Still, after he considered what the usual daily fare was for the many svelte farmers he had met, Nick was in awe.
Their mornings would begin quite early, maybe at five, with bacon or sausage and eggs, white bread toast, and a large glass of milk, followed by coffee. On mornings when pancakes were involved, the stack was high, usually accompanied by bacon, and always topped with a lot of butter, plus syrup. The farmers had long ago lost their taste for real maple syrup, as the processed food industry made the same mark that Monsanto had made in the region. To help along the abandonment of maple syrup there was its growing price. To Nick, who first tasted corn syrup during military service, he'd rather have paid in blood to have maple syrup than to take free corn syrup that looks like motor oil and is as dense as a motor.
The farmers worked all morning and then stopped for a lunch of perhaps franks and beans on a white roll, with a piece of apple pie for dessert. Dinner was often a red meat/dairy fest and it always ended with a sweet dessert. Most of them ate fish once a week, on Friday. But Nick viewed that meal with great scorn. It was usually a slab of haddock fillet fried in batter and accompanied by deep fried potatoes, a soft white heavily buttered biscuit, and mushy green things that the locals referred to as vegetables.
Throughout the day, copious volumes of sugary sodas kept up energy and beer made its appearance on most evenings—wine was not a normal drink even among many local grape growers.
The farmers managed to burn all the fat and calories and to stay slim through hard work. Nick was learning how that was done.
Each morning, he rose early to get in what he could out in the vineyard, if it wasn’t raining and if the tractor didn’t decide to take the day off. At least once a week, it seemed, the tractor suffered. If it wasn’t a dead battery, it was overworked spark plugs or a plugged up radiator or a starter that stopped starting or a tire that met with a stray trellis staple or a hydraulic that would not lift, a cotter pin gone astray, a power steering that lost its power and its steering.
If he was lucky, and the tractor gave him no grief, Nick worked the vineyards and the rest of the property with it, spraying, brush hogging, tilling, hauling, whatever. He had to stop by 10 so that he could shower, dress, grab a bite and then get to the tasting room to open at noon. On his way out the door, if he had a few extra minutes, he might water a vegetable patch or fix a fallen gutter on the side of the house.
He was also forced to reserve one day a week to allow for pickups of wine and other items like cheeses and crackers to stock the tasting room. This activity bothered him the most because it cut into the time needed to accomplish important chores, and it seemed to be an effort that might never bring him a profit.
In the tasting room itself, Nick had much down time. He probably should have been glad for the rest, but he spent the down time worrying over all the things that needed doing and that he was unable to do while sitting behind the tasting bar awaiting customers. Each evening he told himself that he would change the tasting room days and hours, but each day brought new hope that it would be a better one than the day before and he refrained from making changes to the schedule. It wasn’t that he didn’t see business pick up some; it just didn’t pick up enough to make the tasting room worth it.
At the end of the workday in the tasting room, 5 o'clock, he would rush home, maybe make a quick stop along the way for bread or eggs or whatever he had forgotten on the weekly shopping trip. Once home, he had to let out the dog for a run, open the mail, cook his dinner, and then see if he had energy left to get some garden work or front lawn mowing done.
Like his neighbors, Nick was learning to down copious volumes of fats and calories. Also, like his neighbors, he remained svelte. The question in his mind was: at what cost?
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Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2010. All rights reserved.
May 2010. All rights reserved.