Friday, September 6, 2013

Echoes in stone

I recently visited a vineyard customer west of Paso Robles.  As I walked up to their winery building I just about fainted when I saw a shelf mounted on the outside to display these: 

 (Click to enlarge)

And these:

(Click to enlarge)

… a collection of native American – probably Chumash – mortars and pestles used for grinding acorns.  The vineyard owner told me they had been found on the property by the guy she bought the vineyard from years ago.  Best of all:  I’m welcome on the property to hunt for more mortars! Ahem, ahem... I think I feel a cough coming on that will require me to miss a couple of days of work next week!  I'd give one of my less important limbs to find one of these, in working order.  Especially with acorn drop almost upon us.

I love wine.  I love the vineyard industry. I love art and science of combining soil and sun to produce a liquid with magical, complex properties.  I deeply admire the people who perform this alchemy both in the vineyard and in the winery.  And – if I’m being candid – I love the way sales of grow tubes and bird netting to vineyards puts food on my family’s table.

But these mortars & pestles are a simple reminder of another, much more life sustaining, crop once produced, harvested and processed on this property - and of a different alchemy, that of turning an astringent, tannin filled nut into a delicious meal rich in nutriment (I love that old fashioned word!), an alchemy that required only water, stone and time.  If you listen hard you can still hear the echoes of the thump, thump, grind of pestle striking mortar, turning acorns into meal, turning sunlight and soil into another year’s sustenance for the People.  And the laughter and song of the People as they worked.

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