Growing up, my parents had wine with dinner most days. We always sat down together as a family, and just a glass of red or white wine seemed to make the meal a little more substantial, and a little less rushed. It didn’t matter what was on the menu, either–spagetti, chicken, or even hamburgers were fine.
Pat and I, on the other hand, don’t go through that much wine at home. We have not really carried on the daily wine-at-dinner tradition. It’s not that we don’t think it’s a good idea (Aren’t there studies proving moderate amounts of red wine are good for you? And wasn’t Jesus a fan of wine with his meals?) It’s just that we always seem to have somewhere to drive after supper. I often work in the evening, and even on nights when I don’t have a meeting, we have a houseful of children looking for a chauffeur every day of the week. So drinking at dinner is usually out.
When Pat and I were in Montreal we walked everywhere–an easy thing to do in that city. When stopped for lunch at a cafe it only made sense that we order a drink and linger over our meal in a way we usually can’t. Pat ordered a beer, his definite preference. I went all out and ordered a raspberry martini. We clinked our glasses–cheers!–and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the street while we laughed about the right way to say ‘poutine’ (poo-teen? poo-tin? We still aren’t sure).
At the Montreal Botanical Gardens, we wanted to stop at midday to rest our feet and sit in the shade. We walked to the little tea room and discovered that they had all kinds of treats on offer: sushi, cinnamon buns, salads, beer and wine. We found a table looking out over a garden filled with tall purple allium and great swaths of thyme and adjuga. Each of us had a book to read and we stretched out at our table with a glass of wine. I was so pleased the patio gave me a proper wine glass instead of the plastic cup that I expected. The sun was shining but wasn’t too hot. We had no appointments, no meetings, no obligations. It was wonderful.
On the train ride home, the very same rule applied. Sure, we were stuck in a train car for five hours so we weren’t exactly rushed, but we embraced a sabbatical moment nonetheless. We stopped mid-meal to look each other in the eye and lifted our wine glasses long enough to say, “Here’s to sabbaticalizing!”
It doesn’t matter, I suppose, what is in the glass. It could just as easily be soda with lime or a diet pop. The important part for me is learning to slow down over a meal, to savour the tastes and the surroundings and the company.
When the Lousiville Institute awarded me a grant that allowed me this sabbatical, they did it with the hope that I would enjoy my time of rest and renewal. They also hoped I would learn new ways of living that could be continued once I return to work. Slowing down for a glass of wine–or a martini or even a soda—over dinner may just be one of the things I try to include in my life come September.