It’s amazing how something so small and insignificant can become such a big part of your life. My little crocheted bag for instance. I created it while working at Enoteca Viansa in San Francisco’s Union Square.
I’d just graduated from UC Berkeley and we’d just moved back home after a brief stint in Salinas, CA (the home of Steinbeck) so I needed to find a job. I told my husband I wanted something that was completely out of the norm for me, and a friend of his just happened to be looking for someone to open and sometimes close the hip Enoteca Viansa, a wine bar he was managing in the City. I jumped at the chance to continue my education from English Literature to vino. I knew very little about wine, other than it was fermented grape juice. Plus, if I took the job I would have a chance to face my fears, I would be serving people food and beverages.
I’ve always had an enormous respect for people in the food service industry because I’ve seen how rude people are to servers. Still, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out to take it on the cheek 8 hours a day. Luckily, this was a wine bar not an IHOP, and we only served small plates of fancy cured meats, cheeses with honey, fruits and nuts, herbed crostini and $12-$25 glasses of wine from the Viansa Winery in Carneros Valley.
My first few months were thrilling. I was educated on the different varietals (or kinds) of wines in the world and the particular “Cali-Itali” varietals we sold. I learned which foods pair (or taste) best with which wines, an incredibly fun and valuable lesson that I cherish to this day. I was enchanted by the names of our wines: Frescolina, a sweet dessert wine that tasted of honeysuckle, apricot and peaches; Thalia, a hearty Sangiovese that filled your mouth with ripe raspberry, black cherry and spice – it was the perfect red to have with lasagna or angel-hair pasta with a heavy red sauce.
I discovered how climate, soil and location are what make wines unique throughout the world. This is why a Pinot Noir from Napa Valley, CA is highly regarded, but a Pino Noir from the Cote d’Or region of Bourgogne, France where geological factors are perfect for Pinot, is unparalleled. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing what I learned with our customers. So much so, that I became “the girl” who was sent to explain our varietals to big buyers.
We had a lot of tourists come into Viansa, so I had fun meeting bigwigs and families from all over the world. I loved using my French and the little Italian and Japanese I knew on my customers, and they seemed to appreciate my efforts and energy. At first I was surprised, then I became accustomed to receiving $20-$40 tips, which I would loyally put into our pooled tip jar throughout the day.
The manager, along with the owners of Viansa Winery, were easy going and friendly people, and my fellow servers were a wonderful eclectic mix; we all worked well together. After some time I became the main opener, which I didn’t mind, even though it meant more cleaning, fewer customers and a lot of downtime. I like to stay busy, so after stocking the wine shelves with plenty of bottles and finishing my cleaning chores I would sit in the window with a wine glass of water and crochet.
Crocheting for me is like sitting with an old friend: fun, familiar, comforting. My mother taught me how when I was eleven, but it had been years since I picked up a hook and yarn. Then one cold and rainy day in November I was on my lunch break and decided to stop by Britex Fabrics, which was just around the corner. I ended up buying a 5.5mm hook by Clover for $12 and a skein of gorgeous steel-grey wool for $30! I wanted to rekindle an old friendship and price was no object.
After making two scarves, one drape that I proudly gave to my mother for her birthday (it had a leather bound button at the neck), black and cream cotton fingerless gloves, legwarmers and two hats, people began commenting: “You’re always knitting!” “Crocheting.” I would correct them. “Are you pregnant?” “You must be nesting.” I guess they had every right to think such things. Then one day I created it, the little bag.
I used the very last of the steel grey wool I first bought from Britex months earlier. It’s triple crocheted, a mere 7×5 inches with a chunky black zipper – I fell in love with it on the spot. I finished it up by threading black wool around the lip of the zipper and made a long chain, then tied it into a bow. I gasped…perfection.