Guest Opinion: From the vine to our palates | AspenTimes.com
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Guest Opinion: From the vine to our palates

Ricki McKenna

Food, especially that first whiff of morning coffee, or croissants and muffins at the local bakery, or the aroma of garlic and onions simmering in the chicken soup, has emotional power. It takes us back in time with associations from the past, makes us think of things cherished and even “forbidden.” Aromas stimulate memories of activities, a favorite place we loved when we were 3 years old, or a former love we let go. It affects brain chemistry and our attitudes and our physiology too!Enter the Food & Wine Classic and the fabulous week of feasting and condoned gluttony, and we have the perfect combination of mood foods, booze, happy people and the places to enjoy them all.Flowing through the tents and booths tasting great food that harmonizes with good wine, especially when it’s expertly prepared and dedicated to bringing friends, food and fruit of the vine together, increases our enjoyment. Like culturally different music, culturally different food and drink evoke different thoughts and feelings.Our bodies like to flow, to be in balance and harmony, like a symphony, or a jazz riff or gospel. When the music is harmonious – we feel it, we dance to what makes us feel good. We choose the arrangements, environments and the supplies. We feel in harmony with some and out of sync with others. This seems to work with food as well.Ethnic foods and various wines and other drinks from different parts of the globe work a similar kind of nutritional magic in our bodies, evoking different thoughts and feelings – some of which are quite audible – while roaming through the different venues. The Food & Wine Classic experience gives us different food choices with wines and other libations to enhance their flavors and a marvelous place to enjoy them all.A suggestion for prolonging the fun: Eat (almost) everything you can that looks and smells good to you while tasting the wines, liquors and beers. Besides enjoying the tastings, the food, especially the fat and sauces help balance the effects of the alcohol. A relaxing hot herbal bath would be less caloric, but starchy food, particularly potatoes, muffins, a bagel with jam, cheese, pasta with tomato sauce, pretzels, etc., will take you to the couch. It takes about an hour before the message reaches from tummy to brain, and a calming response takes place. That’s your body chemistry reacting with food chemistry. It’s a fairly harmless form of self-medication, and I’d take pasta over Prozac anytime. After all, you’re there to taste and enjoy all that’s being offered!Speaking of tasting, did you know different areas on your tongue taste different things? Not only is it the strongest muscle in your body, it can be very discriminating when it comes to taste – literally. How many of us taste the subtleties of a truffle, or the complexities of a subtly blended wine, especially after the 12th, or was that the 14th glass? Considering the variety of grapes and grains that are pressed to make the hundreds of different drinks we sample. It’s rather amazing that our tongue is still capable of discerning many different flavors when you attempt to savor so many mouthfuls in the space of a few hours. We are most fortunate to be honored each year with the Food & Wine Classic that brings great chefs, sumptuous food and delicious wines and spirits from different regions and countries to our beautiful valley. I’m not sure who gets the best of what; we who delight in the savory victuals created here or the people who enjoy our hospitality, home and spirit. I’d venture to say it’s mutually beneficial as well as nutritionally exciting. Yep, sometimes we just have to let go and feed all our senses. Gets my juices flowing just to think of all the possibilities for gorging myself into a state of foodie euphoria. So, while you’re ambling through the tents and restaurants in Aspen savoring the gourmet creations, cheeses, beers, liquors, and actually swallowing (dare we?) some of the best wines in the world, try to remember how wonderful these special days are and feed your soul well at Food & Wine.Ricki McKenna, CN is a licensed nutritionist in the Roaring Fork Valley.


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