I try to follow at least one so-called rule in my life. That is: Don’t develop any new expensive habits.
It’s bad enough that I’ve got a few old expensive habits already — e.g., hair, nails, shoes. But I try to stick to those and head off any form of expense-expansion that comes knocking. I don’t do facials, for example, or get anything waxed — which a little Eva Braun clone at a local salon once told me was appalling. “How can you live,” she said, “with those eyebrows?”
Pretty well, as it turns out. Also, I’ve begun to notice that bushier eyebrows are now in vogue, which leads me to believe you can wait out any number of expensive habits if you live long enough and you don’t mind the abuse.
I was thinking about avoiding any new and expensive habits when my husband and I were in California a few weeks ago. We were in the middle of the Santa Barbara wine country, which seems to have started taking itself awfully seriously ever since Sideways was made. Every town and bend in the road had at least one winery, where you could swirl a pinot or chardonnay, look properly serious and reverential, purse your lips, and opine at great length about what you liked and why.
But we’d taken that particular trip before, since even Central Texas has vineyards these days. So, it wasn’t the wine-tasting affectations that got to me; it was the olive oil-tasting affectations.
Olive oil! — which I happen to like. But, when you taste it in the local stores close to Santa Barbara, you have to cup your hands around it to warm it properly. Then, you sniff it and swallow it. Then you elaborate about it.
“This is peppery,” the woman behind the counter said approvingly. Peppery, I had learned, was good. Unlike, say, buttery, which was a little more declasse. Which was probably why I liked the buttery better.
After a couple of swigs of oil, all I wanted was some bread, which is frowned on — but what the hell. I felt like my gullet was a slippery oil slick; maybe, I thought, this had been the true secret of Deep Throat. Linda Lovelace, olive-oil connoisseur.
But, several tastings later, I kind of got into the spirit of the thing and ordered some ridiculously expensive olive oil (peppery!) and balsamic vinegar to be sent to our house. Night after night, I’m now making salad dressings with them — and have to admit they’re superb.
It’s delicious and all that, but I’m scared to death my husband and I are developing a taste for expensive olive oil. It’s similar to what happens when we occasionally get bumped up to first class when we fly: I love it and luxuriate in it, but always remind myself not to get used to it. This isn’t my life. Not really. Coach and cheap, buttery olive oil are more like it.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)