When we go wine tasting Bev and I normally say we will go early-ish. Cape Town-early, that is, which means anything between 10 am and lunchtime. I normally get up that morning, get ready and work or keep myself busy until Bev arrives.
One of the things I have been keeping myself busy with lately is The Sims. Yup, playing god with fake people. I am not much of a gamer, but I wish I had this game in some of the darker times in my life. Not only does it keep your mind off things, it also gives you the opportunity to make people you hate swim, and then you can build a wall around the pool so they can never get out again. People you hate, or, say, people who said they wanted to marry you and then left you because their family said you are not good enough. Not that I have done that. The honest truth is, I go into a moral battle with myself just to get a Sim to be mean to another. Boring, I know. Maybe I will start exploring the dark side of Sims some day.
One morning – and I use the term loosely – when Bev arrived I got in the car and declared: “Bev, your timing sucks. I had to leave my Sim in labour at the Sacred Spleen Memorial hospital.”
Bev just looked at me and said: “My friend, I am worried about you,” and steered the car in the direction of the Winelands.
Now, before anyone plans an intervention, I will go into the more serious side of living in Sim. That does not include exploring a god complex or a life lived vicariously through virtual children in perfect homes. Right now, I am more interested in their knowledge and skills. More specifically, the charisma skill.
When a Sim struggles to make friends, they simply read a book called Solving the Friend Problem Vol 1. I need that book in real life! I need more friends in my own town! This is something I realised once again about a week ago when Francois van Coke performed at the harbour in Gordon’s Bay, and I had no one to go with. I have friends, amazing ones, but they live far from me. One can hardly expect a single woman to drive 30 km on the gang targeted N2 at night.
The problem is, I have met few people in my own town that I really relate to. They must be out there, I just haven’t met them. In Sims you simply go to the beach or the park, introduce yourself and become friends. In real life, it is not that easy, and now I am going to make a few generalisations that might get me into trouble, but they proved to be true for me.
For a gay woman, friendships can be tricky. To me, it also seems to be getting trickier as I get older. A few months ago, I was added to a WhatsApp social group consisting of a few friends, and some acquaintances. First of all, I couldn’t join in their get-togethers often, because I am too far away. Secondly, it turned out to be a mini dating club where the men were flirting with the straight women, and basically ignoring the gay chick the way Zuma used to ignore calls to resign. Thirdly, the straight women were in no competition with me, which means they could also largely ignore me and focus on the men. When I did say something, almost nobody reacted. Eventually, I left the group and to be honest, I don’t think anyone noticed, apart from my good friend Lenie. She asked me about it at some point, and when I explained that it was like a dating club where the gay chick was ignored, she said:
“Analize, I really want to, but I can’t even tell you that that is not true.”
This is why gay women often hang out with each other. We also often hang out with our straight, single, female friends. Most of the gay women I know have very few straight male friends. Not none, but few. When we do, they tend to be married or in relationships and not readily available to go to Francois van Coke performances at short notice. The same goes for our straight female friends in relationships. Then we also don’t have many straight-couple friends. Again, not none, but few. I have also noticed that with the few I have, I will never really get invited to say, a dinner where there are another straight couple or two. When they do invite me to do something, it is normally just us; the two of them and myself. There are a few exceptions but it is definitely not the rule.
It is also noticeable how our straight female friends change when straight men get added to the mix! It is not unusual for the gay friend to get dissed in favour of the men! I suppose we do the same when there are other available gay women at the party, I don’t know. There was the time when I suggested a braai at the beach, and a straight friend vetoed it, saying she is not in the mood for a bike-braai – and then went on to Du Toitskloof, with the bike, to braai with a bunch of dudes the very same day. One could speculate about the reasons for all this, but I think in the end it all comes back to our hunter/hunted human natures.
And that is why I want to live in Sim. They don’t have these dynamics. Life is much more simple for Sims than it is for us. Whenever they meet a Sim person, any person, man or woman, single or in a relationship, they firstly have three options about how to engage with these Sims – mean, friendly or romantic. No orientations, no battles unless you pre-select the option, no politics and no hurt or bad feelings. No discrimination. No gender roles. Just people. Okay, fake people, but in many ways more authentic than real people.
Everyone takes out the trash, cleans, braais the hamburgers, fix the leaking faucets and change the babies’ nappies, regardless of gender or age. They engage with everyone in the same way. No-one is more, or less, worthy of promotions, interaction, jobs, money, and you guessed it – attention and friendships. Shoot me for playing in a perfect world!
Now if you will excuse me, my Sim’s social mood meter is in the red, and I have to google whether you get a wine-tasting expansion pack for Sims…
We went wine tasting at Waterkloof (again) this weekend and again it was fascinating to hear about the sustainability initiative of the farm and the particular style of the winemaker. Waterkloof has full biodynamic and organic certification, making use of horses, compost teas and homemade microbial fertilizers to ensure that the farming principles are aligned and in harmony with nature. Their commitment is to allow 50% of the farm to be reserved for the rare and indigenous plants which grow naturally on the Schapenberg. I like that. Usually I drink wine with all sorts of self-imposed guilt (my doctor said I don’t have to worry…) so this was great! I just focused on the environment and my teeny, tiny carbon wine tasting footprint and I was in a wonderful self-congratulatory bubble of happiness.
So, what did my doctor say about red wine? A lot of positive things, actually. It’s good for your back if you end up lying on the floor. Better if you’re under the table – in the event of an earthquake or random school shooting. That’s probably more the American wine varietals though. They could do with more Zen-wine over there. What else? Oh yes… antioxidants. We know about the benefits of that. You live longer apparently. It may all be wine fables though, but I’m willing to be a part of the non-placebo control group until it’s scientifically proven to be harmful. There is however the migraine side-effect, blamed on the tannins in the wine. Tannins are a big buzzword in wine tasting, but what are they and why do we care about tannin levels in wine?
The word “tannins” relates back to the process which uses plant extracts to harden soft leather, known as “tanning”. Tannins react chemically with the proteins in the animal hide to change the molecular structure and cause the hardening of the hides. Tanning of course is also the process of using plant extracts to darken the skin under sunlight, which eventually leads to the skin being referred to as leather. English is so cool! When I was a very young child, my Dad owned a leather shop. I would hide in the rolls of leather in his workshop – inside the rolled up leather, is what I’m trying to say – I have no idea why. Maybe I was shy? Probably because I was just weird. Did I mention before that I was a very, very strange child? I was. Still am. And the weird thing for me now, as an adult, is that I love the smell of leather, even though I’m a vegetarian. Complex people, us weirdos.
So how do tannins relate then to wine and red wine in particular? Tannins are found in the oak barrels used to ferment the grapes, as well as in the stems, seeds and skins of grapes used in the winemaking process. The tannins are thought to act as part of the plant’s defence system, allowing the grape to ripen without being eaten by the not-so-early bird who missed that first worm. With grapes in particular, nature has been very sneaky. Since the main function of the grape is to act as a carrier for seeds (I would argue that to be its second main function – the first being to act as a carrier of wine juice), it’s important that the grape stays on the down low until the seeds are mature. So, the grapes begin life small and green and nicely camouflaged in amongst the vines and leaves. These grapes are also extremely acidic, with aggressively harsh tannins, making them bitter and astringent to said lazy birds. At the right time, the berries become an attractive and noticeable red or purple colour, which coincides with the acidity diminishing, the sugar content increasing and the tannins softening. Enter the hungry birds.
What is it about tannins though that make the grapes unpleasant for birds to eat and the wine problematic for us humans to drink, when the levels are high and harsh? Well, tannins are said to bind to the proteins found in the mouth and saliva and cause precipitation of the protein molecules, which results in an astringent taste in the mouth. This also leads to a feeling of dryness in the mouth. The term “mouthfeel” is popularly used to describe the feel of the wine in the mouth. Very dry mouthfeel could indicate high tannin levels, apparently. I think dry mouthfeel just means no wine in the mouth!
And this is where food and wine pairing comes in. For wines with higher tannins, it’s better to pair these with fatty foods or foods high in protein. We’ve all heard that red wines, like cabernet sauvignon, should be paired with red meats. Generally, a cabernet sauvignon wine will have higher tannins than a merlot, and a pinot noir will generally have lower tannins than other reds. When you drink a wine higher in tannins and pair it with a protein like red meat, the tannins will react chemically with the alternative protein in your mouth, softening the effects of the tannins on your mouthfeel. When Analize and I do theoretical food and wine pairing, I of course try to think of vegetarian options to pair with the wine. I get so frustrated, because most of the time, all I can think of is a creamy pasta. Oh, speaking of which… I will be posting my recipe for smoky cream fennel, mushroom and leek pasta soon. I recommend pairing it with a the incredible Waterkloof Syrah. Yum!
And speaking of yum… there is this term I stumbled upon called “umami”. I thought it was pronounced “ummm yummmeeee”. Apparently not. It’s one of the five basic tastes, along with saltiness, bitterness, sourness and sweetness, and describes a kind of “meaty” savoury taste. This is the taste one should aim for to pair with higher tannin wines. For vegetarians, high yumyumee foods include the following: chocolate, cheese, cream, asparagus, peas, sweet corn, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, avocados, spinach, winter squash, pan-roasted root vegetables, mushrooms, black olives, balsamic vinegar, garlic, egg yolks and cooked celery, onions and potatoes. For non-vegetarians… I guess it would be meat? And of course chocolate.
Ok – so I’ve been going on about the basics of tannins and wines, but I haven’t shared too much about Waterkloof’s wines. Waterkloof is really an entire experience. Firstly, the tasting room and restaurant are situated in a beautifully modern building perched on the side of the hill. The views of the mountains and ocean are spectacular, whether you are sitting inside or outside on the deck. The award-winning restaurant produces dishes so intriguing that Analize sat like a drooling tennis spectator, watching the edible artworks leaving the kitchen. The wines… well, I recommend you go and taste them for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And if you’re lucky, as we were, you will get Zandri van Breda, the tasting room manager, to talk to you about the wines and the farm. Her knowledge and passion is so off the charts, it made us want to drink more… and so we did.
As humanis probeer ek altyd mense se gevoelens in ag neem, maar hier is my stukkie “inhumanism” vir die dag.
Ek ry ‘n motorfiets. Niks fancy nie, net ‘n klein 200cc Motomiatjie, met sy eie storie. Nou kyk, ons wat bike ry weet al hoeveel groceries jy kan koop en iewers in jou rugsak of op die bike inpak, vasgespe, of saamsleep. Dan soms, op ‘n winderige Sondagoggend gaan jy “gou” Checkers toe. Jy kry al die goed wat jy moet kry en in jou kop speel jy al Tetris, soos Lenie altyd sê, om seker te maak jy sal jou inkopies by die huis kan kry. Skielik is die rys wat gewoonlik R180 is, R18, of so iets, en jy het 2 nodig. Jou tetris level skuif op, maar jy dink jy is nog okay, en dan… ooooeeee, die cupcakes lyk darem maar lekker…
By die kasregister glimlag die vrou agter jou en vertel dat sy en haar man ook bike ry en hulle het nou gestaan en debatteer oor hoe jy al daai goed op die bike gaan kry. Julle lag saam oor die Tetris grappie en jy stoot jou trolletjie uit terwyl jy self wonder of jy nou nie die keer effens van jou trollie af is nie.
Nou kom jy in die parkeerterrein, maak die top box oop en begin om die 2 pakke rys heel onder in te pak.
Die Horison Man kom aangestap vir jou trollie. Jy smile vir hom, en sê:
“I am going to take very long.”
Hy sê niks, maar kyk jou aan asof jy OCD het, of beslis heeltemaal van jou trollie af is omdat jy die goed staan en sorteer in twee hopies in jou trollie. Want sien, party moet in die boks in en ander in die rugsak in.
Dan wil hy skielik help, en kom krap eintlik net jou sisteem deurmekaar.
“It’s okay,” sê jy vir hom, “I’ll do that but it is still going to take a long time, so maybe you can come back for the trolley in a while?”
Hy sê nogsteeds niks, en jy pak die hoender en suiker en ander goed bo-op die rys, en tetris ‘n koekie seep en ‘n pakkie suurdeeg in ‘n gaatjie in. As jy omdraai hang die Horison Man bo-oor daardie trollie asof dit happy hour in die pub is. Sy uitdrukking sê vir jou hy kyk na die 4 trollies wat nou al in die parkeerplekke langs jou agtergelaat is, en dink, my fok, ek kon daardie trollies nou al by Checkers se hoofkantoor self gaan parkeer het.
Jyself begin nou al krapperig raak, want hy hang net daar en jaag jou woordeloos aan, en jy kom nou eers by die brood en die cupcakes. Jy wens hy wíl fokof hoofkantoor toe. Die brood en cupcakes gaan vanself reverse-engineer en weer soos meel en suiker ens lyk as jy dit nou nog harder met die boks se deksel squeeze. Dan moet jy nog jou 2 baadjies en die geel reflection-dingetjie aantrek, helmet en sonbril opsit, handskoene aantrek en vasmaak, handskoene weer uittrek want jy het die sleutel in jou sak gelos en kry hom nie raakgevat nie… Handskoene weer aantrek, in jou rugsak inklim…,
Nou skielik sê die Horison Man: “Take your time Madam,” en jy kan nie besluit of hy nou sarkasties is of nie en jy wil hom met ‘n blik baked beans gooi, want kon hy nie reg aan die begin gesien het jy wil jou tyd vat, en geloop het nie? Die hele parkeerterrrein staan nou al vol trollies en hy lyk of dit nou alles jou skuld is, en hoe laat gaan hy nou vanaand by die huis kom as jy hom so uit sy werk uit hou?
Dan besef jy, om nou vir hom ‘n tip uit te grawe gaan nog 5 minute vat, en jy voel sleg, maar jy ry net weg en gaan eet ‘n cupcake by die huis. Jy sal hom maar volgende keer dubbel tip. Sy naam is André en hy is altyd daar. Jy sal ook volgende keer onthou om die baked beans tot laaste te los vir ingeval jy dit nodig kry.
Sometimes my mind meanders all over the place, picking up the strangest of thoughts and ideas along the way; usually while I’m meditating (sometimes I meditate with wine). One of those thoughts was about words which have the power to expand or contract one’s world, and the critical words and phrases which precede those potentially life-changing words. I did say strange thoughts.
Intense emotions can concertina into the smallest time frame when certain words are spoken. We speak these words linearly, which may allow time, as well as emotion, to expand and contract to accommodate expected words. One can live an entire lifetime between the words “I’m in love with…” and “…you” or “…someone else” – the words “I’m moving…” and “…in”, “…out” or “…on”. One’s heart could burst with happiness or break irreparably depending on the context. The moment before my first love said to me “I love you”, I knew that my world was about to expand in a way that would fill the entire universe. I was a teenager at the time so I was, of course, my own entire universe – and then it became her. Two years later the second between her “I love you…” and “…but I’m leaving” threw up a hurricane warning that my world was about to contract – and it did.
Many years ago my Dad phoned me late in the afternoon of Christmas eve. I immediately knew something was wrong, because my Mom was always the designated phoner and deliverer of all news, so hearing my Dad’s voice on the other end of the line meant only one thing – my Mom was in trouble, or worse. He confirmed my fears with the soften-the-blow phrase “I have some bad news…”. I stopped breathing and my heart stopped beating for that one second before he delivered said bad news. I started speed-bargaining with a God I’m not sure even exists, making outrageous promises and trying to turn back time to a point before I’d picked up the phone. Freezing time right there was one option suggested in exchange for a lifetime of prayer and subjugation. The last time my Dad preceded bad news with this critical phrase, he followed it with “…Jenny is dead”. My sister died over thirty years ago, but my world remains contracted in many ways since that phrase. On that day I was unprepared for “Jenny is dead”, in spite of the spoken warning of bad news, and I literally collapsed in a heap. When I heard the warning this time, I was more prepared, and immediately started erecting my emergency emotion scaffolding, to hold onto when the force of the impending contracting words hit me.
The feared words “Your Mother is dead” did not follow the warning. My Mom did however have a brain aneurysm and was having an emergency operation within the hour. I flew down on that Christmas day to be with my parents, not knowing if I would have the sequel to the bad news delivered on landing, and of course, being closer to where God is commonly thought to reside, I took the opportunity to pop in and discuss the whole affair. I took metaphorical cake as a friendly negotiating gesture – which is more than I got from the airline that day. I’m not sure why, but it still annoys me that we weren’t given cake on that Christmas day flight. My Mom survived and thrived, which is a reason to give thanks. I asked my Dad to change his soften-the-blow to “Your Mother is alive, however…”, but there is still that eternity that would appear before the expanding “…alive”.
What feels like yesterday, but was 8 years ago now, my Mom made the call that would leave yet another irreparable tear in my heart. I was expecting that call because my Dad had been ill for some months, and yet still, I found myself bargaining just one last time, appealing to both God and the laws of science, to cover all bases. My Mom and I had an agreement that if that call came and I was driving I was to pull over before she delivered the bad news. Of course, that made no sense whatsoever, but because we understood the phenomenon of expanding and contracting, we both knew there would be a window of opportunity to batten down the emotional hatches before the hurricane hit. As it turned out, I was safely tucked away in bed when the call came after midnight. I like to think my Dad planned it that way.
If I look back now, I can distill my emotional life down to just a few unrelated seconds, when the realisation of an imminent life-changing expression has brought home to me what I value. Not what I value most. Just what I value. Because in those seconds between critical words spoken, what I truly value is so simple it’s not enough to even make a list.