Welcome to the April “In Like A Lamb” issue.
I just returned feeling like a lamb from ten days at a wellness retreat in Canada. A little meditation, inward searching, and a proper mind-body spring cleaning leaves me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to write and share this month’s musings.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and the 30th is International Jazz Day. Lots of jazz to share. In thoughts to follow I share its association with my songteller-grandmother.
Yountville will continue to jazz it up in May with Art, Sip, and Stroll on Saturday the 20th. Jeff and I will be pouring wine. If you should find yourself in the area, please stop by and share a glass with us.
This month’s interview is another tastemaker you should know. Jonathan Beall is a master of shiny goods. He is an artist, coppersmith, and the owner of Sertodo, a copper-ware shop out of Austin, Texas, and Santa Clara del Cobre in Michoacán, México. Read his interesting story below.
Vintner, Cook, Distracted by the Shiny
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The entire month of April is Jazz Appreciation Month according to the National Museum of American History. April 30th is International Jazz Day.
This is a picture of my grandmother, Ruby Jean Venable. It was taken in the 1920s.
She was a jazz singer. She performed in back-country saloons in rural Louisiana, Texas, and California. She would sing in these bars, sometimes sitting on top of the piano, and the reason why her photo sits on top of mine.
When I was very little, even before I went to kindergarten, my mother taught me all sorts of drinking songs she had learned from her mother.
We would sing about drunk mice picking fights with cats, jilted women, dying hobos, little streams of whiskey, and pistol-packin’ ladies. Oddly, we would often sing on the way to Sunday School.
My friend Jennie says Mom was training me to be a streetwise musician with a snappy repertoire.
My own music education has taken me from somewhat-inappropriate-child-crooner to unconventional pianist, bongo player, harmonica-ish guy to jazz vocalist (and, as Jeff likes to remind me, vintner).
As an aside, here is a photo of her in 1972 on my brother’s Kawasaki. She was something.
Enjoy Jazz Appreciation! Next time we meet I’d be happy to share a few songs and a few glasses of wine.
Jonathan Beall is a master artisan and founder of Sertodo. He and his team hammer out all manner of kitchenware, barware, and other tackle and trim for entertaining.
His work has been featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things list as well as my back garden with a copper paella pan he sent me last year. As spring has settled in and summer approaching I know this pan will get a workout.
Joey Wolosz: We all have an origin story; what was the seed that grew into Sertodo?
Jonathan Beall: It was more of a cosmic collision than seminal sprouting. I have my mom to thank for it all, really. She handled all the seminal sprouting and set me up directly for the cosmic collision. I had been working at a dot com startup in the mid-90s where we all were to become millionaires selling information on the internet. Instead, they collapsed. I received a meager severance and headed to the beaches in Mexico so it would stretch a little further. On my way back home, driving in the morning on a desert mountain highway outside of Chihuahua, the glimmering of an itinerant copper peddler pulling out his shiny goods called me over to the side of the road. I started handling the hammered copper, we got to talking, and the story kept getting better and better. It still keeps getting better. I love a good story and feel very fortunate to have jumped into a story from the river of history with currents that run directly from an ancient and mythical past into the modern world and onward through an uncertain future.
JW: Cookware has a direct connection to the table. When was your first connection with food and wine?
JB: My mom cooked well and gathered people with food. While studying in Spain, the Swedish ladies having dinner parties added the wine element. But not until a few years ago, on a trip to Normandy, did I come to understand food + wine = something greater than the sum of its parts. I also found out how to make a very nice copper mixing bowl there.
JW: I’ve heard you speak of copper wanting to be touched. It speaks to the analog in me. What are the advantages of copper cookware?
JB: Amen to the analog. Beautiful equipment and good tools are a pleasure to work with. They elevate all aspects of the task and outcome. You’re setting yourself up for delicious success as soon as you walk into the kitchen and feel the warm copper glow before the food has even hit the hot pan. And when it does, you have supreme control over the temperature and timing throughout your pan and process. A French chef told me they prized their older hammered cookware for the slight surface variation that improved flavor and gave a better release. They have much more experience with cooking than me, so I’ll go with that. Not to mention that the handles on our cookware are the finest advancement in handles since cooks have been wrapping towels around hot, cumbersome handles many hundreds of years ago.
JW: Outside of copper creations, do you have other creative outlets?
JB: I do like to write but rarely take the time. Thank you for the opportunity! Living is a pretty good creative outlet, vacillating between the imagination and the trenches to make the magic happen.
JW: Friends and family excluded, who are two people you’d like to share a long and lingering meal with?
JB: Hernan Cortes just before he was recalled to Spain, and Juan Diego twenty years after he saw and brought the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe to the people.
JW: What would you serve?
JB: I would serve Mole, prepared in our copper cookware, and tell them, “Taste what the collision of your civilizations has produced!” and then ask them over Mezcal, “Where can we possibly go from here?”
JW: What is your spirit animal?
JB: The Feathered Serpent
JW: What is your motto?
JB: Veni, Vidi, Cupri
April marks a somewhat unofficial end to the mustard season in Napa Valley. Mustard has been used as a cover crop in the vineyards during winter to add nutrients back into the soil. It is not indigenous to California; however, on my drive from Napa to California’s Central Coast it was in full participation of the superbloom.
I’ve been making mustard with our Chardonnay for quite some time and storing them in Weck Jars. We sent some mustard and a couple of bottles of Chardonnay to the Weck Jar HQ in Crystal Lake, Illinois and they were kind enough to add their touch of food-styling photography and feature it on an Instagram post.
Recent lunch guests requested the recipe and I thought this is a good time to share it with everyone. I find it especially tasty on our kiełbasa, Jeff puts it on nearly everything. Enjoy with a glass of our 2020 Napa Valley Chardonnay!