Friday, October 16, 2009

"A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou"

English majors the world over are well acquainted with Edward Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation of some of the Persian mystic genius’s thousand plus poems, which he published as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Fitzgerald put the word “rubaiyat” into the English language; it’s a translation of an Arabic derivation of “four” refering to the quatrains of the poetry. I’ve really haven’t seen it used in relation to anything but this poem.

From Fitzgerald's 5th edition, Quatrain XII

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

I’m not a dedicated foodie, but I’ve found some recent delight in what the Khayyam called out as part of bliss.

A Jug of Wine: I was going to a brunch on 72nd and Broadway and I needed to pick up a bottle of wine. I saw Bacchus, Wine Made Simple, and popped in. It’s a wonderful place. They have a section of “Recession Priced” wines. I asked one of the guys for a suggestion, and he gave me a $10 Chilean wine that was crisp and light and the perfect brunch white. They have a welcoming, helping attitude, completely devoid of oenophilic snobbery. They believe that good wine of all levels should be enjoyed by everyone. I liked them so much I signed up for one of their wine clubs. Once a month they deliver 2 bottles of wine to your door, with a description that helps you place the wine. Here’s my first delivery:

Chardonnay, Stuhlmuller estate, CA, USA, 2007. Soft, yellow flower aromatics with hints of honeysuckle, spicy pear, candied lemon and sweet corn. On the palate, it has a light and creamy texture filled with flavors of lemon custard and mild tropical fish.

Pinot Gris, Del Rio estate, Oregon, USA, 2007. Ripe fruit flavors of pear, apple, and tropical fruits, with aromas of wildflower honey and a juicy, mouthwatering freshness. This wine is spicy, aromatic, and exceptionally versatile.

A Loaf of Bread: The most exquisite flatbread is from Margaret’s Artisan Bakery. My favorite flavor is Rosemary and Sea Salt. The flatbread is truly light and crispy; many store flatbreads are horribly dry. The flavors are strong and completely fresh. Rosemary, that evergreen branch of the mint family, has a long literary tradition for its association with remembrance: "There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5) The name comes from the Latin for rosmarinus, meaning “dew of the sea.” Maybe that’s why it tastes so amazing with sea salt in one of the great culinary pairings.

If my recent reality of good wine and bread wasn’t enough of a connection to this world-classic verse, Steed quotes it to Mrs. Peel in the episode “Return of the Cybernauts.” I first heard it as a kid, and it has always stayed with me.

And Thou. Still a fluid concept.


Mark Cleverley said...

Hello; apologies for the intrusion. I was thinking of the same line, and wanted to make sure I had it right, so a search brought me to your site.

Being a huge fan of Mrs Peel (there was never a better companion for Steed, was there?) I read further, and I just want to tell you that you write enviably beautifully.

I shall stop by regularly to explore.

Ellen O'Neill said...

Thank you for the kind words Mark Cleverly. I don't post new pieces as often as I used to (or would like) but I'm always happy to have a new reader.