August 29, 2001:

Lettie Teague, a Food & Wine editor and writer, recently wrote,

"...With so many more wines to choose from, I found myself wondering each time if I was making the best recommendations. The minute I suggested one wine, I immediately thought of another, equally good one or two - never a problem in the days when "a wide selection" meant you had wines from most regions of France. Now, it didn't seem so much about making a sale as it was about a search for the Platonic ideal. My husband, by the way, says this is how I give directions. I can always think of several routes to any destination and feel obliged to describe each one in detail. Unfortunately, most drivers want someone to just make the choice for them."

This paragraph hit particularly close to home, both about wines, as an aspiring student of the vine, and about connoisseurship in general.

Whether answering a question about "What is the best car" or "what watch should I get?" to "which phrasing do you like better, gets the point across more elegantly," this syndrome has been familiar with me since the '70s.

I remember, from my early teens, someone asking me, "So you like cars so much, know so much about them, what is the best car?"

I replied, "Well, it depends on what you are looking for, what is best for you. Someone looking for a family car is not going to think the Ferrari Daytona is best. Horsepower? Smoothness? Passenger room? Handling? Slinky elegance or practical boxiness? What are you looking for?"

By then, their eyes had glazed over, and I could tell they were trying to be polite, but thinking, "It was just a simple question."

I guess I haven't learned much about human relations in these many decades...


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