I love wine. I love to drink wine, think about wine, read about wine, talk about wine. I have a modest but thoughtfully curated cellar in my house. One of my jobs involves selling wine, so I not only enjoy knowing about it, I have to know about it, and I do. Although wine is nowhere near the most important thing in my life, the subject (and substance) occupies an important place in the hierarchy. It's a kind of refuge for me, a consolatory and contented place I can go whenever I want, which will provide comfort, pleasure and ideation. Nothing bad ever happens when wine is the matter at hand. (As long as it isn't corked.)
Every year, some colleagues of mine at work give up something for Lent. They are not Catholic, but they use the period as an opportunity to practice some self-control, some sobriety, some healthfulness. In the last couple of years, they've abstained from cigarettes and/or alcohol, and this year they've gone vegan.
This year I decided to join them. I'm not Catholic either---and if there are readers who take offense at our bandwagon opportunism, I apologize---but I appreciate the presence in many cultures of a time of abstinence, which is tied into atonement, discipline and the heightening of awareness. As a basically nonreligious person, I could have just as happily chosen some other religion's ritual of abstinence. But here came Lent, here came a good wintertime stretch for me to engage in a little lifestyle alteration, here were colleagues at work with whom I could find solidarity. Time to give something up.
I chose wine not only because I love it so much and the point of abstinence seems to be, partially, the renunciation of pleasure. I chose it for a couple of other reasons, too. One is that I used to fast for 24 hours once a month, and I am generally a very healthy eater and in pretty good physical shape; so swearing off meat, or junk food, or whatever, seemed a little too easy for me. (I also have doubts about the nutritional and ethical merits of the vegan diet, but that's an ancillary issue.)
Another reason, and perhaps the only really significant one, is this: I drink a lot.
The more I thought about it, I realized that I drink more than almost anyone else I know; and if you remove my work colleagues from the picture, I'm pretty sure that I do drink more than anyone else I know.
And so, as Lent approached, I was visited by the musing worry that I might be---what? An alcoholic? I seldom drink to the point of drunkenness, but I couldn't remember the last day that had gone by without my having had a drink. Or two. Or perhaps even three. I thought that I must at least have some sort of dependency. I wondered what it would be like to break that dependency for six weeks. Would I suffer from insomnia? Fatigue? Depression? Would regaling customers with enticing descriptions of how the J. L Chave St. Joseph "Offerus" will actually work just fine with sturgeon (because of the black olive sauce), or breaking down the finer points of Piemonte nebbiolo, drive me to salivating, or tears---or drink?
Well, so, the first week off the sauce, I was really, really hungry.
More to come very soon.