By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 11:43 am   |   Leave a Comment »

As we approach Inauguration Day 2017, I recall the heat James Buchanan got when the public learned the wine expenditures for his Inauguration approached $3,000, though his party and parade were also hailed as the “most glorious ever.” That price tag seemed enormous at the time — 1856 — but it undoubtedly won’t come close to the wine costs of contemporary Inaugurations, even though our incumbent incomer claims not to drink alcohol. Like William Howard Taft, he may well refrain from drinking himself, while making sure his well-wishers are adequately supplied with strong drink.

There have been a number of tee-totaling Presidents — the Harrisons, Taylor, Fillmore, Hayes come to mind, which makes me wonder if we would remember them more clearly if they had occasionally imbibed. Not that our heaviest drinking Presidents are any more famous — Van Buren (aka Blue Whiskey Van), Chester Arthur, Franklin Pierce (reputedly the heaviest drinker of them all) unless they are named Grant or John Adams.

Needless to say, most of our Presidents have been moderate and temperate consumers, but a few stand out as discriminating in their selections of wine — Washington, Jefferson, Eisenhower, Reagan, and, of course, Nixon, whose love of Bordeaux was overshadowed by his duplicity in drinking top clarets while serving his guests lesser vintages and by his continuous daily over-indulgence.

Admittedly, today’s Inaugural attendees,when combined with protesters bring more than a million people to the demonstrations, parades, and balls, should not expect the very best of wines nor a tab of only $3,000, but they do deserve generous cupsful of celebratory or ceremonial libations.  It’s a good time to recall Ben Franklin’s observation: “Discovery of wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”

 

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm   |   1 Comment on April in Paris »

April in Paris. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it. Especially when you throw in Champagne and Burgundy. And especially when you think it all has to do with wine and food.

We don’t promote tours in these pages, but what I’m suggesting sounds somewhat like a tour. So maybe it is. But it’s so personal, so unique you may not realize it’s a tour. Ken and Carolyn Thompson (of Your Key to Burgundy) who live part-time in New Mexico and part-time in Burgundy love to share their village and their neighbors in Burgundy, and now they are arranging for eight hungry and thirsty Francophiles (or wannabe Francophiles) to “do” the Champagne cellars, the Burgundy wineries, the restaurants great and small (all good), and food markets with a cathedral and museum or two added to the mix. All coming up in April.

And just when you think you’ve had enough to eat and drink, they drive you to Paris for a memorable farewell in the City of Light.

You can learn all about it by writing to them at info@yourkeytoburgundy.com or by calling — they are delightful conversationalists — at (505) 220-8277.

Ever see a mustard field in bloom? Or vineyards in the bud? Or the Tuileries ablaze with color? The song “April in Paris” was not written without reason. Bon voyage!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Monday, January 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Last month when recalling the Pilgrims’ need for beer, I decided to delve more deeply into America’s love of strong drink and found a gem of a book: Drinking in America by Susan Cheever in 2015, published by 12Books. The lady has shown that many pivotal decisions in our nation’s past have been influenced by one form or another of an alcoholic beverage. During the Civil War, for example, she quotes President Lincoln explaining that his generals who drink get more done than those that don’t.

In fairness, Cheever lays out the difficulties brought about by excessive drinking in the 18th and 19th centuries but also explains both the fascination and appreciation our citizenry had for drinking. Most of us were generally aware that in our earliest years, colonists would build a tavern almost as quickly as they would a church. Of course, one justification was that a tavern would serve as a public meeting house, but, well, one hard at work with one’s hands deserves a tankard or two while catching up with the issues of the day.

For two decades I could relate to Cheever’s history. I lived in an unincorporated Indiana village established before the Civil War. Several original homes survive to this day, a couple of which had served originally as two of the five taverns in the town – which also had a church and a doctor’s office. Officially, the story of the town’s demise as a thriving community was the Industrial Revolution and the migration to cities. Old timers, however, swore that Prohibition was the real reason. There was no longer an incentive to stay, especially when the five main businesses threw in the towel.

Cheever’s book also brings back my childhood memories of rural Indiana right after Repeal, memories that retain  adult conversations bragging that no alcohol could be bought in our county, even though Franklin D. Roosevelt said we could. Many of those same adults thought nothing of going 30 miles into Chicago for a drink, and Chicago’s Last Liquor Store on the state line at Hammond did a thriving business serving our farm community.

Drinking in America can accurately be described as a history of America, but it does what most history books don’t by revealing some very personal information about Americans great and small, famous and not. And it makes clear that my wine habits do not qualify me as a rugged frontiersman.

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