We were in San Antonio when Lynn first saw the email from the Alabama Booksmith. Peter Kaminsky was going to be in town touring behind his new book Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them. (He referred to it as his Pigapalooza Tour). In honor of the occasion, Frank Stitt would be hosting a wine dinner at Bottega. Given the swine emphasis of our recent odyssey, it was obviously the perfect way to put a final close to the events of the last two weeks.
So last night found us on the mezzanine with 34 other guests, eating a remarkable meal (Niman Ranch lardo, salame & pancetta while we mingled, a salad of pork cheeks and fava beans to start, with a main course of "porchetta, burgundy and brooklyn style" (recipe in the book), finishing up with a selection of cheeses and a bread pudding) accompanied by perfectly matched wines. Jake was the supremely charming master of ceremonies, of course. Kaminski was decidedly entertaining and gracious, reading a few passages from his book, and talking through a slide show describing his (and others) efforts to combat the factory farming of pigs by supporting artisanal farmers and producers.
We try to go to wine dinners like this whenever our busy schedules allow. We've never left one without having learned a few things, met a few interesting people, and having had some memorable conversations. Throughout human history, the combination of good food, wine, and an interesting mix of people has been recognized as one of life's supreme joys.
Aside from the obesity epidemic, part of the tragedy of our overprocessed, fast food culture is that too many of us see food as nothing but fuel. We eat on the run, or in front of tv, primarily so that we can keep running. When I was growing up, in a catholic household, we prayed before every meal, and every meal was an occasion for conversation. These days, I don't pray (in that sense), but I do take time to be grateful for every meal. And every evening, when we're at home, Lynn and I eat together in the dining room, with a lit candle on the table, music in the background, a bottle of wine, and something that we've prepared by hand, be it as simple as a couple of grilled sausages, a boiled potato, and some steamed green beans. It is always one of the best times of the day.