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Thursday, 31 July 2008

On Food and Wine

Drink to That!

By Ron Alonzo

I'm not a wine connoisseur. But I know more about the grape than many. As the French say, my understanding ain't pas mal. I learned alot, early on, from an old colleague and friend, the late Ralph Carreno. That was when I was living in Switzerland and France, and my education only continued when, later, I travelled for more than 30 years on business and pleasure.

I remember Ralph's line, 'Send a man abroad for two weeks, and he can come back and write a book. Send him out for two months, and he can come back and write 10 pages. Send him out for two years, and he comes back confused.'

I travelled from continent to continent, getting to know the wines and cuisines of the world. I was a 'corporate millionaire.' On expense account, of course.

Rodrigo, my son, is encouraging me to write a book, something along the line of 'What I didn't learn at Thunderbird, but picked up on my Marco Polo-like travels.'

I have my first piece in draft form, and many more planned. I just need the discipline to dedicate four hours a week to this writing.

This is one of the things I want to do when I switch gears in retirement, after these dozens of years of schlepping for the corporate world.

I want to break down my experiences to short written pieces about people who were my mentors and who passed on their learning to me during my career.

Wine and food have alot to do with that.

My initial friends and contacts at Pernod remained my friends after Whirlpool, and were those who inducted me into the prestigious Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (the French Burgundy society). This group means more to me than membership in any of U.S. chapters. The French society includes millionaire lawyers, doctors, professionals, and social climbers. They invite me to meetings. But each gathering costs $1,000, and I'm a cash-poor senior at this point.

I have several post career skills I'm developing.

I'm getting a certificate on wine -- through an on-line process -- from Wine Spectator. I'm writing this book. My wife Denise and I are starting a food company to sell remoulade (New Orleans-style), based on Denise's grandmother's recipe and that of her father, the recipe he used in his New Orleans restaurant.

I'd love to teach at a community college to business students. Perhaps something on Spain in North America, how Spanish culture affects our every day life, and how to conduct business in Spanish America.

I'd also like to teach at the business-school level about the selection of food and wine when entertaining guests from overseas. Business elites in this country rely on an executive office secretary to interact with a restaurant maitre d'hotel or sales manager. In Europe or Asia, a business meal is supervised directly by a company's CEO. American execs just choose a red and or white based on price and a sommelier's recommendation. No overseas exec has any respect for his American counterpart's knowledge of wine and food.

(This is one in a series of articles, exploring the cultural and culinary aspects of food and wine, by Ron Alonzo, a food and wine writer based in Land 'O Lakes, Florida).