Thursday, February 25, 2010

Little Penguins Love Fondue, Too!

The other night, I decided to make fondue for supper. I don’t make it often, but it is one of our favorites – it works for both the veggies and the carnivore in the family, it’s delicious, it’s fun, and it doesn’t require long, messy prep or cleanup. I had a block of good (substitute expensive, but luckily on sale) swiss cheese, a loaf of crusty French bread and some sirloin tips (for that unpredictable carnivore), so I was, as they say, good to go. There was only one problem. My bottle of Little Penguin white wine was empty, re-corked and in the fridge, but empty.

To be honest, Kathryn and I are not big drinkers of any sort. I could try to sound classy and say that we enjoy a nice glass of wine with a fine meal. But the truth is that Kathryn prefers her Diet Coke and I mostly go with coffee or water. So we really know nothing about wine – fruity bouquet with undertones of sarsaparilla, whatever. When I buy wine, it is usually for cooking, and I pick the wine with the cute animal names. Thus we often have Little Penguin or, more recently, when the Little Penguin rack was empty, I chose an equally inexpensive bottle with an equally pleasant name – Crazy Llama.

A few years ago, I traveled to Bend, Oregon, for my little brother’s wedding. The wedding was held a few days before one of Kathryn’s conferences, so I went alone and ended up leaving the reception at midnight, driving the three and a half hours back to Portland, and sleeping by the Southwest gate at the airport in order to get back in time to help with the final preparations. It was really important to me to be the first one in line and the first to board the plane. I’m not sure why, but it was. (And it still is – consider this fair warning for any of you who might have the opportunity to travel with me in the future.) But back to the story. My brother’s friends had planned a wine reception for them, and each guest was asked to bring a bottle. I went into downtown Bend with a few of my soon-to-be sister-in law’s friends to visit the local wine shop. They all knew Mike and Debbie well and knew what (brand? flavor?) kind of wine they liked. I asked the wine store guy to recommend something, and he said that if people were not wine connoisseurs, he usually suggested that they pick a bottle with a label they liked. So that is what I did.

I looked at bottles with mountain vistas, trees, barrels, castles, and all sorts of pretty pictures, searching for the one that spoke to me. I was almost at the end of the final rack when I spied it – I don’t remember any of the words, but the picture on the bottle was a bear in a hat. Now, any of you who read my previous entry, Lessons from a Bear, know that I have a thing for bears in hats. I remember grinning happily as I took it from the rack and carried it to the register.

All of the others in my group had made their purchases and were waiting by the door. But I was finally ready. The clerk nodded and said, “Good choice.” I smiled. A little bear would never steer me wrong. I got out my wallet. The clerk smiled back and said, “That will be $179.99, please.” I gulped. I was thinking that it would cost, maybe, $30.00. I glanced over at the group by the door. I’m sure they weren’t, but I was sure then that they were all watching me. I know that I should have grinned sheepishly and asked him to point put something a little more in my price range. But I didn’t. I handed him my credit card and carried the bottle out with me. I did make a really fancy tag for it before that $179 bottle of wine joined a few dozen others in a wicker laundry basket on the deck. I never did ask my brother if they’d enjoyed the wine. I hope that they did, but even if they didn’t, I did learn some valuable lessons.

By now, you probably are wondering what this has to do with trust or fondue. With trust, not much. Maybe I should have trusted my instincts and asked for another bottle of wine. Or maybe not. This is what I wanted to write about today, and so I am. With fondue, a little. On that night, when the bottle of white was empty, I used the next best thing: Little Penguin Red. We had a wonderful supper of purple fondue, and we all lived happily ever after.

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