The Mystery of Wine.


(Inspired by an article by Eric Asimov)

Wine is unpredictable, and so are those who drink it.

Is it overpriced grape juice? (Fie on those who think it!)

Rather, it is romance bottled by an artificer

That makes of life a glory (or just a little nicer.)


Each grape is handled with great care, its provenance debated

Before it’s processed into hootch at prices much inflated.

Labeled with a French or German title, it will fetch

A fee to make Bill Gates begin to tremble and to kvetch.


Plebeians cannot comprehend that viticulture soars

Above the heads of monarchs, presidents, and pinchbeck bores.

The mystery of wine is for the lover and the fool;

It will cause the one to sigh, the other one to drool.

Cooking with Cannabis.


You can cook delicious food, without a chef named Wolfgang,

If you use a steady hand and put in lots of good bhang.

Now that states are legalizing pot in all its forms,

It is being eaten from McMansions to school dorms.


You can put it in a pie or in a cake or in soufflé;

Serve it as the main course or a freaky canapé.

Instead of wine with dinner or a beer before your lunch,

Stir a little loco weed into a bowl of punch.


The taste may be repulsive, reminiscent of raw lye,

But what is that to connoisseurs intent on getting high?

And I am making odds with all those tight Las Vegas bookies

That cannabis will soon appear in all our Girl Scout Cookies!


The Pie Car.


Back in the so-called halcyon days of my circus youth with Ringling Brothers, I got what nourishment I could on my meager salary from the pie car. This was a train car converted into a restaurant on the rails. You came in one vestibule, ordered and paid for your grub, and when you were done you waltzed out the other vestibule. Or maybe staggered. It depended on who was cooking.

For you see the pie car was not staffed by professional chefs and wait staff. Far from it. It was manned, or maybe manhandled would be the better word, by anyone traveling with the show who wanted to make some extra money.

I distinctly remember a few of the constantly revolving staff.

The Hungarian teeterboard troupe had an auxiliary named Horlack, who did nothing essential during the act except stand around in his spangled costume and wave a Hungarian flag. So at the beginning of the season he was dragooned into cooking for the pie car. I soon learned that goulash is Hungarian for “leftovers with lots of paprika.” One evening I pulled a large corn cob out of my goulash and showed it indignantly to him.

“Vhat iss wrong vit dat?” he purred in a sinister voice redolent of Bela Lugosi on a bad fang day. “Is old Hoongarian cooking style.”

It also was most of the bulk in my bowl. When I tossed it away I had about three tablespoons worth of goulash left.

Thankfully he went back to flag waving fairly soon.

Our next chef was the French tightrope walker’s wife. This boded well, I thought, since France is the home of gourmet cooking.

She did cook elegant food, all right. And ladled vast quantities of cheap wine into everything, as well as into herself. I’m sure I could have gotten corn flakes in brandy had I wanted it.

Dinner time was around midnight for the circus, after the evening performance, and by then she was always pretty ‘flustered’ from the breakfast and lunch menu. You might order ham and eggs but wind up eating goose liver pate with French fries instead.

And she insisted on spraying the entire length of the pie car with a violent eau de cologne that reminded me of perfumed cotton candy. Like they say in the Maturin/Aubrey books, cloying ain’t in it.

She was superseded by members of Chico-Chico’s family. Chico-Chico was an outstanding Mexican clown, whose cousins and aunts were numbered in the dozens – all working on the circus concession stands.

And by golly they could COOK! Big portions, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, and handmade tortillas!

For several weeks I basked in their wholesome and friendly cookery. I had reached Beulah Land at last. But, of course, it couldn’t last.

They gradually started to introduce an assertive hot sauce into everything. One drop would fricassee my tongue. Two drops would cause my ear wax to melt. Three drops was like trying to eat a lit blow torch.

I begged them, I pleaded with moist eyes and a sob catching in my throat for them to leave out the hot sauce. They would smile complacently and say most certainly, amigo. And then they would add another pint of the deadly stuff.

I finally gave up. I started eating out.

I learned much later that Chico-Chico’s relatives eventually sold their hot sauce recipe to NASA for rocket fuel.



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Water Into Wine.


In Palestine of old they never thought to have a feast

Without the liquid product of red grapes and feisty yeast.

Wine was at the table, weak and sour it is true,

But always overflowing for the bride and groom and crew.


It came to pass one day that Jesus and his mother went

To a wedding party where the wine was nearly spent.

Kind Mary asked her son if he would not refill each cruse;

And he, of course, though King of Kings, could really not refuse.


Quietly he bade the servants bring him water jugs;

Like servants the world over they obeyed with weary shrugs.

Through chemistry celestial and taste that was divine

He turned that muddy water into scintillating wine.


When the wedding manager did taste the Master’s work

He was so very happy that he almost went berserk.

He praised the Man of Galilee with compliments quite hearty,

Saying “Here’s a guy who really knows just how to party!”


The wedding wine in Cana then continued on to flow;

But whether Jesus drank some we just really do not know.

The bride and groom, whose names are lost to us in modern days,

Retired from the party to begin their married phase.


It’s from this blessed miracle that many do believe

That drinking wine is okay, though it makes a man to weave.

While others say twas allegory, and not a real event;

That drinking alcohol will cause a spiritual descent.


Me, I think it happened as the good book said it did

And maybe in the future drinking wine won’t be forbid.

To me it tastes like vinegar and isn’t very tony;

But I would use it to survive a wedding ceremony.