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Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Vinegar Revelation

The first time I tried balsamic vinegar it was the cheap brand from the local discount grocery. I was a wannabe foodie with a freshly-graduated, deeply-in-debt college student budget that in now way allowed for things like organic produce or imported Italian olive oil.

But I liked the idea of a vinegar that was good for more than washing laundry... I was deeply disappointed.

For years I assumed that liking balsamic vinegar was an acquired taste. Or, like cilantro, something that required being born with a certain set of genes. I couldn't understand why anyone would like balsamic vinegar alone as a condiment. Some people put it on their ice cream!

I was staring into a world of horror and befuddlement.

Until one date night in a new town when my husband and I wandered past an oil store. We'd never seen one before, this strange foodie wonderland where different kinds of oils and vinegars were on tap. Almost jokingly we traipsed on, curious about we might find and wholly open to trying something new.

The balsamic vinegar there was a revelation. There was blackberry vinegar. There was chocolate vinegar. There was true balsamic vinegar aged and rich with a pedigree as old as Tuscany. The cookbook heaven had opened and I saw the light. Vinegar could be good!

Now, when I run into someone who says they hate a genre of books, I think about vinegar.

Most people will only run into a half dozen titles in any genre before they turn their back on it completely. A timid reader might only try one or two titles outside their comfort zone before scurrying back to safety. Sadly, for most people, their comfort zones lie firmly in the land of Not Reading.

In 2013 only 75% of Americans reported reading a book in the entire year. Think of that. Twelve months. One book. I know that stat makes most readers cry.

But it's easy to understand. Young readers, limited by finances and restrictive school curriculums, are exposed to the tiniest slice of modern literature. Fashionable authors are obliterated by critiques, tut-tutted and poo-pooed by teachers, until the young readers hide their books in shame. Young readers are fed the budget grocery store, off-brand books of yesteryear. The so-called classics that are well past their sell-by date.

And so the young reader grows up thinking they hate books.

Maybe, if society is lucky, the wary young reader will try again as an adult. They'll venture to a big box megastore with a couple shelves of books and grab something that's hit the bestseller list. They might get a good one, or they might get one that climbed the list because of clever advertising and negative reviews.

It's so easy for someone to grab a book that will put them off a genre for life.

All those people who say they hate romance books? They never got the right one.

The people who sneer at sci-fi? Doesn't it make you sad that no one told them where we keep the good books?

Next time you hear someone say they don't read *THAT* genre take a deep breath, and ask them what they like. They love Westerns but not Romance, kindly point out that most westerns are romance. If they say they can't stand sci-fi figure out what if their a Jedi or a Trekkie and work from there. If they say they've never read YA because they're an adult, well, the field is open and the books are good. I'm sure you can find one they'll love.

Don't let someone hate your favorite genre because they haven't found the right book yet. It's out there, I promise. The genres are vast ecosystems with a place and an author for every person. Don't be scared of doing something new: grab a book and explore a whole new world!

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