In my English professor days, I occasionally gave students a get-acquainted exercise with a couple of requests like, “Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.” Usually the responses were fairly innocuous — ”I’m a licensed pilot,” “My brother calls me ‘Toofer,’ ” “I have a pit bull named Killer,” “My mother’s an embalmer.” That sort of thing.
I suspect this ploy would no longer work; since the advent of Facebook everybody knows everything about everybody else. But I’m not on Facebook, so I thought readers might be interested (why?) to find out something heretofore unknown about me: I’m a hypochondriac.
It’s a burden. Probably a fatal one.
I can’t go to one of those ask-the-doc websites because I’d immediately develop a bad case of that “very rare” but fatal condition of which my rash or headache might be a symptom. I avoid in-the-flesh doctors for the same reason: They always want to do a test just to rule out Sudden Blindness Syndrome, antibiotic-resistant pneumonia or flesh-eating staph. Just hearing the words would bring on the symptoms.
Recently I contracted a nasty little case of pinkeye. Sounds harmless enough, even cute, but the name failed to describe my malady. I didn’t have one pink eye but two very swollen, goopy, angry-red eyes. You can imagine (well, only if you’re a fellow hypochondriac) the worries that ensued.
An eye infection? Very close to the brain. What if it spreads? A swollen, goopy brain sounds ominous. And even if the infection stays localized, Sudden Blindness Syndrome looms. By the time I’ve gone through these possibilities, the heart palpitations have geared up — a sign that the virus has spread to my vital organs and will soon do me in?
Of course, this may not be pinkeye at all, I thought, but the presenting symptoms of BBVS, Broken Blood Vessel Syndrome, in which every blood vessel in your body just explodes. And, like the old woman who swallowed a horse, you die, of course. (Note to hypochondriacs: I made BBVS up. Still, could happen.)
I contemplated death. After which my head started aching and my stomach rebelling. In fact, my whole body-mind-spirit succumbed to serious lethargy. “I just don’t feel well,” I thought.
That’s exactly what my grandmother said right before she died.
This experience, unsettling as it was, gave me an insight. A whole new disease in fact. I’m calling it HIM — Hypochondria-Induced Malaise.
(And such a handy acronym: “What’s wrong?” “Oh, nothing, just HIM.”)
I know this disease has no permanent cure, but there are effective palliatives, which I can, fortunately for HIM sufferers everywhere, enumerate. Even more fortunately, you can buy them over-the-counter at 417 G St. (that would be Valley Wine Company) and they’re much less expensive than prescription drugs (as I discovered when I bought my antibiotic eye drops).
The first is a Prosecco called Sommariva. While Proseccos have in the past few years become ubiquitous and most are quite pleasant, it’s a real pleasure to come across one like this that’s actually elegant. The best Prosecco-making area is Conegliano, where Caterino and Urbana Sommariva have been growing glera — the old name for Prosecco, now back in use — since the 1970s and have now been joined in this project by their daughter Cinzia.
The Sommarivas harvest the grapes by hand from their sustainable 35-acre vineyard, mineral rich and rocky. This DOCG Brut is, like all Proseccos, vinified in stainless steel. There are two glera clones permitted in Prosecco — the harder to grow is balby, which has a sparser yield but makes a superior wine — and Sommariva is made exclusively of balby grapes.
Citrus-y, herby, yeasty, this light gold sparkler — imported by Kermit Lynch — has a nice peach and melon aroma and fine, firm bubbles. It’s the most food-friendly wine imaginable, excellent with everything from summer vegetables to salmon, from chicken or pork to sushi. That malaise will disappear in no time.
For more desperate cases of HIM, try a bottle of Il Disperato. Yes, that really is the name (apparently the winemaker was desperately trying to find a good one) of this lovely Northern Italian (Verona) white. It’s 100-percent garganega, a grape commonly used to make Soave (which is, by the way, making a comeback) and sweet wines.
If Italian whites make you think “thin and sour,” you really should try this intense, round, savory beauty. Besides some bracing lime, it has floral and tropical fruit, plum and spice notes and good acidity with a tangy finish. Only 2,500 cases were made, so get it while you can. Like the Sommariva, it’s around $15.
Though this wine tastes delicious on its own, it’s even better with food and pairs perfectly with all manner of appetizers from cheese to fresh sardines, from salumi to hummus, from salad to crostini. And if you’re looking, as I always am, for a good hot-weather pasta partner, look no further.
A bottle of Il Disperato with a generous plate of linguini (covered, say, by a simple sauce of garlic, fresh basil and roasted fresh tomatoes, topped with some freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano) equals the perfect summer dinner. Just the thought of it relieves my symptoms.
Alas, HIM is quite contagious. My partner asks, “Susan, could you take a look at this freckle on my foot?”
“What about it?”
“Do you think it might be a melanoma?”
“Not really. You know, it’s August, the month for half-priced bottles of wine at Seasons.” (Her relief is palpable.)
Good wines have, I can testify, powerful prophylactic as well as palliative properties, so don’t wait until HIM symptoms hit. Get your Sommariva and Il Disperato today.
— Reach Susan Leonardi at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com