“What you chose to eat for breakfast is a political act. What shoes you buy is a political act.”
October 1991, orientation day for my first restaurant job in Cambridge and although I didn’t realize it at the time those words had just bumped my life off course. I considered that job (as I had all restaurant work up to that point in my teenage and then “adult” life) just a way to pay the bills. Waiting tables while waiting for my real life to begin. At the time restaurants had already paid for my first bikes, first tools, first cars and first boat; it paid for college as I earned the degree in biochemistry I wasn’t sure I wanted and then for an extra year to earn the minor in Russian language that would surely be the answer. But first I needed this one last restaurant job …
Needless to say restaurants went on to be significantly more important than my 20-something self could ever have imagined.
Paddling, sailing and most especially riding bikes has taught me the value of patience, efficiency and thoughtfulness along the way. That over time, small choices have big consequences. This is, I suppose, what today some call “marginal gains”.
That “last restaurant job” led to others and to more “important” positions: general manager, director of operations, partner and eventually in 2015 to Mise Wines. Along the way I’ve always been a proud advocate for those whose craft made possible everything I’ve served or sold: from the fish on the plate to the firewood from Maine delivered at 1AM used to cook it.
Wine has been a constant fascination and muse. It is at first glance tantalizingly comprehendible; as if some Grand Formula might be discovered into which one need only input the known knowns of biology, geology, geography, history, chemistry, vintage, grape, etc.
The idea of some objective formulation of a living wine (like our current fascination with data and metrics) brings to mind the saying about he who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. In my own way I’ve tried to find that formula but think it leads to overlooking wine’s essence. I’ve come to realize true wine haunts us in ways that data cannot describe. It has regularly humbled and inspired me – from the first wine list I wrote in the 1980’s, when Zinfandels were white, to the last in 2014 when Malvasias were sometimes orange – and throughout, it has reminded me of the good to be found, and done, in the simple choice of an honest glass of wine.
Or as Walter Scott wrote, “It’s no fish ye’re buying, it’s men’s lives.”