A little over five years ago, I joined the newsroom of a daily paper in Western Montana, and took over duties writing a weekly food column from a retiring colleague. Friends and acquaintances outside of Montana marveled at the fact that there would be enough food-related material to chronicle in a small town furrowed against the Rocky mountains. But in 2007, I became part of a culinary and artisan food movement that was just beginning to take off. During that time, it was a courtship of the most beautiful kind – getting lost in the embrace of stories entwined with people and food.
I moved to Missoula, Mont. from Los Angeles, by way of New York, by way of Seattle, by way of Portland and back to L.A. It was the smallest place I’d ever lived and I didn’t know if I was cut out for life here. It’s been 12 years and I still ask that very same question. What I do know is, writing food in what might seem to some as an insignificant place in the scheme of food writing, changed how I view food today.
In all my time living in New York City, L.A., and Seattle, I rarely walked farmers markets. I had never questioned the origins of my dinner. And I had always felt revulsion at the idea of capturing, slaying and preparing my own food. But here, in this wild and wooly place, with arduous winters and raging summer heat, I connected to the earth, to animals, and to my fellow man in an entirely different way.
For all that the earth imparts to vegetables and fruits, to wine grapes, to cacao pods, to coffee, tea, tobacco, flower petals for perfume, and to woods for spirit fermentation, the concept of “terroir” is the backbone of it all.
The French word “terroir” means land. Conceptually, it describes the imprint left by the origins of food and drink, on smoke and scent – all of which meld together to lend a sense of place that lingers on nose and palate.
But I considered that terroir may also describe the sum of our human experience: All we eat, smell, touch… all we love, hate and long to be… and the sum of people we meet through life’s many lessons and experiences, converge to make us who we are.
A love of food and wine, and its unique sense of place, is the idea behind Vine & Beast.