Mexico City with my family. While the vacation was anything but relaxing, it was everything about culture. It’s undoubtedly true that Mexico’s history is part of America’s history, but we as Americans fail to learn about much other than European conquest. This trip illuminated so much about the country, like the hundreds of languages still actively spoken throughout, the many other civilizations besides the Aztecs and Mayans and the incredibly vibrant food.

After landing in the mid-afternoon on Saturday we all made a b-line for El Huequito for towers of al pastor tacos and stoneware of molten cheese and chorizo. The al pastor, being sliced from  a shawarma-esque inverted cone of pork, starred in this culinary experience, but the limes and platter of sauces were being passed around the table as we all could not decide which was the top. Naturally, we came back two days later for more sauce. Saturday was mostly a day of walking and eating. Street corn and churros made appearances on the day’s itinerary, and I’m happy to report that both changed me in different ways. The street corn just handed me an essay on why chili and lime belongs on everything (see: chili and lime on mangos) and the churros kicked any other doughnut or fried dough treat to the curb and became number one in my heart.

We knocked out that night because Sunday would be longer. We began the day at Panederia Rosetta and I’m different. The best croissant I’ve ever had made into a bowl to cradle guava jam accompanied by a cappuccino fueled our first stop: the palacio de bella artes. This art and architecture museum had Diego Rivera murals and a special exhibit on Francisco Icaza, but the physical building, completed in the 1930’s, was the masterpiece full of art deco-style interiors and multiple domes with sunset-colored roofs. In the city center (the Zocalo) a marriage of antiquity, tradition and modernity gathered between the Templo Mayor, the unearthed ruins of a civilization, the cathedral and street vendors fleeing whenever a cop entered the area. In the beating sun we ate tamales and coconut agua fresca amid street rituals and incense burning in the summertime chaos around us, a typical Sunday in Mexico.

In the evening we returned to the palacio de bellas artes for the ballet folklorico, but not before a margarita. At Miralto, at the tippy top of a sky scraper, the margaritas lived up to the view of all of Mexico City. However, the margaritas paled in comparison to the artistry and musicianship displayed at the ballet. Traditional song, dance and costume was paraded, and I swear I would’ve given all my money to watch the same two men duel on harps. I never wanted the dancing to end.

If I could recommend one place to visit in Mexico, go to Teotihuacan. I remember reading about these pyramids in fifth grade, unable to pronounce the name of the civilization. The pyramids, once colorful, were stone steps up to a high platform. The pyramids of the sun and moon (misnomers, by the way) were both sights to behold and behold from. From the tops of each, you can see the expanse of the archeological site as well as Mexico’s diverse landscape. Between the small temples lining the “street” between the pyramids, friendly wild dogs roamed protecting the space and posing politely for photos. The hike was intense up hundreds of narrow and steep steps, but it wouldn’t be right any other way. We managed another meal full of al pastor and a night of beer and mezcal to celebrate our triumph over the hike.

On our last full day we experienced some colonial beauty at the park and castle of Chapultepec. The park, like central park, opens up in the midst of the bustling city and the castle, perched atop a hill, feels like slices of Versailles stacked upon each other and dropped in Mexico. The anthropology museum, at the opposite entrance of the park, holds that massive “Mayan Calendar” that is neither Mayan nor calendar. Tired and weary, our trip was coming to a close and we had one last sight to behold.

After a 45 minute Uber drive we all arrived in Xochimilco to embark on a ride through the swampy lagoon on a vibrant boat. Sort of like a Mexican party gondola. Mariachi sang on boats floating by while other boats, packed to capacity, became floating fiestas. The celebratory boat ride signified a successful trip and a bittersweet end to a week of better-than-expected weather and planning.

Lastly on the fifth day, we returned to Panederia Rosetta for one last buttery, flakey croissant, just so sad to leave.

I know you didn’t come here for a Rick Steves Tour, so here is the best of the best: my top 5 foods from Mexico City (plus some honorable mentions).

  • Tacos al pastor
  • Mango with chili, lime and salt
  • Pulche (a traditional fermented drink)
  • Churros from El Moro
  • Guava roll from Panederia Rosetta

Honorable mentions:

  • Mezcal with the dead worm floating in it.
  • Street corn ‘con todos’ (with mayonnaise, chili, queso fresco and lime)
Homemade Lactofermented Hot Sauce

I want to pickle and ferment everything now

food

I’ve been pretty obsessed with the idea of fermentation. Keeping something in a jar on your counter in hopes it’ll become a bubbly science experiment excites me in a little kid sort of way. Five year old Marcella would never get away with making this kind of mess in my family’s kitchen. But 22 year old Marcella pays her own rent and can leave jalapeños in a cloudy brine on her counter for as long as she likes.

Now I didn’t just enter the world of fermentation and nail it. I wanted to ease into it. I started with a quick pickle. A quick pickle method emulates the flavor of those crispy summertime pickles you want to slap on burgers or just eat out of the damn jar. It’s basically a long, vinegar-based marinade. The sugar/vinegar combo gives it that pseudo-funky flavor but without all of the benefits of natural lactobacillus fermentation (big words, we’ll get there). The gist of a quick pickle is submerging the vegetable in a heated mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Dissolve salt and sugar in the liquids and add aromatic spices like bay leaves, coriander, peppercorns and really whatever hearty spices you want to bring out. Then pour the hot mixture over the vegetables. The vegetables can get spruced up with some added raw garlic and other softer aromatics like leafy herbs or ginger. Let all the contents marinate in that jar for a few days before cracking it open and putting those crispy and delicious veggies on EVERYTHING.

Now fermentation is a metabolic process in which natural sugars are broken down and carbon dioxide is released. I remember a biology experiment in eighth grade involving a packet of yeast, juice and a balloon. As time went on the balloon fixed atop a bottle containing the juice and yeast started to fill with air – fermentation was happening and the yeast was, essentially, breathing. We also straight up made wine in class so that was cool.

The chemical process is initiated by yeast which exists in the air, not just in those handy packets at the grocery store. Lactobacillus fermentation breaks down glucose and transforms it into lactic acid. No, this doesn’t involve dairy (but yeah, it could). The transformation is what turns wheat and grapes into beer and wine respectively. It preserves these foods and actually makes them safe to eat even a year after purchasing them fresh. Also makes them funky as hell.

I chose to quick pickle jalapeños using the recipe above (plus turmeric) and ferment jalapeños to make my own hot sauce. I followed this hot sauce video but used jalapeños instead of fresno chilis. Yes, the brine will get cloudy and yucky looking. That means it’s working. However, and I cannot stress this enough, keep the peppers submerged otherwise that cloudiness could become mold, fuzzy stuff on top of exposed peppers.

The result is a tangy, spicy and funky sauce that seems to get spicier as it sits. The two pickled products provide that welcome kick to many dishes (some favorites are tacos, eggs and salads) but the difference is in the nuanced flavor. The fermented peppers are complex and spicy with the sourness of vinegar present but not overwhelming. The quick pickled peppers remain crunchy but the vinegar plays a crucial role in the bright flavor.

Both have their places. I definitely would make both again as they require little active time and the payoff lasts. Different spices and additions can breathe new life into these pepper, or different vegetables can be used to hold onto spring and summer’s bounty long into the winter.

Tofu, meet the omnivores

food, lifestyle, vegetarian

My first encounter with tofu was neither pleasant nor life changing. I ordered a miso soup that accompanied a sushi dinner. I remember dunking my spoon into the cloudy amber liquid and lifting jiggly chunks of tofu out from beneath the brothy surface. The flavor was nothing spectacular but the texture was just a little off-putting. I had little to no desire to give tofu a second chance.

But this wouldn’t be a good blog post if I didn’t try tofu again. Many years later I tried tofu in a rice bowl, cooked until crispy and drenched in creamy coconut curry sauce. I thought “man, this is good.” For a second I thought vegetarianism was possible for me.

But the truth is, I love meat. I grew up in an Italian household and that meant fish for Christmas, lamb for Easter and fresh vegetables on the side. The comforts of a Sunday sauce simmered with meatballs or a fried chicken cutlet at my grandma’s house could never be replaced by vegetarian alternatives.

Though I love meat, I have no desire to try something marketed as a “meat alternative.” It’s not meat, don’t try to make it meat. What do I want? I want to highlight plant based proteins and meals for their naturally, non-meat flavors, which brings me to tofu. Let’s edit the dialogue…

While some “meat substitutes” capitalize on tofu’s ability to crumble like ground beef, I prefer to savor this jiggly soy protein for its naturally appealing qualities, and that means heavy handed seasoning and crisping the edges until golden brown. Since tofu is a blank canvas seasoning is everything. It’s not the time to be timid in the kitchen. In my experiences, tofu tastes best with a sweet and salty sauce (like here in this vegan noodle bowl). The tofu’s creamy texture also compliments a bit of spice nicely, so go ahead and add those chili peppers.

When cooking tofu, at least for a crispy result, it is imperative to really squeeze that liquid out. Put the block under some weights and let it just release liquid for as long as possible before cooking. This will ensure maximum flavor absorption and minimal spongey texture.

The downside to tofu? Not great for leftovers unless eaten cold. In my experience reheating tofu results in that rubbery texture. Certain things (like the aforementioned noodle bowl) don’t taste spectacular cold or reheated, but a cold tofu dish tastes great. These shawarma spiced tofu pitas tasted arguably better the next day cold: the tofu maintained crisp edges and didn’t seize up and become little morsels of rubbery nightmares.

Takeaways to this tofu rant: vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy tofu. Period. If you try tofu and it’s spongey or jiggly, give it a shot elsewhere. Season it aggressively and don’t expect a meaty flavor. Instead, approach tofu with open-mindedness and interest to try something new. You might be an omnivore like me and begin incorporating more plant based meals into your diet too, no disguise needed.

Does “natural wine” even mean ANYTHING?

drink, lifestyle, wine

So maybe you read my post about natural wine (psst, it’s over here) where I talk about my first experience trying a “natural wine.” I liked it, it tasted natural as one might imagine. But what does “natural wine” mean? Well, nothing apparently.

Now I’m no expert. I just probe poor store clerks whenever I get the chance. Last week while I was killing time in Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon I had to ask the clerk about the signage in the store. What does “low intervention” mean? Is that like “natural wine?” Well, he put it into perspective: when something says “all natural” what qualifies it as natural? Are certain things more “natural” than others? Does “natural wine” mean anything other than a marketing ploy to feign wellness? All I could think about was how could I succumb to this trick? Well because I’m a millennial and I love to know what’s trending and what I could or should be drinking.

Not to say “natural wine” means nothing but there’s no distinction or certification to classify wines as natural or not. All natural wines are, however, produced from organic grapes. But that doesn’t meant that organic wine is “natural wine.” GUH??

I was sort of right when I asked if “low intervention” was “natural wine.” When a wine is produced with “low intervention” that means during the fermentation process there is little technological involvement or additives. There is likely no sugar added to jumpstart the fermentation process, and nothing added to reduce acidity. “Low intervention” is a generic term because the wine making process involves A LOT of intervention to begin with.

Some natural wines will have that funky “barnyard” taste but many are softer. Natural wine essentially enables grapes to run their natural course in the fermentation process producing different tastes each time. Saying non-natural wine is bad would be false: additives and general intervention might be for the sake of consistency in batches, not necessarily producing a lesser quality wine.

So like, yes? It means something? But just barely. Does it define quality or guarantee the best taste? No. Use your best judgment and, as always, befriend the folks at your local wine store. Ask questions to find the wine that suits you best. Ask questions to find out which wine might have that funky “natural wine” flavor versus asking which wines are “natural wines.”

 

An Intro to French Wine

drink, food, wine

I love wine. Specifically, I love dry reds. After my time in Italy drinking mostly Chianti (*cue eye-roll at 20-something girl talking about studying abroad*) I developed an appreciation for big, full-bodied reds with a little tannic bite. So, that was my go-to. I unintentionally just never really ventured into French wines. Truly French wines. Not just a cab franc grown anywhere, but an imported French wine.

Let me begin by saying this: I’ve disgraced the French culture before. I’ve butchered the language and have made a fool of myself on the streets of Paris at least twice. Yet I’m craving a trip back to that enchanting city. It’s been the subject of my dreams as of late.

But back to the wine. On one of our weekend adventures we found ourselves in a boutique wine shop in Millerton, NY. The shop owner was knowledgable and very enthusiastic and while we think we look like toddlers, he took us very seriously. As we stared at the French section for a little too long, we decided on a bottle. Now, when we went to the counter our new shopkeeper friend asked why we chose this one. “I’ve heard of this label and really wanted to try it out,” Nick says. Later I learn, he just liked the bottle. Could’ve fooled me too. Honestly, I’m no better.

This wine was very drinkable (“no sh*t,” I say aloud as I type this). Not too sweet and not too dry. The perfect wine to finish in good company on an evening that you know will be full of laughs. I’d been craving meatballs all week and while we had fun putting our meal together we just couldn’t help drinking glass after glass of this wine. Enchanting, intoxicating, lovely.

I tried looking up reviews of this wine but I couldn’t find the exact vintage. So here’s my short review: I would drink this at a picnic, I would drink this with steak frites, on a boat, with a goat, I’ll drink this anywhere so long as I’m with someone I love. I guess that’s the allure of French culture: it’s somehow all about love in the most romantic sense. This isn’t the wine to bring for girls night, this is romance wine.

That pretty much sums up France for me: beauty and almost pretension on the outside, yet full of laughter and love within.

Natty Wine

drink, food, lifestyle

I’m a lady that loves wine. The words “natural wine” make me think one sip will turn me into this picturesque woman drinking wine on horseback at sunset. Or something. I don’t know, just my brain illustrating my impressions.

Nonetheless, I finally explored the realm of natural wines this weekend when I picked up my first bottle at Kingston Wine Company on Saturday. While intimidating to invest in a new wine that you may or may not love, this particular wine shop made it easy with friendly, knowledgable staff and handy labels on certain bottles marking flavor and whether staff recommend it. This bottle was a shop favorite and a customer favorite and I was lucky enough to snag the last bottle.

We decided on a French red. Domaine Le Briseau Coteaux du Loir Patapon Rouge (wow, a mouthful). Since the natural part makes this a little tannic and quite funky, the light red had dry elements without it being heavy. Without carbonation, it had a effervescent feel, like kombucha. In fact, it tasted like if someone made kombucha from grape juice. Does that sound bad? It was gamay-like but this is not a wine you want to chug on it’s own. That would be a crime. Food deserves to be paired with this wine. This is a wine I can drink with a big fat (phat) bowl of pasta or a lot of cheese and salami. Salty, cheesy foods need to have a real love affair with natural wine. It really be like that.

I enjoyed this probably because I love funky farm ales, which tend to have tannic qualities and are usually fermented without interruptions or additions. However, this was more akin to a farm cider. Ciders are technically apples wines, and this wine (for me at least) evoked the same feel as Graft’s Farm Flor cider: not-too-sweet, funkalicious and dry without that overbearing, headache-giving mouthfeel.

And hey, just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you have to like it. I went on a wine tasting and the owner of the vineyard told me something I’ll never forget: the best wine is not always the wine with the award, the best wine is the one you like drinking. For you, the best wine may not be the trendy natural wine, but I highly recommend trying a one to explore that decision for yourself.