Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wine and family values

Pellegrini, like many immigrants originally from Italy, made his own wine with grapes that he bought from Robert Mondavi.When I was growing up on Long Island, my mother frequently took me shopping at a giant fruit and vegetable store named
Cross-Island Fruits. They stock giant glass demi-johns and a variety of bottles for the home wine maker. You can order grapes from them, as well as a wine press if desired. Whenever we visited the store, my mother would recall how her paternal grandfather, who immigrated from Tuscany in the 1890's, also made his own wine from purchased grapes. Unlike Pellegrini, who claims that his wine was highly sought after by friends, my great-grandfather's wine was legendarily undrinkable. Pellegrini fermented his wine in glass, as Cross Island Fruits recommends on their wine-making page; my impression was that my great-grandfather used wood, which may have tainted the wine.

When I moved to Astoria in the 1990's one of my neighbors was an elderly Italian man who owned several properties in Astoria. He had huge vegetable gardens and fruit trees on two properties, and canned his produce every fall. He also made his own wine. Although he was in his seventies, he rose at five every morning, rode his bike everywhere, and could be found doing repairs on his property and the houses of his friends.

In addition making his own wine, Pellegrini advocated training children to enjoy wine from an early age. Both of his daughters ate a traditional Italian breakfast of bread and coffee, which he lightly spiked with grappa. They prefered to dip their coffee into his mug, which contained a higher percentage of grappa. The oldest daughter also enjoyed a small glass of wine with her evening meal. Despite their early exposure to alcohol, neither of his daughter developed a drinking problem.

Pellegrini suggested that children participate in the wine-making process by helping to press the wine, carry bottles in and out of cellars, and learning how to monitor the aging of the wine. By learning how good wine is made and how it should taste, they develop an appreciation of it as something that does more than get them drunk. They also view wine drinking as a wholesome family activity, not as something excitingly forbidden.

There have been a recent spate of articles about the new "stroller bars" in Brooklyn. The NY Times even did two articles about Greenwood Park:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/a-child-friendly-beer-garden-doesnt-seem-so-friendly-to-some/

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/whose-beer-garden-is-it-anyway/

While some commentors to The Times articles do not think that children should be in bars, others point out that this is common in Europe. Reading through the comments, the real issue to me is not that children are being encouraged to drink wine or spiked lattes (which might actually calm them down a bit once the alcohol kicks in) but that children are not being properly supervised by parents. I have to admit that if I were at a bar and saw one child try to bean another child with a bocce ball then I would feel obligated to look for a parent to prevent an injury. Since much of my day is spend encouraging children to act in a more thoughtful manner, I would try to stay out of a bar that perpetuated my working environment.

I suspect that if more supervision was available at these bars , whether by parents or on-site nannies hired by the bar, then the atmosphere would be safer and more enjoyable for all. Perhaps Greenwood Park should hire some French preschool workers and open a creche for its customers a la  last month's Bringing Up Bebe.

1 comment:

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