We tend to take this for granted because of the era that we live in, but I am stunned by the amount of resources we have when it comes to food and wine. General information, recipes, publications, blogs…you name it. At the very least, you can find it on our good friend, the Internet. There is so much to experience that it’s really hard to keep up with it all.
So that’s why I’m equally stunned when I talk to people about this subject and every now and then they tell me, “Oh, I only drink Chardonnay” or say, “I don’t really cook, it’s too hard.”
Wait a minute…what? Really??
Even when some folks tell me about their travels overseas, they only go to Italy. Why? Unless you have family or close friends out there, there is no need to keep going back.
Seriously? Where is the sense of adventure?
Look, I know times are rough for a lot of us. Either you are trying to sell a home that’s been on the market for a year, or you have small kids, or you might even have an unbearable boss stressing you out. Maybe even all three of these apply to you.
But when it comes to our meals (whether you include a glass of wine or not), why make that a brutal experience? Shouldn’t this be stress relief?
After all, food, wine (and spirits) are social. They’re communal. Intimate. This aspect of our lives should be pleasurable. We deal with enough ridiculous nonsense in our day-to-day activities. Instead we can experience everything that the world has to offer and also not worry about spending the month’s car payment to do it.
Think back to when you were a child. Exploration was just a part of your life; it was how you learned to communicate. Then somewhere along the way, people let that desire to discover go by the wayside.
So how do we go about recapturing this feeling? Follow these five steps.
1) Get a Magazine or Internet Recipe
One. Just one. This is all you need to get the fire burning. Pick up Everyday Food or Real Simple for the most quick and easy (seriously, 20-30 minutes max) recipes on the planet. Try a Cooking Light recipe if you are watching your intake of certain foods. If you really want to dive in and already have some skills, check out some of what Food and Wine has to offer. Sometimes, you’ll even see a recommended wine pairing. No matter which way you go, just find something interesting…and try it!
2) Get to a Farmer’s Market or Join a CSA
Make friends with your local meat, poultry, and produce people. They have great material for you to work with. Everything will be in-season. If you have the opportunity to buy into Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from your local farm, do it! You get a share of all kinds of interesting things, and some places even supply a newsletter with recipes. Have you ever tried kale chips or cantaloupe salsa before? You should…
3) Stop Leaning on Your Favorite Wine
Brunello di Montalcino is my absolute favorite wine. But I will get a one-way ticket to the poor house if I was to only drink this, and it doesn’t pair well with many of the meals I eat daily. I am also a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc since it goes well with our meals, but shame on me if this is all I’m picking up at the wine shop.
Drinking too much of your favorite wine prevents adventure in the wine cellar, because you will lean on this crutch forever. Otherwise, that’s what you will believe all good wine is supposed to taste like! Give a red IGT Sicilia a shot, made from the Nero d’Avola grape. Or check out a dry Riesling from Alsace. There is just too much good wine out there to be myopic. You can find quality examples of these alternatives for under $15.
If you need help finding something new, ask an associate at the wine shop. Tell them what you typically like, and that you are looking for something different. A good associate will make a quality recommendation. That’s why they are there.
It doesn’t have to be far, either. If you live on the East Coast, get to the Finger Lakes or Virginia wineries. Live out West? Get to New Mexico or Texas. How about the middle of the country? Get up to the rising star in the wine world that is Michigan. Do you have an opportunity to get overseas? Go to Hungary and get your hands on some Tokaji Aszú. Experience the culture. Immerse yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.
Can’t travel? Read about a different culture. Get inspired to save up some cash to get somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. I’m not in a position to be Mr. Jet-Setter either, but I can watch Anthony Bourdain eat and drink his way through Rome and Japan, then add those places to my Bucket List.
5) Share Your Experience!
Whatever you do, wherever you go…share your new experience with others! We have so many ways to talk about what we tried. Blogs. Twitter. Facebook. E-mail. And of course if you are old-school…a phone call or an in-person visit to family and friends (it’s actually the best way to have someone truly get a feel for your emotions!). Make them want to be there, too!
99 out of 100 recipes I have ever tested out were at worst, serviceable and at best, outstanding! The same goes for the wines I have tried over the years; only a handful of them have been duds. If all I had to invest was a little time and thought to guarantee a range of acceptable to awesome, I would spend a lot of time at that activity. By sticking to the five steps above, I learned that not all curry is the yellowish-brown stuff that I never cared for. Instead, Thai red curry has become a new favorite for me! Pinot Noir has also rocketed up my list of preferred grape varieties.
So what about you? What have you done to step out of your comfort zone? I’d love to know about it! Remember, you should be following Step 5 after a new experience!
Tony Ambrosini left his technical sales career after nine years to become a full-time dad. When off the clock from his duties as Operations Manager of the Ambrosini household, he has a quest to be a gastronomic superhero: cooking, writing, studying, and sharing all things food, wine, and spirits-related. Tony recently passed the WSET Advanced Certificate exam with Distinction, and has contributed at Examiner.com as the Wine Pairing Examiner for the Atlantic City, NJ area. He frequently experiments with various recipes in his own kitchen, and has a great passion for the sport of American Football. Tony is happy to chat about anything via Twitter under the handle: @acfoodandwine.