Thursday 08 Dec 2016

Uneducated Palate
David Simmonds

“You’re drinking liquid with liquid”? The wine expert shook, even stirred.

“Well, it’s my wife you see,” I began. “She has this book group and they...” The verbal shovel with which I was about to dig us a hole was grasped by more resolute hands.

“Two soups, two wines - one red, one white. That’s the rules of the game. Now I want you to tell me which wines to buy. I’ve never touched a drop in my life. I want cheap, preferably with screw tops,” my wife asserted. 

“We are a cork-only establishment, madam,” our helper sighed, realizing the grip by these wine Neanderthals. We were at Pasture Ridge estates - the County’s first off grid, naturally grown, trans-fatty free, zero carbon, non-exploitative estate winery - and cork only as well. Maybe we should just have gone to the LCBO.  

”Perhaps I could help if Madam told me what seasonings go in the soups?”

My wife stuck to her guns. “The pea soup’s flavoured with pepper and carrots,” she said; “and it’s pretty darn good. “

“Only pepper?” our inquisitor retaliated. “No lemongrass or coriander? Then I could have matched the taste to the wine. You just give me pepper; I have no palette to work with.

”And pea soup with carrots. That is a fundamental violation of the Geneva Cooking Convention.”

I lightheartedly pointed out that it could be worse - we weren’t serving his wine with baked beans, and we could always cover the bottles with paper bags when company arrived. My remarks hung heavy in the air for a few seconds before clattering on to the floor. An eternity later, and some forty dollars poorer, we left, but with our dignity in shreds.

“I don’t know a Pinochet Noir from a Topo Gijio, and I don’t care,” said my wife defiantly. I assured her that my sporadic tippling skills could guide us through any wine sophistication forest into which we happened to wander. “Just ask for the Chateau Demorestville Canard Enfant and you’ll be fine,” I said, recalling the age words of the English oenophile Horace Rumpole. “And I’ll help pour at your book club: just put the ice cubes in the white wine, not the red. And if anyone asks about the bouquets, just say it has a ‘hint of grape with a mellow after bite of marshmallow and mushroom manure’-”

I’m writing this before the book club meets, so you’ll have to imagine your own outcome. In any event, I’m using the incident to lead into these questions. Aren’t there more people out there who share our lack of sophistication? Is there enough promotion of County food and drink services that cater to the ‘untutored’ palette? Wouldn’t it be nice to be better informed about the County’s best ‘ordinary’ food and drink?

I’m not advocating for a ‘Grub Trail’ of some sort: I’d just like more intelligence to bubble up. For instance, I would like to know where to find the biggest, greasiest breakfast served at the lowest price with the best service over the longest period. I would speak up for Kris’s Cafe in Rossmore and the Harbour View Restaurant in Picton. If we extended the boundaries of the County a tad, I would definitely have to include McDonuts, on Road 49 on the Tyendinaga Reserve, for its number two special; four dollars for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with coffee, together with all the free background tobacco smoke you can inhale. I’m sure there are many other places that I don’t know about. 

There are many fine restaurants in Wellington, Ontario. Wouldn’t it be nice to consult a collective intelligence report on the Wellington Grill, which is always generous on the meat and gravy, but pass on the coleslaw; the Plaza for Greek, pray for baklava and settle for rice pudding; the Sandbanks Grill, is best for the Duneburger, cold draft beer and fresh cut French fries.

Where is the best place to have a straightforward cup of fresh brewed coffee and the milk can’t be frothed; replete with a generous idle time allowance and plenty of old newspapers? It’s time for seasoned vets to spill the beans. I think there is a public out there waiting for discovery.

That’s just a start. We could collect our wisdom concerning our pizzerias, our taverns, our farm stands, our French fries, our fudges, our ice creams and our homemade soups and pies. For that matter, our church and school dinners, our teas and bake sales; and our fair fare. 

I know, I know, one of the County’s other weekly newspapers has a ‘best rust proofing’ and ‘best yoga studio’ list of awards that includes food service. I’m talking about something much more comprehensive. I’m not proposing to do the legwork. That’s up to you. 

If you do, I have one useful piece of advice for you. Never serve liquid with liquid. It’s a little piece of gastronomic knowledge that I picked up some time ago.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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