A Cul­ture of Giv­ing

Homemade wine vine­gar em­bod­ies care and thought­ful­ness

SAVEUR - - Master Class - By Rachel Khong

Ev­ery fall, the mo­ment the weather changes, I be­gin fan­ta­siz­ing about the ver­sion of my­self who makes Christ­mas gifts for friends: jars or bot­tles care­fully filled with homemade some­thing, and charm­ingly la­beled with chicken scratch. I’ve put a lot of thought into that per­fect homemade gift. It’s planned weeks or months in ad­vance, and it im­presses with its thought­ful­ness. It can’t be bought. It’s a gift that will be con­sumed—that dis­ap­pears, so it doesn’t be­come an al­ba­tross, some­thing the re­cip­i­ent is sad­dled with and un­able to throw away out of guilt. It should be an ed­i­ble gift that lasts a fairly long time to re­mind you of my friend­ship, but doesn’t op­press with its pres­ence or ex­pi­ra­tion date, de­mand­ing you eat it, or fill­ing you with shame when you no­tice it in the fridge and don’t. And it should be a gift that takes some mea­sure of thought­ful­ness and con­cen­trated ef­fort, that makes you think, Ah, Rachel thought about me while mak­ing this.

These cri­te­ria led me through a brief but in­tense phase of read­ing herbal en­cy­clo­pe­dias and raid­ing herb bulk bins to make tinc­tures as gifts: a cin­na­mon tinc­ture for a friend with pre­di­a­betes (cin­na­mon low­ers blood sugar!), an in­som­nia tinc­ture for my boyfriend (now hus­band), Eli, who has trou­ble sleep­ing. The tinc­tures took months to make; I shook the jars of herbs steep­ing in vodka and shook them dili­gently ev­ery few days to in­fuse. The tinc­tures sat­is­fied my cri­te­ria for a good gift, but in prac­tice, I could give them to only a hand­ful of friends with spe­cific ail­ments—namely, those two. Most years, I’m ashamed to say, de­spite my best in­ten­tions, I never make it past the conceptual phase of gift giv­ing. Life gets hec­tic. The win­dow of time it takes to make that homemade thing gets smaller and smaller un­til it dis­ap­pears.

Re­cently, I was sit­ting in my kitchen, idly read­ing the back of a vine­gar bot­tle, when some­thing caught my eye. The la­bel said the vine­gar was brewed us­ing the “Or­leans method” of vine­gar mak­ing. This was no or­di­nary bot­tle of vine­gar; it was my fa­vorite vine­gar, made by a com­pany called Katz. Based in Napa, Cal­i­for­nia, Katz makes ar­ti­sanal vine­gars so de­li­cious and

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