Dangerous Habits

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)

8 comments… add one
  • Mei Link

    Hey Ruth, funny article. I too love olive oil, whatever flavor! It’s good for the heart.

  • M A Link

    Olive oil & red wine are heart-healthy so drink up!

  • Cindy A Link

    Yuck. Can’t imagine swigging oil. But I can imagine that you were pretty regular for awhile, if you know whatta mean…

  • C.L. Ward Link

    Give youself many points! I got to the “Deep Throat” comment and wasn’t expecting it at all. I both laughed out loud in my workplace *and* had to clean soda off my monitor. I always enjoy your writing.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Thank you all.  I do love olive oil, but get a little wigged-out by the rituals and fetishes that seem to accompany it.

  • it’s good to choose your expensive habits…

  • Geez, Ruth, I get it on not getting addicted to first class flying. But I think if you fancy the oil it sounds like you can probably afford it, now and again. Or even get addicted.

    Same reason I buy hard back books when I really want them. If you don’t, who will?

  • Winston Link

    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.
    So, there you have it.  Now’s the time to gather up some photos of yourself taken in earlier years.  Zoom and crop as necessary.  Sprinkle them about your personal landscape in those stylish lucite frames.  My thought is that guests will casually pick one up here and there and whisper among themselves, “Ruth was… was… so avant garde back then.   Little did we know….”
    As to olive oil, in California bistros, do olive-oil stewards now approach the table with bottles of the oil for diners to taste, allowing them to select just the right vintage and degree of pepperiness for their salads?
    All I know about olive oil is that my Aunt Maude was built just like her— Olive Oyl, I mean.  And she was quite peppery too— scortched many an ear!

Leave a Comment