Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Rite of Passage Five –lower case gourmet–
(1945 to 1949)
Q. Who was your mentor during your discovery phase who has continued to influence you in your adult life?
I could not have been more fortunate in receiving some early attention from a man who influenced a great many wine and food enthusiasts worldwide. Monsieur André Louis Simon was the founder of the International Wine And Food Society. He did this when I was only one-year-old and engaged in a quite different kind of a bottle?
Mr. Simon owned a small country estate “Little Hedgecourt” near my parent’s hotel and it was there that at fifteen years of age we met. I knew of his reputation from my parents; exactly why he decided to share his life with me I shall never know. It wasn’t lengthy but it was certainly meaningful.
André was an enthusiast; he lived his message by being reasonable, moderate and exceedingly well mannered in a courtly fashion that fits the French culture so well. He modeled moderation but never, to my knowledge, railed against excess. He listened more than he spoke. He was a kindly man.
He explained to me one day (while sitting in a rowing boat on his small lake) that he had never taken up cooking the food he was so fond of eating. In his warm very French accent he recounted, “I decided to make a custard. When it had set I prodded it and the fork sprang back into my hand. I decided to stop trying.”
It was André who introduced me to great wines, by a simple sip, and encouraged me to always be engaged when eating…with both food and wine. “The two go so wonderfully together and when in good company the dining experience can be second to none.”
I was able to see this put into action as, day after day, I observed my father’s customers on their search for exactly that kind of enjoyment.
Over the years André and I had several opportunities to reunite. He was always gracious, even more so as he aged. It was during a visit to New Zealand that I had initiated that he mentored by modeling the extraordinary gift of gratitude.
André Simon, a truly great man in the world of fine food and wine, was, in his mid-eighties the perfect guest. He achieved this by being grateful for even the most minor kindness or hospitality he was offered.
He liked to take a nap each afternoon and during that time he took the opportunity to write a brief thank you note to everyone he had met in the previous 24 hours. André came to our house for dinner during that visit and followed up by writing the introduction to my very first book.
The times we spent together were not lengthy but his gentle example in the midst of so much strident self-promotion has stayed with me over the years.
So…what about now?
André was, and still is, my flash of silver mentor and I would love to be more like him as I move on through the upper reaches of my life. Whilst I no longer consume wine, or alcohol in any form, I chose not to do so, in part, because of Andrés insistence in moderation being the key to avoiding excess and harmful addiction.
He understood that, if moderation was the standard, then excess would soon be obvious. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and so, for those who find it difficult (or impossible) to stop at say two glasses of wine, I decided that I had best not be seen publically (or privately) to continue with my early gifting and understanding of fine wines.
Do I propose that wine drinking or alcohol consumption is wrong? No, I do not –yet, let me once more say that André Simon’s early mentoring and his generous and kindly nature with his urging of moderation were helpful in my personal decisions and my public advice. By all means embrace moderation in all things and be sure to set a carefully thought out limit such as 1 or 2 glasses (8oz) of wine. If you cannot stay within that limit, then please consider seeking some help.
P.S. This week I read Treena’s poem “Waiting”