All in the Perception

Glad Farm

I've been reading Glad Farm, by Milford native Catherine Marenghi, a memoir of her childhood set in the late 50's and early 60's. I met the author at a local networking group, she was selling copies of her book, and as a huge sucker for local history, of course I bought one. It's an interesting read, and especially fascinating to envision the Milford of her childhood: a small town, very rural in character.

Ms Marenghi's family was extremely poor; she grew up in a house that was really a shack, 'tarpaper roof and weathered cedar shingles, never painted, camouflaged behind the winter-plucked trees.' She writes of never once inviting friends over, of coming up with elaborate reasons to meet them elsewhere. She was ashamed of her parents' poverty, ashamed of their home, and particularly ashamed that it lacked indoor plumbing. She did not want her friends finding out that her family used an outhouse. She felt they would judge her, and she was probably right about that, because most families in Milford, MA, even in the 1950's, did not have an outhouse.

I did not grow up in Milford (or anywhere else in MA-I'm from North Dakota), but my family did have an outhouse. Until I was 10 or so-about the time Ms Marenghi was graduating from Milford High- my family's home did not have indoor plumbing. But-and this is an important 'but'-neither did many of our neighbors. Outhouses weren't that unusual, so we did not feel shame that we had one. Our home, unlike the Marenghis', was well-built and maintained, it just didn't have a bathroom. And we were fine with that because, comparatively, we were just like our neighbors. Ms Marenghi was not, and she felt that difference keenly. Other families had bathrooms. You should have a bathroom. Her self-perception suffered in that comparison.

People set up similar comparisons and perceptions about wines. Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Chateauneuf-du-Pape.....these are 'classics', regions that have been blessed by an overwhelming perception that they are the best of the best. And sometimes they are. But what of less-known regions? If you haven't heard of an area's wines, but they're well-made, do you perceive them to be less delicious? Do the wines taste better if the powers that be have decreed them acceptable? Or can you try something lacking provenance or prestige and love it anyway because it just plain tastes good?

My family didn't mind having an outhouse because nobody had told us we should mind it. And a Bulgarian or Moldovan Cabernet can taste even better than one from California, while saving you major $, as long as you don't trick yourself into believing that there is anything 'wrong' with Bulgarian or Moldovan wines.

But don't take my word for it. Come in and try one for yourself. Then bask in the knowledge that you've purchased good wine, not just perceptions.