Monday, March 22, 2010

In praise of "blending"

"Blending" is a word that often has very positive implications. In our personal life, Barbara and I are delighted that we have a "blended family": her children, my children, and our seven grandchildren all love each other.

True Sherry is made by blending in the "solera" system, which involves mixing wine from a recent vintage with that from many years past. My favorite is a Fino, a pale dry blend. Tio Pepe is widely available, but I prefer La Ina.

Vintners in the US went through a phase of meeting the demand for varietal wine by limiting or eliminating altogether any blending. More recently, blends of several types of grape have come back into fashion, perhaps particularly with red wine. What may seem as counter-intuitive is the practice of including some white wine to blend with the Sangiovese that makes up the principal ingredient of Chianti. Likewise, one may find Viognier blended with Syrah in domestic and imported Shiraz.

I know little about blended whiskey, and less about blended tobacco, but these products are also blended, I understand.

I have a positive attitude towards blended fabrics, such as a mix of wool or cotton with Orlon or other acrylic fibers. There is a biblical prohibition against this in the book of Leviticus, but only the most orthodox of Jews takes this seriously in the present era.

Where blending was generally not well regarded during the past few centuries has been with our fellow humans. We think first, perhaps, of Hitler's drive to produce purely "Aryan" families in Germany; Apartheid in South Africa; and racism in the United States. The offspring of unions of Jewish and "Aryan" parents in Germany were characterized as "Mischlings" - that is to say, Mongrels.

In Western movies, the union of Native American "Indians" and white settlers were known contemptuously as "Breeds", an abbreviation for "Half-Breeds". ("Breeds" were acceptable only for their skills as Trackers, Scouts and Interpreters.)
During the British Raj, "Half-Castes" was a favorite derogatory expression. Any liaison between "white men" and "natives" was abhorred: That between "native" males and white women was almost unthinkable.

I am told that being Muggleborn is another form of blending, not in itself negative, but less desirable than being of true stock.

How we have changed! Before I was married, I had a Tamil girlfriend, training in England to become a teacher in her native Malaya. I did not want to marry her: if I had, my mother would have been greatly distressed. I am now proud of my talented and beautiful granddaughters, whose mother is Korean. I rely heavily on the work done for us by Nancy, herself half Korean. We still talk about "thoroughbreds" in another world in which I claim no expertise: the breeding of racehorses. Yet it is generally accepted that many animals are stronger when inbreeding is avoided, and the same is probably true of human beings - notably, in dynastic families.

Living in California, we like the diversity at all levels of society, and rejoice at the success of men and women from many backgrounds and cultures that are successful in business, education, and professional sport.

Perhaps the biggest change in my lifetime has been the acceptance by a majority of voting Americans of a man of mixed race, President Barack Obama. Long live blending!

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