Write a regular newspaper column as I did for quite a while and you quickly learn that you have to to settle into a routine in order to get the work done. The first step in my routine was generating an idea – a single question, issue, or problem that could be clearly stated at the outset, wrangled with for a few paragraphs, then brought to a more or less satisfying conclusion by the time I hit the word count.
It’s not as easy as it sounds because while I had no shortage of topics that interested me, how was I to know what it was that readers had on their minds and were eager to have wrangled with that week? I could only guess, and hope that by the end of the piece the reader is thinking something like “Yes, I always wondered about that,” even if he never had.
Operating in a retail environment, as I do now at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, means that I no longer have this problem. Since my job is essentially to meet and chat with guests and answer their questions about wine, I have a pretty good idea of what’s on their minds. They tell me. What follows are the five questions I field most often, and how I respond to them.