One of the great things about working in publishing is the conversations you get to have with experts and enthusiasts in a variety of fields. In my time in the world of books I have worked with people writing about medicine, religion, philosophy, self-help and business. But perhaps the most enthusiastic people I have met are the experts in wine with whom I’m involved at the moment.
What is more because their field of expertise lends itself to conviviality some of the conversations we’ve had with authors of books in the Classic Wine Library have taken place over a glass of red or white. It’s not that the authors in those other fields were lacking in social skills but given the choice between meeting an author at the hospital to pore over images of skin diseases or meeting one in a wine bar to talk about the wines of Languedoc, Spain or northern Italy, the decision is pretty easy.
One of our most eminent authors is Julian Jeffs. He is also a generous host and the owner of an impressive wine cellar, some of which Infinite Ideas was privileged to experience over lunch (cooked by his wife) at our first meeting to discuss the most recent edition of his classic book Sherry. And I have encountered several authors who think it quite normal to have a glass of sherry or madeira for elevenses – whereas if I suggested this back at the office (even given that the Infinite Ideas office is a pretty relaxed place) people might start to worry. Apparently having one at eleven is the more sensible of two available alternatives – the other option being to have eleven at one. In any case, inebriation is not the aim here (or so I am led to believe), and any partaking of wine is always accompanied by an evaluation of its merits.
A couple of years ago Infinite Ideas spent a particularly relaxed (by which we don’t mean sozzled) afternoon in the company of Richard Mayson and Julian Jeffs as they discussed the wine trade and wine writing. We were able to sit back and listen to these two experts chat about the subject they know best. One thing that particularly struck me, which I had not considered before, was that writing about wine actually has played an important part in the trade. Once producers realised they and their industry were being written about they had to clean up their acts and practises such as adding sugar to sherry, which were common when Julian began writing on the subject in the 1960s have now disappeared.
Wine writing does continue to influence the trade and help ensure quality; as Julian noted, ‘I think the job is still to keep the standards up and to tell the truth about wine in some detail to serious wine drinkers who want to know it.’ So while Classic Wine Library books will not educate the next generation of heart surgeons, help somebody manage their depression or give them the tools to become the next Bill Gates it’s good to know that they are making a difference to the wine we all enjoy drinking.
Infinite Ideas dropped in on a conversation between Julian Jeffs and Richard Mayson in February 2015. They spoke about changes in the wine world over the last 60 years, especially in the field of fortified wine. You can read the whole conversation here.
When Infinite Ideas took on its first wine book back in 2012 I’ll admit to wondering if we were making a big mistake. At that time the publishing list consisted mainly of business and self-help books, so taking on Richard Mayson’s Port and the Douro seemed like a slightly out there publishing decision. However Richard was so eloquent and passionate about his subject that publish it we did. Five years on we find that our rapidly growing wine list is the heart and soul of the business, and our first wine author makes up one-third of our editorial board.
So what is it that makes The Classic Wine Library so loved among wine scholars? As a relative oenological ignoramus I must confess that some of the fine details of wine appreciation do pass me by. Tasting terminology and a compulsion to nail the precise components of a wine’s bouquet puzzle me – do you really appreciate something more by taking it apart? Still, I do also find this level of obsession with something so existentially unimportant oddly comforting, in the same way as I enjoy listening to (mostly) men arguing about football on the radio phone in on a Saturday night. If we live in a world where people care whether that really was a penalty or not or spend time pondering whether a wine has jammy, citrusy or buttery notes then perhaps it’s not such a bad place after all.
All of our writers are great storytellers but this, for want of a better word, ‘trainspotting’ aspect of wine writing had made me wonder if it was strictly a men only field (sorry boys, that obsession with collecting and cataloguing is so characteristically you). So I was both surprised and delighted when we took on our first female author, Rosemary George. As well as being the first woman to write about wine for Infinite Ideas Rosemary was also one of the first women to become an MW, back in 1979. The lively and evocative writing style of her book The wines of Faugères almost had me reaching for the sunglasses and hopping on the next train to the south of France. I began to see how taking a bit of time to truly taste a wine could aid your appreciation of it, and came to realise the importance of geography, climate and local flora in helping to create a drink that is more than just fermented grape juice. When you open a bottle of wine you are in a sense pouring the place where it was created into your glass.
I think the ability of the authors of this series to evoke a sense of place so clearly is one of the keys to the success of the books. You really feel transported to the region in question, from Jerez to Champagne, Vienna to Oporto. And that makes you want to find out more about the extraordinary variety of wines produced across the world. The books encourage exploration both of the region in question itself and en bouteille. Rosemary George herself asked for a copy of Richard Mayson’s book before she went on holiday to the Douro, to ensure she gained the most from her trip, and I suspect she is not the first to have packed one of our books as a vinous travel guide. And if you are unable to visit a particular region, settling down with one of our books and a corresponding bottle of wine is the next best thing.
Titles being added to the library this year include The wines of Canada, Côte-d’Or, Rosé, The wines of northern Spain, Amarone and the fine wines of Verona and The wines of Greece. You can find out more here and order published books at 20% discount here.
The problem with the discipline of nutrition is that it has a tendency to make us think of eating as a science, and lose sight of the fact that food is actually something quite wonderful and, dare I say, a little magical. We have become obsessed with looking behind the curtain to understand HOW IT ALL WORKS, but has it led to a better understanding of what nurtures us as humans? After all we have been eating for millions of years; in examining the microscopic detail, have we missed the big picture?
In the last few centuries nutrition science has developed with the goal of improving our health – identifying components in food, separating them from the food to study them, and reducing what we eat to a collection of elements. We’ve counted calories, weighed and measured our fats, proteins and carbs, and separated foodstuffs into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, good fats and bad fats, good carbs and bad carbs. But when we separate the nutrient from the food it can lead to us overcomplicating eating. Recently the fad for ‘clean eating’ has led to a proposed new eating disorder, dubbed ‘orthorexia’, with people’s obsession with healthy eating leading to problems with both their physical and mental health. So can we rely on the experts to tell us what to put on our plates – do they really know what’s best for us?
Well, yes and no. The challenge with science is that we are so good at it these days we are constantly making new discoveries. And because of this the guidelines are frequently updated. So while in the 1980s we were all told that margarine was better than butter, nowadays the more natural hard fats such as butter and lard are creeping back into favour. And science is rarely simple and occasionally not particularly pure either. There has been controversy recently over studies from the 1970s into fat and sugar. We were told at the time that they revealed that fat was the big killer but now it seems that the studies were misrepresented (or worse) – sugar may have been the culprit after all. No wonder it is so easy to get confused about food.
So how can we simplify eating while ensuring we consume foods that nurture our bodies? Well I don’t think we can dismiss nutritional science out of hand. There have been some amazing steps forward in our understanding, but at the same time there is a lot more going on when we eat than science can unearth by breaking food down into its constituent parts. It is somewhat arrogant to assume that the latest piece of research, or superfood discovery is the end of the discussion in nutrition and what creates health.
We can take a leaf out of food writer Michael Pollan’s (author of books such as In Defence of Food) book in learning to eat ‘real’ food. By this we mean not taking short cuts, cooking meals ourselves from scratch, using great ingredients. Following that one simple rule will improve your health no end as you’ll be avoiding all those unnatural chemicals added to manufactured foods and cutting back on sugar, salt and processed fat without even thinking about it. Also of importance is eating together with our families or loved ones, taking the time to enjoy meals rather than grabbing food on the go and being wary of massive food fads and fashions. We can avoid the scare stories in the popular press and the flash in the pan obsessions over this nutrient or that superfood by keeping an eye on advancements in food science through reading more in depth and scientific writing. The key is balance.
So don’t feel you have to atone for that chocolate bunny you ate last weekend by spending the next fortnight living off green juices. We shouldn’t obsess over food and can all enjoy a little treat once in a while.
Go well – Kate
By Kate Cook, author of Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide
Most businesses are eager to be at the cutting edge of the technology revolution and quite rightly – falling over themselves to be hyperconnected, ahead of the trends. There are downsides to the worldwide web but there are very positive up sides too. Most of the nutritional research papers I read to update my body of knowledge I obtain through web digging – something that would have been quite impossible a few years ago. It enables me to be very nimble in my uptake of the latest research, something that chancing on a book, or waiting for a published journal to appear on my desk made it impossible to do a few years back. I am also very grateful that we are able to connect with like-minded people across the globe, of course that has its downside too, but used in the right way we are able to build communities of people who can generously help each other.
But in relying on tech too much are we in danger of forgetting what it is to be human? We need to remember to solve business problems in a human way, not merely focus on box-ticking, or allow a computer to dominate our decision making. We are more and more often letting machines take over, and becoming distanced from what makes us human. One area where this really impacts our lives is in the world of food. Eating is one of the crucial things that makes us human and what we eat makes us either dynamic, engaged, happy, healthful humans or depressed, demotivated, sick humanoids. But we have become increasingly distanced from the real food that nurtures our bodies, favouring instead manufactured foods and convenience eating.
When we eat conveniently, we fuel our bodies with food-like imitations, where life, energy and essence have been replaced by synthetic sensations. These foods are designed to look, smell and taste appealing but are largely devoid of the energy and nutrition that come from eating food grown by the sun, full of the life-giving micronutrients that power our energy output. When we replace real food, of the sort our ancestors would recognise, with these chemical concoctions, we reduce our ability to function as human and lay ourselves open to the possibility of a whole host of minor, and not so minor, ailments; from tiredness to type 2 diabetes and beyond.
As employers we know how important it is to maintain our machinery, our hardware and software, but what about our human resources – how many of us are making sure our people have what they need to function optimally? For example, studies suggest that there is an association between obesity and lower productivity at work -and if that tide doesn’t turn then we may find that we are unable to find employees fit enough to work. One study estimated that lost productivity time (LPT) costs the US economy $42.29 billion annually. This was thought to be a conservative figure because studies which use BMI data rely on self-reported weight, which is often understated. The estimate also does not include the costs of recruiting and training new staff and the impact on co-workers’ productivity.1 A study of 15,000 people in the US and UK found that employees with poor nutritional balance reported 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues.2 Surely it is time to pay attention this powerful connection. Though the focus on nutrition and its impact on the workplace has, to date, mostly been on the link between poor diet and chronic disease and obesity (the long term impact) it stands to reason that poor diet will also have a short term impact in terms of energy and productivity.
The health of our employees is key to our business success – yet a large proportion of our human resource is sick. How can we restore it back to full, engaged, dynamic power? Through the power of real food.
Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide is available free for Kindle for a limited time. Download the book here.
- Reilly, Sally, ‘Eating the Profits.’ Personnel Today, 4 July 2006: 26.
- ProQuest online article, 6 Aug. 2009.
Scrolling through the stories on any news site these days one could be forgiven for thinking that we are living in an increasingly divided and unequal world. It is heartening to hear of millionaires, such as Warren Buffett and the Gateses and Canadian CEO Jim Estill, who want to share their wealth to improve the lives of others. But while a millionaire who thinks tax evasion is ‘smart’ is in control of the largest economy on Earth it still seems to many that a fairer world is more out of reach than it has ever been.
The irony is that, while the President of the USA (as well as Brexiteers, Marine Le Pen, et al.) believes that the solution to his country’s perceived financial and social woes is to keep out immigrants – either by building a wall or by stopping them at immigration control – a policy of inclusion could generate greater wealth for all.
In their book Nine visions of capitalism, Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars explore the secrets of wealth creation and conclude that cultural inclusiveness is the key to success. Interestingly both diversity and inclusion are required – diversity on its own can lead to the problems we see in America and Europe today as well as many conflicts of the past (such as those between Protestants and Catholics in seventeenth Century Europe or between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda). The authors say:
Contrasting values must be joined and reconciled to make them virtuous. Polarized values are vicious in their mutual hatred. Yet our discredited politicians aid this polarization with their sterile jousting between ideologies. The irony is that those we reject could potentially make us whole, providing the missing pieces of the puzzles.
They go on to explain why immigrants are often more successful than those born in a particular country. In America, they note, those immigrants who find themselves more included, such as Jews, Chinese, Japanese and Indians, do better than those who are excluded such as blacks and Latinos. A study from 2000 found that one third of Silicon Valley’s wealth was created by Chinese and Indian immigrants entering the US after 1970. The success, say Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars may even be due to difference: ‘they are different perforce, a condition they cannot change. They therefore decide to make a difference.’
The book also proposes that the current Anglo-American model of capitalism is failing and needs to learn from models in other cultures if Western economies want to continue to grow. Part of the problem is our perception of wealth:
A community is only better off when it creates wealth, that is, when it generates more money among its members than they began with. If money has simply moved from one pocket to another then X may have outsmarted Y but no wealth has been created by that relationship. Competition is important but if this leads to a zero-sum game – wherein gains and losses total zero – then there is no gain for the society or the economy.
What creates wealth, say the authors, is ‘an inclusive relationship between diverse parties’, employees and owners, producers and consumers, lenders from borrowers, and so on. The book explores nine very different forms of capitalism, including analyses of China’s spectacular growth, Singapore’s hybridisation of East and West, and the Conscious Capitalism movement, and examines how our economies can benefit from their example. The authors see a positive future if we can learn to appreciate and incorporate difference. ‘Reconcile values,’ they say, ‘and you help to create wealth for everyone involved.’
Nine visions of capitalism, by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars is available in the Infinite Ideas store for £10 (rrp £25), with free postage in the UK (shipping rates to other parts of the world vary).
We have a limited number of seconds of Spirits Distilled and The wines of Faugères available at a hugely discounted rate.
The wines of Faugères, rrp £30, sale price £10
These books have been printed with the plate section in black and white rather than colour. In all other respects the books are identical to the perfect copies.
Spirits Distilled, rrp £19.99, sale price £5
A printing error caused some of the pictures to come out either very dark or very faint. The text is unaffected and is perfectly readable throughout.
Books are available on a first come, first served basis; postage and packing is charged at cost. Please contact Anne-Marie on 01865 514888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order.