Season 1, The Best Revenge, Episode 10: The Finer Things

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August 26, 2017

In this episode of The Best Revenge, Dr. Fleming and Stephen discuss how “the experts” can ruin basic enjoyment of wine, beer, spirits, tobacco, food, and pretty much anything pleasurable.


Original Air Date: August 26, 2017
Show Run Time: 50 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner

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The Best Revenge℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2017. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.

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22 Responses

  1. Dot says:

    Big Pharma does a good job at nixing “the important things in life” from wine (alcohol decreases effectiveness of the drug), cheese (saturated fat), chocolate and coffee (too much caffeine).

  2. Ken Rosenberger says:

    An entertaining podcast. Please do more in this vein. Say more about developing a taste for paintings and sculptures, how to approach a museum. I recall discovering Bellini on one your trips a couple years ago, just seeing a lot of his paintings and realizing that they all stood inspection. Poussin and Vermeer were like this too for me.

    And please talk more on literature as well (Stephen too). What were the qualities that drew you to certain writers. As an example, what drew you to Gadda’s novel “That Awful Mess on the Via Meraluna.”

  3. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    My wife is under five feet tall. She likes Bartenura Moscato. I think she is the small space for sweet wines that Dr. Fleming mentioned.

    Her grandfather, who was an immigrant from Italy, made a very dry red table wine that I liked. It was very good with Italian food.

    Although I was born in Milwaukee and raised in Wisconsin, I have never liked beer. (I am named after my mother’s brother, who drove a beer truck.) When I was in high school, you could drink beer outside city (Kenosha) limits when you were 18. Many of my friends would go to the county teen bars. I did not go often, and I could never finish a beer when I did.

    I like bourbon, but not scotch. I also like gin tonics with lime juice in the summer. I keep a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey in my refrigerator. (Honey even makes bacon taste better. Try a BLT with honey on it sometime. Be sure to salt the tomatoes about 15 minutes before you make the sandwich.)

    I have always been a meat and potatoes guy. When we go to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, my wife always has a Maryland blue crab cake salad and I usually have the “house” burger, medium rare with lettuce, tomato, and red onions and side orders of fries and coleslaw. Sometimes I have chicken tenders, which are always crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. The fries are also crispy on the outside and moist with real potato flavor on the inside. Long live the chef!! (Getting hungry just thinking about it. I am tired, too. Just spent a couple hours cleaning an old car that we are going to trade in. My wife went to the gym with a friend. I told her to stop off and get a takeout crab cake salad for herself and some coleslaw for me. I will have some leftover pork loin with my coleslaw.)

    I believe that Alan Jacobs recommended reading what you like, not what some “expert” thinks you should read to “better” yourself, in his 2011 book The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Right now, I am reading John Lukacs, Owen Barfield, and Rudolph Steiner.

  4. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Uh-oh, Andrew, you said Steiner! How did you develop a taste for him? I’ve come across a few Steiner fans in my life, but I don’t know what to make of him, although I think he was mentioned in passing at the Summer Symposium. My stepson went to a Waldorf School through 8th grade. This was the education system created by Steiner. I think there were a lot of good aspects of it, although the kids weren’t immersed in any hardcore Steinerian philosophy, as far as I ever knew. The school, when I was involved as a parent, had become a lower cost private school option for the more impecunious Atlanta urban liberal bourgeois elites to send their offspring.

    I should say I enjoyed the rest of your “likes” list.

  5. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Mr. Rosenberger, Lukacs will get you to Barfield, who in turn will get you to Steiner. I have just started reading Steiner (and Barfield), so cannot comment on what I think so far.

    I have practiced meditation for years (and also practice the Jesus prayer after being introduced to it at an Orthodox Lenten retreat). I find both to be beneficial. I have some videos to learn Tai Chi, which is said to be meditation in motion. As I suffer from a pinched nerve in my neck and degeneration of my lower spine, I thought Tai Chi might be useful, as it is low (no) impact motion. (I have Paget’s Disease, which causes bone deformation, a contributing factor to my spinal degeneration.)

    The Jesus prayer is a religious practice, but you can meditate and do Tai Chi without the religious aspects of yoga. I also practice some of the five Tibetan rituals in the morning when I do the back and neck exercises I learned when taking physical therapy.

    Apparently, the brains of people who spend a lot of time watching videos and using the internet change over time in a way that disrupts their ability to focus on anything for very long. Studies also show that the brains of people who practice meditation change in a way to allow better focus. If I recall, Alan Jacobs said that he was losing the ability to engage in “deep reading” because of the time he spent online. His answer was to do more deep reading, which I try to do, too. Your brain has to be structured properly to concentrate for hours when you read difficult material. Your brain is malleable and changes to do better the things you do a lot of. I believe that meditation helps in other ways, too. I notice that when I meditate, any neck and back pain I am experiencing subsides and I can usually meditate away a headache, even a throbbing migraine.

  6. Alexander Coleman says:

    Thanks to Mr. Van Sant I now have a hankering for a BLT with honey and salted tomatoes. The wonders of The Fleming Foundation…

  7. Robert Reavis says:

    Of all the inventions from the modern world’s infatuation with tech, refrigeration for cold fruit and vegetables in season is near the top. Spring houses and cellars were good but cold fruit in season from the refrigerator / ice box is special.

  8. James D. says:

    Mr. Van Sant,

    I have been dealing with often-debilitating back and neck pain for years. I had back surgery about 12 years ago, and while I can function, I am certainly not 100% better. A few things that have worked for me are making sure that I drink a lot of water, walking as much as possible, and stretching in the morning and before bed.

    Dr. Fleming is absolutely correct about Jim Beam. It is awful swill. When I was younger and had no money, I drank Rebel Yell. It was the best cheap bourbon I found. For a mid-priced bourbon, Maker’s Mark is good. Old Fitzgerald is a similar style to Marker’s Mark and considerably cheaper. If Jim Beam is the only thing available, I just drink water. Swamp water is better than Jim Beam. Try as I might, I never developed a taste for scotch.

    As cigars go, I have found that price generally buys consistency and quality of construction. I’ve had some cheap freebie cigars that were very good, but in a bundle of 10, half or more are dried out, or the quality is so poor that they unravel or burn unevenly. I just re-loaded my humidor, and have been trying some new varieties. CAO Brazilia is a very good mid-priced cigar. I highly recommend it. I try not to smoke a decent cigar when I’m doing yard work, fishing, or golfing, etc. I’ve found that the only way to really enjoy it is to sit and take your time. Any old cigar will do when you’re on the move.

    I’ve been an avid fisherman since I was a kid, and its still my favorite activity. Some of my most joyous moments as a parent have been taking my daughter fishing and watching her catch bluegills. I used to enjoy fly fishing, but fly fisherman have made the sport unbearable. Tred Barta summed it up well “Fly-fishing has become an embarrassment and a joke. The fly rod is just another tool to present a bait and the very notion that it takes more skill and more talent than any other type of fishing is absolutely hogwash. This stuck-up, elitist, better-than-thou attitude permeates the entire industry.”

  9. Robert Reavis says:

    James,
    You hit the nail with fly fishing but it can still be enjoyable alone or in the company of kids or real friends. Same with bird hunting. We always had a few good dogs, brittany spaniels , a pointer or two and some setters over the years. But now it is all about everything but the hunt or watching the dogs work. We would walk all day for a few coveys or half a day for several, it didn’t matter. It was how my Dad and I spent Saturdays and the close friendships that developed along the years. Now it’s all about the latest Benelli, the clothing/ gear or most recent gimmick from the newest hunting lodge, etc.

  10. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Although I was taught the fundamentals of fly fishing by my father at a young age, I have never been terribly good at it. I still enjoy it more than casting a plug, but largely because I have to be alone and walking up a stream rather than sitting in a boat talking with people. There is something very satisfying about catching dropping the fly correctly and seeing it devoured by the trout that I may soon be devouring. What the point in catching an inedible largemouth bass, I have never understood. I am too lazy and clumsy to do much in the way of tying flies, but I have fished clumsily tied flies made by friends and they caught fish as well as the works of art I have paid good money for. The greatest pleasure, it seems to me, derives from the fly rod being basically very low tech, but this is obviated as soon as you open an Orvis catalogue or look at a fishing magazine.

    Years and years ago, when I was going to camp out on a lake my parents owned in northern Wisconsin, my father suggested that I eschew all tods and reels and content myself with a two part cane pool with an eye. By looping some line around the left hand, you could cast out live bait or do a bit of jigging or even make a stab at fly fishing. I caught one good-sized walleye, but then there weren’t much fish in the lake. At my next opportunity I may try this again. Technology, it seems to me, gets in the way of most pleasures.

  11. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    As for hamburgers, they can be good, though I can think of many better ways of preparing beef pretty simply. I did enjoy the running gag in Whit Stillman’s film Barcelona, where the pretentious Spaniard ridicules the Americans for liking hamburgers, and the American gives a glowing description that is fulfilled in the last scene of the film, where the beautiful Spanish girl is with the American’s family somewhere in Maine, perhaps, and eating her first burger cooked over an open fire.

    I often make the Serbian equivalents–pljeskavica and cevapcici. Both are made with pork plus either lamb or beef or both and minced raw onion. The pljeskavica is spicier, with hot Serbian (like Hungarian) paprika and shaped like a big patty, while cevapcici are less spicey and shaped like footballs or rather paunchy sausages. They are served with coarsely chopped raw onion with some kind of potato dish, like French fries or potato a Balkan salad or just with what Trifkovic inevitably refers to as “a loaf of crusty French bread.” A Shopska Salata–chopped tomato, cucumbers, farmer’s cheese or feta–also goes wonderfully with it.

  12. James D. says:

    “Technology, it seems to me, gets in the way of most pleasures.”

    I agree. I have been trying to pare down a lot of my camping and fishing equipment, and have been trying to get back to the basics. Less is usually more. More often than not, the technology is cumbersome, doesn’t work as anticipated, and ends up causing more frustration. I used to take a nice camera on my outdoor excursions and would take a lot of pictures. It got to the point where I was taking so many pictures, it was cutting into my enjoyment of the experience. I haven’t take a camera along in several years.

    The over-priced equipment and ridiculous fly fishing attire are one thing, but, equally annoying and more insidious, is the trout worship that most fly fisherman engage in. I know numerous fly fisherman who do not regard any fish, save trout, worthy of pursuing. To them, every other fish is garbage. This would simply be a matter of preference, but fly fisherman have money and influence on game laws and they have shut off access to lots of water, lobbying the states to make areas “fly fishing” or “catch and release” only. Also, they are generally too dumb to know that brown trout are not native to the US, and in my mind, are an invasive species. Brown trout are larger and grow faster than the native brook trout and almost always out-compete brook trout. In my state, PA, the state often stocks brown trout and rainbow trout, neither native to my state, right on top of wild brook trout populations. There are dozens of streams that are “closed” to fishing several months out of the year, because of Pennsylvania’s sacred trout stocking program. I could go on and on.

  13. Allen Wilson says:

    In my view, Jack Daniels is way overpriced. I agree with James D. on Rebel Yell being one of the best cheap whiskeys.

    I didn’t drink whiskey for several years, then got back on it because of a friend who still drinks it. I used to run with a crowd of Canadian Mist drinkers. Over the last two years, I tried every cheap Canadian blended I could find just so I could find one better than Mist, because I wanted to show those Mist guzzlers up. I found two that were both better and cheaper, but then, as I kept trying other ones, I forgot which ones they were, so I can’t show them up!

    I agree with Dr Fleming on Evan Williams. It’s a little rough on your system, and to me it’s a little too sweet for mixed drinks.

    Mr Heiner mentioned bread towards the end of the podcast. I have just about resigned myself to the probability that I will live my life out never having tasted real bread, which does not seem to exist in the U.S. I searched until I found some French flour on Amazon and other sites, but shipping was always too expensive.

    For those who mentioned back and other problems, you may wish to look into Polarity Therapy, Structural Integration, and the Alexander Technique. I know from experience that Polarity Therapy works, and I have it from reliable sources that the other two also work.

    Some fishermen buy lures like kids buying toys. I felt that temptation, but then limited the lure buying to what seemed to work after a little trial and experience.

  14. Allen Wilson says:

    The very idea of fishing anywhere where the fish are not native to the area is repulsive to me. Arkansas has it’s own problems with foreign fish stocked by stupid government officials, wreaking havoc on native fish.

  15. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    I like trout partly because they are a pretty fish, partly because they put up a good fight for their weight, but mostly because I eat them. Walleye do not fight hard and are strange looking, but they taste as good as trout, so I have spent a lot of time drift-trolling for walleye with a Lindy rig–it is a little bit dumb but it is relaxing, especially with whiskey and a cigar. I remember drifting under a bridge that goes over the Chippewa Flowage and into floating cranberry islands teeming with whirring blackbirds. Who needs fish at that point, though I did catch enough walleye right under the bridge.

    I’ll drink American rye but Canadian blends seem to me like flavored vodka, though once or twice I was desperate enough to enjoy a Canadian Club or a Crown Royal. In American whiskeys, I used to drink–at the suggestion of a great outdoorsman and SC’s poet laureate Archibald Rutledge–Virginia Gentleman. It tastes a bit like George Dickle–drier than Bourbon. One of the big Kentucky conglomerates bought it up, and, so I am told, make it in Kentucky but the same way. I haven’t tasted it since we moved up up to the Land Lincoln Cursed.

    I am sure everyone has been in a pretentious tackle shop that has the sign: He who dies with the most toys wins. It has replaced not only in god We Trust but also Live Free or Die and just about every other honorable motto, especially You Can’t Take it With You.

  16. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Dr. Archie’s fine book, Home By the River, is a wonderful account of trying to restore his family’s plantation, Hampton on the Santee River. The State bought it finally and trashed it in the name of historical reconstruction–removing all of the old man’s restoration, which made it beloved among South Carolinians, and taking it down to the level when George Washington visited it. Archaeologizing sacrilege.

  17. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming, have you ever fished for smallmouth bass? Pound for pound, I’ve found them to put up the best fight. I also like their aggressive strikes on topwater flies or lures. As eating goes, I like walleye, perch, and crappie. Last year, we were camped on an island in a river in northwestern PA. My buddy caught a very nice walleye. We had oil and a frying pan, but no breading. We ended up crushing up a bag of pretzels and coating the walleyes bites in pretzel dust. Surprisingly good.

  18. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Yes, I have had good times with smallmouths, usually when I am fishing for something else. Although not especially good eating, they are at least edible, unlike the largemouths.

    It is surprising what you can improvise in the wild. I once cooked a trout over an open fire, putting it on green branches and basting it with commercial Eye-talian dressing. Last Spring, I rented a fishing cabin with two sons and we got tired of the rotten vegetables at the supermarket in Iron River. Chef Garret noted that the yard around our cabin was filled with what looked like dandelion greens, for which he paid many $$ per pound in DC. We had the greens not only is salad but sautéed quickly like spinach. They were much better than any farm-grown greens and tasted a lot like the Italian agretti.

  19. James D. says:

    I have never eaten largemouth, but have been told that they are only palatable if taken from cold water. I have caught a few through the ice and considered eating them, but, ultimately threw them back.

    My knowledge of edible wild greens is limited, but I enjoy scavenging wild blueberries, blackberries, etc., when they can be found. There are a number of wild ramp festivals in the region, and local restaurants have them on the menu, in season. When my wife and I were in Florence, we were told that poison ivy is a delicacy. It is collected and boiled to render the urushiol inert, and then used as a green. Was I being sold a bill of goods, or is this actually the case?

  20. Dot says:

    When I went to Maine a couple of weeks ago I had a Portuguese fisherman’s stew that was a gastronomic delight. This marvelous stew was made with clams, mussels, about 4 ounces of cod and a small piece of linguica (a mild Portuguese sausage) in a tomato base. This was one of the “finer things” that I enjoyed.

  21. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    I’ve never heard of anyone eating poison ivy–but who knows? They are very fond of stinging nettles,however, and there is a great ravioli stuffed with them.

  22. Bagby says:

    I especially enjoyed your discussion about how to enjoy wine. I began to drink wine in Rome with a Rockford Institute group in Rome on a winter trip ten years ago. I ate my meals with delightful Rockford folks and told them I wanted to learn how to drink wine, and they asked me to drink a glass with each meal. They talked to me about enjoying wine every evening, and at the end of the week, I loved wine. I went on to work as a wine consultant, and now I teach literature. Now, I tell my tenth grade students that good literature is like wine: one may not enjoy the first taste, but one must believe the thing is good even if one does not enjoy it at first.