Saturday, September 6, 2008


After some prodding by CouchPapaya & Smita, this is my first attempt. And since this blog's name is "oenophile", I have to begin with --->

Golconda wine & Batatawada was my first wine-food pairing attempt, as breakfast before writing the IIT entrance exam in 1979. That I got in was due to a lot of hard work & Agarwal’s classes, but maybe that pairing played a small part. Other supporting evidence is that 4 of us school friends were supposed to spend the night at my home studying for the exam, but one went home late at night and thus missed this pairing. He was the only one who did not get in, never mind, all 4 of us remain good friends and came to the US in 80's. For the past 15+ years our families meet at Thanksgiving, and other friends and families also join in.

Shiraz is a city in Southern Iran and also a variety of grape used to make wine. Wikipedia claims "Shiraz disputes with Xeres [or Jerez] in Spain the honour of being the birthplace of sherry." I had the privilege of visiting Iran 4 times in the 1970's, and did visit Shiraz on my first trip in 1971. Even though grapes are grown nearby and wine is made, I did not see any; but I do remember my father buying some Iranian wine. I also got exposed to Caviar, Fall Colors, & snow in Iran. Tehran has year-round snow capped mountains to the north, and skiing is big winter time sport. The Caspian Sea region to the north shares some similarities with the French Riviera, both have mountains bordering the sea. In Tehran, we used to stay a few
blocks away from the infamous US Embassy that was later held hostage during the anti-Shah Islamic revolution. Early 1978 was the last I was in Iran, the revolution had not yet begun; but it began soon and within a year the Shah was forced to leave Iran. I remember that every structure and all currency notes in Iran had to have a photo of the Shah. The daily TV began and ended with his photo, and anyone switching it off at that time was liable to be imprisoned. I was exposed to Western goods, services, and cars for the first time in Iran, but this was also the first time my freedom of speech was curtailed. I remember my father seriously instructing me and my younger brother not to speak at all about the Shah or the Iranian Govt. while we were in Iran, something that growing up in India we used to do almost daily (about the Indian politicians and Govt. and mostly -vely).
Recommended Books
Persepolis I & II by Marjane Satrapi. A stirring account of an Iranian women's experiences from childhood to adulthood; spanning the Shah era, the Islamic revolution, the war with Iraq, and living in an Islamic Iran.

Chateau Margaux, a Bordeaux first growth, supposedly was President Richard M. Nixon's favorite wine. At parties thrown by him, he would have a waiter fill his glass from a white towel wrapped bottle of Chateau Margaux, and would serve a much cheaper wine to his guests from the Congress & the Senate (From "The Final Days" by Woodward & Bernstein.).
I was in school in Poona in 1971 during the Bangladesh war, in the beginning people would ignore the periodic air-raid sirens. This apparently changed when Nixon sent the Seventh Fleet into the Indian Ocean, the next air raid siren had our school officials herding us out of classrooms into bomb shelters (this meant going to an open field and kneeling, oh well!!!). Much later I realized that it was just the usual sabre rattling aimed at re-assuring America's Middle East allies, and there was hardly any intention of America entering the War.
So here's raising a glass of Chateau Margaux to you President Nixon for introducing me to wars & politics, although I too would have voted to impeach you (for Watergate and imposing wage price controls).
Recommended Books
1) War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh by Richard Sisson & Leo Rose.
2) All the President's Men, & 3) The Final Days by Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein

Naturally, cricket was the most played and followed sport; some memories
a) Red Letter Headlines in newspapers after India beat West Indies in West Indies and England in England in 1971.
b) Watching Sunil Gavaskar score a century in Ranji trophy in 1970 at Poona, before his test debut.
Recommended Books
1) My Cricketing Years by Ajit Wadekar
2) Sunny Days by Sunil Gavaskar

Like most kids growing up in Bombay & Poona in the 1960's & 1970's, I remain a bollywood fan; with favorites being Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra & Amitabh Bachchan.
1) First Hindi Movie seen outside India, Jewel Thief, Tehran Iran, 1971
2) Did see Sholay in 70 mm at Minerva.
3) On a trip to Mahabaleshwar, Dilip Kumar played soccer for about 5 min with a bunch of us kids.
4) First Adult (A rated) movie seen after bunking class --- Des Pardes (It is laughable that this was an A rated movie.)

I was fortunate to have been born into a family associated with Marathi Theatre. Among some memorable plays seen are
1) An early performance of Tee Phulrani, starring Satish Dubhashi & Bhakti Barve.
2) Dada Kondke at his best, introducing stand-up comedy in Viccha Majhi Puri Kara.
3) Home production of the award winner Bhaubandki

Ending with more wine anecdotes, I grew up on Agatha Christie's books and James Bond movies. Their talents are well known, and both have an excellent taste in wines and champagnes. You can never go wrong with their choices :-
Hercule Poirot --- Chateau Petrus, Chateau Lynch Bages
James Bond --- Bollinger, Dom Perignon

I pass this tag to smita


couchpapaya said...

very interesting, samir!! loved the pairing with books, will hunt for those iranian books now .... shiraz is my fav wine, once i discovered it i stopped experimenting (and torturing) myself with trying to develop a taste for and appreciation of all the diff wines. i just order this and am happy :D

tho am waiting with interest for the rest of ur writeups. now i'll experiment safely !!!!

marathi theatre is a lot of fun isnt it ... staying in blore we didnt get too much of it but we did see whatever came our way. tee phulrani was just so amazing !!! i wish i cld have seen dada kondke !!!

samir said...

The book Persepolis is in a B&W comics format, and was also made into an animated movie in 2007. I recommend both, and usually I lean towards the movie; but in this case the book is better.
Shiraz (Syrah) is a great choice, I shall certainly include it in my next writeup.
Marathi theatre is a lot of fun, and New Jersey has a lot of it.
Last year they held a competition, and 7 - 8 entries showed up.
Thanks for the wonderful response.

Mama - Mia said...

that was quite a post to start with!! :)

am sure we shall get to read lotsa yummy recipes, great book reviews and movie ones too, samir!!

looking fwd to reading lots more!



samir said...

Thnaks for the nice response.
Yummy recipes and movie & book reviews to follow.
BTW --- That Batatawada was from our school canteen.

Smita said...

Aha! Nostalgic post. Sorry for coming in so late. Now have added you in the blog roll and wouldn't miss even one post :)

U know what? Even am an IITian :) Roorkee. You were from???

Can I ask one stupid ques?? What is Oenophile??? I know am sounding unaware but what do? hehehe...

Loved the post...but dunno half the things in there, so this unintelligent comment :)

samir said...

No problems with late-ness, you showing up is great; and thanks for promising to read my future posts. Hopefully they won't be too boring.
Me from IIT Madras (79 - 84), 2nd last of the 5 yr batch; now IIT Chennai.
An oenophile is a wine enthusiast, a lover of wine. Oenophile is also used to poke fun at someone, in this case at myself. Hopefully I did not sound too drunk in this post (Not that I ever get drunk).

avdi said...

Samir, I was in Bangalore during the Bangladesh war and missed the air raids. I was in Jamnagar during the 65 war and was probably in KG or something and remember a drill to hide in trenches during air raid.. tht was fun.

I have not read Bernstein-Woodward books, but I did see Dick, which is a hilarious movie on Watergate.. you must must see it.

Alas the kind of wine that crosses my path is hardly fine... lucky you

samir said...

Av :
Thanks for the nice response, liked your "war stories".
I have not yet seen Dick, but will do so. Looked it up and it sounds great. Dont know how I missed it.
Also, the wine described in this post is mostly "read-only".
The wine I drink on a regular basis comes nowhere close to these.

avdi said...

Yes Samir, do watch Dick, I will write on it or you can do that and we can discuss the movie.. I didnt remember the whole watergate story and yet it made me laugh, if you do you will be rofl-ing

samir said...

That is a great ides, since you have seen it first you should begin and I will definitely chip in a lot. My Watergate knowledge is currently a little rusty, but I can brush it up; and the movie should be fun.