To me it is axiomatic that wine is best when paired with food. Over my lifetime the moments of dining pleasure which are closest to my heart are those which feature fine food combined with fine wine.
At Citronelle in Washington DC, I was brought to tears by a Morel bisque with seared Foie Gras served with a Sauterne.
At Restaurant 213 in Fruitland MD it was white asparagus topped with a soft poached egg and sauce béchamel served with a French Montrechet.
And, in Paris so many years ago in a sidewalk bistro it was fresh local sausage, hard cheese, warm bread and a very ordinary red from Burgundy.
In these cases, and many more like them, there was an almost mystical combination of food and wine which reinforced the other creating a product far greater than the sum of the individual parts.
How is this?
Great food and great wine are often enjoyed in the company of friends which provides an additional dimension to the experience beyond the taste buds, beyond the nose and deeply and directly to the heart. There is a primal need to share food among friends and family. Why else are our primary celebrations enjoyed around the dinner table? Neither Christmas nor Thanksgiving would be so deeply ingrained in us were not the sharing of food, and wine, an integral part of the ritual.
The family ritual regarding food may explain why there are so many cookbooks to be found in the bookstore and the blossoming of cooking show on television. But like so much of popular culture, both the books and television shows miss the mark entirely: they are focused on the visible - the production of food and that is precisely where the ritual IS NOT.
The ritual of sharing is about the "why". It is about, "why we cook", "why we share" and, "why we love".
Cook books and television shows may show us how to cook but the utterly fail to explain why we cook.
It seems simple: we cook because we love our friends and our family. And wine. Well, wine just makes it a little more special.