I'm not a great snapper of restaurant dishes and wine bottles. Others regurgitate (perhaps that should be pregurgitate) what they're about to eat onto Instagram, Facebook or Twitter like a secular mumbling of grace, vaunting the emptied bottles afterwards. I feel a little guilty about not doing this, as if it were a dereliction of duty. My colleagues probably dismiss me as a dabbler, and my followers as a lost cause.
My defences are multiple, if incoherent. The quieter, smaller, more modest forms of beauty and of human creation need social-media encouragement, too; and then so much is going awry in the world that harping on about what's sitting on your plate or in your glass seems almost immoral; and then I write too much about wine in any case. I did, though, realise that I ought to try harder when I tried to recall the finest meal I had eaten last year, and couldn't.
At first. Or maybe it wasn't the finest. But one eventually came to mind, for two reasons. I was in Spain, visiting a wine estate called Clos d'Agon near Calonge in the Costa Brava; the restaurant was Villa Más in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, and we fetched up there because its owner loved wine. (Restaurant owners do not always love wine, though it often keeps them in business.) He'd also fallen in love with his garden, I was told, and the garden's effusions tumbled on to guests' plates. This, I remember thinking, was the way things ought to be.
We ate firm-fleshed fish and athletic seafood, but what I most remember is two pre-main-course dishes, one of a little clustered tower of baby broad beans, oil-dressed and flecked about with a bit of garden leaf, and the other of even tinier Brussels sprouts scattered with chorizo, both sweet and succulent, bud-like and full of vegetable energy. The Clos d'Agon white wine was lush: Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, truffley and almond-rich. I haven't enjoyed any dishes more than those two this year: honour to the ingredients, and to the wisdom of those who chose to do so little to them.
And then... there was the sea beyond. The evening unwound; the sun slipped over the horizon; the moon appeared, four days from plenitude. It scattered silver over the water as it tracked into the sky. Fishermen in little boats would be setting off, I thought, into that falling light and its beckoning flicker. My wife's grandfather had been one, though I never knew him; his working life was spent, much of it under moonlight, on his little Maltese luzzu. I'm not suggesting any inspirational effect; indeed solitary fishermen probably worry more than most of us about tax returns, tattered awnings over the back yard, and the oil price. Nor will crayfish and squid feel particularly elated to be hauled up into the killing air, no matter how luminescent it may be. For all that, the moment – vegetables, wine, the silver path across the wide black prairie – felt rather like an epiphany, a coming together of living threads and traces, woven into a slithering, momentary knot. No tweet or post would quite have done it all justice... but I did, in the end, remember. Perhaps there's a place for memory after all.