The Wine Opener

by White on Rice Couple on November 7, 2008

Wine Opener

An amulet. A ring.  Tattoos. A phrase we say.  The name we give our dog, cat, or child. Throughout life we tend to surround ourselves with things to remind us of somewhere, sometime, or someone we loved.  For me, one of those remembrances is a wine opener.

The opener itself has a lot of style.  Beautiful curves.  Polished edges from the many hands that have used it to bring innumerable wines to life. It unearths corks in such a crafty manner, that it can be daunting to the uninitated.  But in the hands of the experienced, it provides the flourish and grace worthy of any grand cru.

Corks and Wine Glass

Of “Who” or “What” does this artifice stir affections?  It is of a savvy lady who was named Alta.  A woman filled with style, poise and intelligence.  Never one to impose her opinions on others, but if asked gave you the dead honest truth.  She could cook a beautiful meal, but never demanded anything other than you try it.  Adventurous, beautiful, and witty, she was always a joy to be around. If asked about one of her flowering plants by the front door, she would dead pan reply, “It is a spent penis plant.”  A prude may gasp, and Alta eyes would glimmer.  But one with a good humor would know they found a friend for life.

She was my grandma.

Wine Opener

So for me, even though it has been many years since Alta Reid has left us, everytime I spin out a cork with this vintage opener, I am remembering my grandmother.  Her scotch on the rocks when company gathered.  The crackers & dips as appetizers, the simple yet beautiful meals.  Glimmers of intelligent conversations will echo in my ears, and for a brief moment I will be within the home and heart of one of those who I’ve loved with all of mine.

I’ve shared a bit of my being, so now we implore you to share a bit of yours.  What is a part of your life that serves as a rembrance? Share a bit of your humanity.  Todd.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Happy Cook November 7, 2008 at 1:26 am

This is one of the most beautiful wine opener i have ever seen.
I don’t think mine is so old as your. Some six year back my daughter went to Austria for 10 days holiday from her school and when she came home, she was so thrilled saying that she bought a beautiful gift for me. It was a beautiful hand painted Easter egg. She opend the box and gave to me, but it was all cracked into tiny pieces. My daughter was so disapointed that it was all broken to pieces and she explained to me that it was really beautiful looking and as i loved colours she bought the brightes colour etc….. I still have them in tiny pieces in a small boxs :-)

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2 Victoria November 7, 2008 at 4:07 am

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother!

My mother was an English war bride. She came to America with my dad, a second-generation (his mother, the youngest of eight, was the first person in her family to be born here) Italian-American, who went back to England to marry her after the war ended. My mother died in 1995. Two years ago after my dad died, I was cleaning out the house they had lived in for almost five decades. As I was finishing up in the attic, under the eaves I came across a small cardboard suitcase. When I opened it, I found two brown-paper packages. One was filled with my father’s letters to my mother during the war; the other, hers to him – all in chronological order. Because my father could not reveal where he was writing from (every letter bears a stamp Passed by the Navy Censor), at the bottom of the little suitcase was a map on which my father had drawn a clear green line, marking and dating every place his ship had taken him as he served his country in WWII. I gather my parents only saw each other three times before he went back to get her, so these letters are their entire courtship. My mother died six months shy of their fiftieth wedding anniversary!

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3 alexandra's kitchen November 7, 2008 at 9:12 am

I have fond memories of my grandfather. He rarely cooked — his beautiful wife did all that. His specialties were eggs and bacon. And, randomly, he would make chai too. I always remember him saying, “Have a sip of its tangy goodness.” He was a good man.

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4 Manggy November 7, 2008 at 9:18 am

Thank you for sharing, Todd. The wine opener is so full of character and so beautiful, as I’m sure Alta was. How lovely that, in a way, she is a part of every special celebration.
I’d have to say it’s my worn-down sneakers that serve as a remembrance of my grandfather. They’re so comfortable and warm– kept me from falling apart when I needed it most. Even when they’re past their usefulness, I’m sure I’ll still have them around :)

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5 Cynthia November 7, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Todd, that was so moving… unfortunately I never met or knew any of my grandparents – paternal or maternal. I often wonder about them…

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6 Kitt November 7, 2008 at 2:36 pm

That’s a lovely story and a gorgeous corkscrew. I’ll bet you miss your grandma a lot.

It would be hard for me to pick out one item; I’m literally surrounded by mementos of previous generations: furniture, photographs, kitchen tools, art. My grandfather took great bird photos. My grandmother left me her Cuisinart and Kitchenaid. My great-grandfather’s book press comes in handy sometimes. My great-great-aunt’s desk holds important papers. In the basement is a stash of my dad’s ’70s-vintage wines. My mom’s paintings are on nearly every wall.

It’s a little crazy how much nostalgia I’ve got going on here.

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7 evil chef mom November 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

i love the corkscrew… i have my grandfathers old nikon and a few of his books, which mean a lot to me. i would have loved to have known your grandmothe,r she sounds wonderful.

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8 Brooke November 7, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Todd,
What an unexpectedly beautiful and touching post! What a thoughtful tribute to your grandmother. The wine opener is gorgeous heirloom, the stories of your grandmother even more precious.

What’s fascinating to me is how few objects I have from my ancestors. Though I have a few snapshots, what I hold most dear are the recipes and food memories I have associated with my grandparents. Sometimes, when I cook or eat, the meals I enjoy are a tribute to them. A glass of crisp white wine and lobster or a cup of tea with a piece of well-buttered toast is for my grandmother. A bourbon and apple pie: my grandfather.

thanks for the question. thanks for the memory.

Brooke

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9 Vicki November 7, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I’ve got my grandmother’s pizzelle maker, and I haven’t ever had the nerve to use it, because I’m sure I’d get tears in the batter. But the absolute best thing I have from her is a hand-written notebook full of anecdotes of her childhood, that she wrote when she was in her 60s. I keep thinking about typing it up and having it bound, but there’s something about her handwriting, knowing that she wrote it for me, that keeps me from doing it.

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10 Mollie November 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I have a set of colored Pyrex nesting mixing bowls that used to belong to my grandmother. I looked them up once and they seem to be from the 40′s, which would make sense since she would have been a young married woman at that time. And my grandmother was the type that would have a mixing bowl for 50 years and be able to pass it on without a scratch or a chip! When she died I had asked my dad for another yellow bowl, the color of the largest one of the set, and he thought I meant these and sent them to me. They weren’t what I’d been thinking of, but now I love having them. I remember her using those bowls for everything from mixing up meatballs, making Christmas cookies, shredding cabbage and mixing up the coleslaw she served with nearly every meal. They are still in great condition and I love using them in my home now. One particularly poingnant time I used them to mix up a cake from a special family recipe of my mother’s that I served on a cake stand passed on from my other grandmother. That was pretty cool.

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11 sweetbird November 9, 2008 at 12:26 am

What beautiful memories you have of your grandmother. I just recently lost my grandfather, my closest relative, to pulmonary disease. He fought until the end, just like he fought his entire life. He was a hard working man who knew how to relax. In fact my most cherished memento of his (other than photos) is his “drinking hat” – a cowboy hat made of sewn together beer cans. I’ll keep it until the day I die.

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12 Jesse November 9, 2008 at 9:32 am

That was beautiful. I wish I’d had the good fortune to meet Alta.
Star fruits will forever remind me of my paternal grandma, whom I called Popo. She had a hard life… coming as a kid from China to Indonesia in a junk boat, and then marrying someone like my granfather, who used to physically and verbally abuse her. I remember a couple of times when I came over to their house I’d catch her crying softly to herself, and I’d crawl into her lap and wipe her tears. She’d cradle me for a bit, then take me to the backyard to pick out the ripest star fruits from the tree she’d planted many years ago. Then we’d go back into the house and she’d slice them up for me and tell me stories about how naughty my dad was as a child. I didn’t know that she used to get into trouble for letting me have those star fruits… now I can’t eat a star fruit without getting teary eyed.

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13 Big Boys Oven November 9, 2008 at 10:15 am

so lovely to read your piece. my part of memory is my dad’s cooking which I did inhereted a few good recipes……..

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14 Sandie November 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm

What a beautiful wine opener—you’re grandmother sounds like a lovely person, a person I would have enjoyed knowing.

The biggest part of my life that serves, at least partially, as remembrance of my father, is actually my food blog. When my dad died last year, I inherited his DSLR camera. Determined I would honor his love of photography by striving to take beautiful photos, I use his camera nearly everyday and always feel like he is part of my ventures when I’m shooting food & drink for Inn Cuisine. While it may sound odd, working so closely with his camera allows me to feel as though my dad is still a part of my life and involved with a project I hold near and dear to my heart!

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15 White on Rice Couple November 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I wanted to thank everyone for sharing a bit of their lives. You all have such touching stories about your lives, from those that made us smile to those that brought a few tears. I don’t know if I can look at some of the things you shared the same way again. Hand painted eggs, imagining a map with a sailor’s journey (waiting to return to his love), eggs – bacon – and chai, a pair of white & blue sneakers, the assortment of things filling one’s home, an old camera and books on the shelf, a bourbon and apple pie (I love that one), a pizzelle maker and a handwritten notebook, colored pyrex mixing bowls (grandma had one of those, too), a unique cowboy hat, the recipes one shares with us, and the pictures we see. Everywhere in life we are surrounded by people’s memories and love, mostly without even knowing about it. But for this brief moment a humanity photo has focused in and captured some exquisite details for anyone watching to see. Thanks for taking the photos of the inside of your souls, everyone.

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16 Lori Lynn November 9, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Oh what a neat post. My food blog has inspired me to share some stories about my family and to ask questions. In doing so it has propelled me to ask my mother about those who are not here on the planet any longer, and to probe her memories. Definitely something of value that may have never been asked, but for a food blog.

Alta’s wine key is a treasure for sure. You made me think back, and I am certain that neither of my grandmothers drank wine. Now I have to go ask my mother.

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17 Jescel November 10, 2008 at 10:57 pm

that is one beautiful cork opener that reflects your grandma’s personality…. i have one precious item that i keep myself. an antique watch that was my mom’s when she was single. my mom passed away last year from breast cancer, so that watch reminds me a lot of her. the watch doesn’t work anymore but it’s a keepsake that reminds me of her.

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18 Rebecca (Foodie With Family) November 11, 2008 at 10:23 am

When I was little, I regularly begged my Dad to play Triominos with me. It was not a fancy game. In fact, it was pretty raggedy. He had painted the worn white numbers back on the black plastic many times with nail polish, white out, or whatever he could find. The box had long since disintigrated and he kept the back panel with the rules printed on it folded up in a little plastic bag with the game pieces.

His office was in our home and he kept the game stashed up on a high shelf out of reach of little fingers. Occasionally, he would bring the game down and we would have wonderful times playing the strategy game that was made more appealing to me by the mystery of why it was only available to me at Dad’s whim.

I never really understood why the game was so protected until this past year. When my Dad and step-mom were moving, they left a few boxes in our possession to watch for them. Val, my stepmom, informed me we could raid the box that contained the board games. When I opened the box I found the coveted Triominos game in a new resealable plastic bag with the same old box instructions. I ran into the house, promptly played four rounds with my kids and called my Dad to thank him.

It turned out that he didn’t mean to leave it here. But I finally learned why it meant so much to him. It had been his mother’s game. He lost her when he was 18 years old (his father had passed when he was 7.) He told me to play with it because a game is no good unplayed, but to take care of it for him. It’s now tucked up on a hard-to-reach shelf and enjoys the same vaunted status for my kids that it did for me. …And I like it that way.

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19 TavoLini November 12, 2008 at 6:43 am

What a great post!

I have a house full of reminders–I inherited most of the furniture. Books and bookshelves from my great grandmother, a rocking chair from my great grandfather, a sofa, some scarves, a jacket from my grandparents. They’re never very far from me.

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20 Victoria November 12, 2008 at 8:44 am

I have come back regularly to read the comments as they came in. They are all truly wonderful. Little vignettes shared with the rest us. Sometimes when I’m in a crowd I look around and think all these lives, all these lives, all their stories. Thanks to everyone who commented and to you, Todd, for telling us about Atla!

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21 White on Rice Couple November 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

We have to second what Victoria said. Thanks for keeping such wonderful comments coming in. It is beautiful how so many have shared a part of their lives. This is one of those times where the beauty of the comments overwhelm that of the original post. Please keep sharing. Thanks everyone!

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22 Cakelaw November 13, 2008 at 4:06 am

What a beautiful post! For me, I think of the grandmother that I never knew every time that I see Amy Schauer’s preserving and confectionary cookbook. My mother often made Russian caramels and lemon cheese from this book, which belonged to her mother, and I was delighted to find my own copy on eBay so that I could make a small but significant link to the past.

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23 diva November 14, 2008 at 2:48 am

amazing writing. and so moving. :) love the wine opener. it’s very beautiful. x

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24 Abbie December 3, 2008 at 7:45 am

It’s so full of character.

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