August 21, 2007

the spoon in my champagne

So...tomorrow my little blog, my little foodnut turns 1!

One year ago I wrote about life stuff in my kitchen - and in one year, I gotta tell you, life hasn't pulled any punches.

I've evolved the philosophy over the last 10 years that whenever you can create a ritual that marks life - you just do it.

You know what that means? Champagne.

I was thinking about champagne this morning on the subway, on my way to work. I wasn't meaning to, and I don't usually, but I'm reading What Einstein Told His Cook 2 and he brought it up.

Not Einstein actually, Robert L. Wolke - who is a professor emeritus of chemistry and a columnist emeritus with the Washington Post, where he wrote Food 101. He wrote What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained a few years ago, and then realized there were more questions from his readers and there was just more to say - and he got to say it with his wife, food writer and cook Marlene Parrish who contributed the recipes in the book.

I found the book in the remainder pile in our local independent book store and had to buy it when I read the dedication: I dedicate this book, as I have my life, to my wife, companion, motivator, and most loving critic, Marlene Parrish, who characterizes herself as Einstein's Cook.

I am such a suck. Now that kind of love calls for champagne.

Not long ago my friend Carol asked me to get an open bottle of champagne out of her fridge. And sticking out the top was a spoon. "Um, Carol? Middle age setting in? Or is this a new spiritual ritual?"

She has known me long enough to ignore me, for the most part - you know like sisters do, I hear.

"Isn't that neat?," she said. A friend had told her that putting a spoon, handle first into an open bottle of bubbly will keep it bubbly a lot longer. "Huh," I said - a little skeptically as I looked at the open space around the spoon. I'd lived 44 years without hearing that one. A sheltered life.

So I was delighted to squeeze myself into a seat on the train this morning, open my daily indulgence with Professor Wolke and dig into the "Something to Drink?" chapter.

I've been entertained and then fascinated by the answers to his readers' queries: how to clear up cloudy iced tea, when it's best to put the cream in your coffee, how hot the water should be for tea (something you know I have almost religious feelings about) - not perhaps as important as the questions of saving the people of Darfur, or the subprime mortgage financial disaster, or the disappearing icebergs - but hell, I'm fascinated.

And sure enough, I turned the page, and there was the wacky question of whether to stick a spoon in your champagne bottle.

The reader asked if a fork would work as well. Prof. Wolke wrote: "Yes, a fork would work just as well. So would a railroad spike. Or a magic wand, for that matter, because the spoon did absolutely nothing. The spoon dodge is pure bunk."

Now how can you not love a man like that?

It turns out champagne just doesn't go stale as fast as other bubbly drinks. The key, he wrote, is to make sure you put it back in the fridge. Carbon dioxide, dissolves and stays that way better in cold liquids.

So his recommendation is to throw the unfinished bottle (okay that's the first challenge in testing this: not finishing the bottle) in the fridge and then, he says, to put a stopper in it (not apparently cutlery).

The other reason I love him is because he's adamant that you don't buy one of those fancy-assed bottle stoppers that look like NASA was involved early on in the project, just use a regular stopper - the bottle has already released its pressure that required the fancy cork and metal wire cage.

Of course the shame of not finishing the bottle can be rectified with mimosas in the morning - because let's face it, as Wolke wrote, "you never know when you'll have even more to celebrate in the morning."

Morning can be a metaphor of course. It reminds me of a beautiful line from the great, but dark, Sarah McLachlan: Cast me gently into morning, for the night has been unkind...

I have two bottles of Moet & Chandon I picked up at Heathrow last month (on sale). I was going to open them through the summer - but as life hasn't pulled any punches this year - they're safely stored in the cupboard near the fridge until Steve and I get through the next six months - and maybe come spring, they'll be just right to celebrate then I'll be just waiting to burst like a cork - with life, with victory, with new, deeper, even more valued rituals of love.

I love this blog - I love who this blog represents. And I love all the people who have taken it into their hearts. Here's to more of it - Happy Anniversary foodnut...


Deborah Dowd said...

Congratulations... on the anniverary and doing something you love and believe in! Enjoy the bubbly!

Julie said...

Happy anniversary -- and thanks for passing on the tips about keeping champagne. What Einstein Told His Cook has been on my wishlist for a while. I'm looking forward to reading it one of these days.