by Fred McMillin
Here's one of my best, wine-related, naturally. In fact, Bartholomew Broadbent was in the audience and later wrote, "thank you for a such an amusing evening."
San Francisco food and wine writers were invited to preview the opening of a new, prestige restaurant in the financial district. The very successful chef-owner, Faz, was from Iran. So, he asked me to speak about the legend of the discovery of wine by his forefathers in ancient Persia, based on what I had learned during my three years in Teheran.
I opened with a tribute to my best source, Dr. Hasan Javadi, Chairman of the English Department at Teheran University when I was there in the 1970s. He knew all the versions of the discovery, and could have done a much better job than I. In fact, I then raised my hands toward the heavens and cried out, "DR. JAVADI, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU?"
The room was silent. Then from a table in the back came a voice: "I'M RIGHT HERE!" You see, I had discovered that Dr. Javadi, with degrees from the University of Tabriz, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Cambridge in England, was a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley! In any case, the press then received the most authentic review of the discovery legends that I've ever heard. The essence of them all is that grapes were stored in a jar, an ominous-looking fluid developed that boiled without heating, and the jar was then labeled "Poison." Subsequently, the liquid was consumed, produced ecstacy instead of death, and the king declared that the country should make wine in the future. In some versions, a lady drank it, in others it was a man who made the discovery. Dr. Javadi translated what he regarded as one of the best sources, the multi-volume Iranian encyclopedia. It said that wine was discovered by---a man.
The evening's dessert was Sholeh Zard, saffron rice pudding with pistachio and cinnamon. I selected this wine to be served with it, along with Shirini, "homemade cookies," to add something crunchy. I heard murmers of praise from nearby tables.
We chose the Muscat because most historians believe that the first wine we're talking about was from Muscat grapes.
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