Bad Pairings

pairingbad2A friend asked for food-and-menu pairing advice. The friendship and the advice were problematic. Both have been rethought.

My friend had a vegetarian menu:  Mushroom soup; mango curry; coconut-and-lemongrass tofu on quinoa; and cake for a birthday dessert.

She also had a 20-year relationship with a married man with children:  Deeply dysfunctional, and everyone involved was unhappy.

I suggested acidic, aromatic whites for the meal and Cava for cake. I wouldn’t today. Being farther along in my education, today I’d suggest a medium-American-oaked, warm-climate Chardonnay aged on lees. The fruit might complement tropical fruits and the American oak might match the tofu’s cocoanut sauce. Mango curry could match tropical Chard. A full-bodied white could match — while the acid would cut through — the heavier textures of the meal. I would, though, keep to Cava with a light-cake dessert. I personally don’t like wine with sweet desserts at all.

I suspended judgment on her relationship for years. It’s not my nature to moralize and impose my values on others. Yet, as time went on, I realized that the man’s wife and children profoundly hated my friend for her interference in their family. It wasn’t happily consensual. The man appeared to play both sides against the middle when not fleeing overseas for months at a time ‘for business.’

My friend justified her behaviour with pseudo-psychoanalytic New Agespeak. Viewed herself as caring, sensitive and was keenly aware of when others mistreated her. She wouldn’t face that she was, in fact, ruthless, stubborn and the cause of misery in others. Her relationship didn’t even make her happy. Eventually, I couldn’t continue the approbation-by-association. I left our friendship. For her part, she paired the meal with a tannic, medium-bodied red.

Food marriages, as with human marriages, are complex. Pairing rethought. Friendship rethought.

Excellent, instructive book: ‘Taste Buds and Molecules:  The Art and Science of Food and Wine’, by Francois Chartier (McClelland & Stewart, 2011). Big, original ideas by an award-winning sommelier. And Muriel Spark or Alice Munro on the relationship webs that we weave…


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