Today is the birthday of John Steinbeck.
That he is one of California’s (and the world’s!) greatest writers is well-known.
That he shares a birthday with Freddie Keppard – King Oliver’s great rival in the jazz days of old — is perhaps not so well-known.
That one of his great novels — Tortilla Flat — has at least 148 direct references to wine is perhaps even less well-known than that.
But that John Steinbeck favored late-night snacks of Chili, Tuna Fish on Crackers, and Red Wine is perhaps the finest wine needle in this literary grapestack.
Cheers to you, John Steinbeck! I certainly know with what book, and what snack, I shall be spending my evening!
“Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos. Spiritually the jugs maybe graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory. Three inches more, thoughts of old and satisfactory loves. An inch, thoughts of bitter loves. Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness. Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency. Two fingers down, a song of death or longing. A thumb, every other song each one knows. The graduations stop here, for the trail splits and there is no certainty. From this point anything can happen.”
–John Steinbeck, from Tortilla Flat