Syrahlandia (no matter where you go, there you are)

Above: Yesterday was devoted to a sprucing up of our patio for summer, including the purchase of a grill and the grilling of some pork chops and sausage. Tracie P made her classic penne al pomodoro and an amazing cilantro, avocado, and black-eyed pea salad. Palazzino Chianti Classico — grapey and juicy — paired nicely with all of the above.

When you go to Italy, do you order hamburgers, that quintessential dish of Americana? I know of at least one ex-pat blogger who has probably tried (perhaps inspired by nostalgia?) every hamburger in Rome. At nearly every instance, she emerges bitterly disappointed.

Last week, while working in New York City with some Italian colleagues, I was amazed at one woman’s continued bewilderment at the American convention of tipping. “Why should I tip? Why is it not already included in the bill like in Italy? It said ‘tip’ on the credit card receipt so I thought it was included?” It was a sort of cognitive dissonance: despite my assurance that tipping is a widely embraced convention of the U.S. restaurant industry (where her client hopes to sell its wines one day), she just couldn’t wrap her mind around the thought of leaving a tip.

As St. Augustine once said, in a observation about fasting schedules in Milan as opposed to Rome, when in Rome, order a hamburger.

My bewilderment at her bewilderment came to mind when a friend forwarded me a tweet from a man who needs no introduction here, James Suckling:

    Tasted some wonderful Syrahs! 2007 is a great year for Syrah in Tuscany!!

When in Tuscany, do as the Tuscans do: drink Syrah (???).

Last week I found myself bewildered at a quasi apology that Mr. Suckling offered for a wine he gave 92 points out of 100 (a hefty score in a world driven by score-based sales revenue): “Not a big wine,” he wrote of the wine made from 100% Sangiovese, an indigenous grape of Tuscany, “but balanced and pretty.”

Thinking of my colleague the reluctant tipper and the ex-pat in Rome who orders hamburgers, it occurred to me that — like Plato’s man in the cave — we all see the world as projected by the lens of our previous experiences.

It makes perfect sense that Mr. Suckling would apologize from the lighter-bodied style of Il Poggione’s traditional-style Brunello since he clearly loves the richer, “big” style of (international grape, traditionally grown in the Rhône valley) Syrah grown in Tuscany. (I know for example that he loves the wines made by my and his friend Cinzia Merli at Le Macchiole, where a 100% Syrah is vinified in a opulent, rich style, definitely a “big” wine.)

In Italian you say, paesi che vai, usanze che trovi. In other words, you will find different customs in every village or country where you go.

When in Syrahlandia, do as the Syrahlandians do. Drink Syrah.

Or, in the words of Buckaroo Banzai, Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

Buona domenica, ya’ll!