Let me start by saying that I sincerely hope that you find value in reading this missive. I can’t guarantee that you will as the thoughts driving this writing are forming in my mind as I type. Like a jazz solo, we can’t predict if it will conclude in glorious clarity and resolution, or muddled chaos. If all goes correctly, it should emerge as a tale of influences, connection and promise. So here it goes . . .
I am currently reading a book that I’d like to recommend to you. In Tocqueville On American Character author Michael A. Ledeen analyzes Democracy in America, the work of a 26 year old French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville written after his 1831 tour of the United States and considered to be one of the earliest works of Sociology and Political Science. Ledeen puts Democracy in America in contemporary context and exposes the all to current fear of living in a world of finite opportunities and the role of government in support of individuals to avoid it. Consider Ledeen’s book a small time-investment for an introduction to Tocqueville’s two volume masterpiece.
Curiously, my interest in Tocqueville was kicked into high gear upon seeing his portrait painted on the ceiling of a San Diego speakeasy this past March. Asking “who’s that?”, I recieved a passionate response from Arsalun Tafazoli, who himself is seizing opportunities and creating inspiring businesses (Neighborhood and Noble Experiment) that provide his staff with exciting jobs and his customers with quality food and intriguing beverage options. All of this from his sheer ideas and personal ambition. He clearly seemed affected positively by Tocqueville’s work.
In Democracy in America, the author rightly recognizes that America cleaned the slate of European class-based society and initiated a profoundly energized society based on the belief of human equality. And this has caused Americans to remain a culture of collaborators. We build and nurture safe neighborhoods and we set our collective sights even higher, like committing to be first on the moon. Tocqueville muses and marvels over the complexity that Americans exhibit “rugged individualism” but that their societal structure, and its progress, is based on collective collaborative enterprise. “Feelings and opinions are recruited, the heart is enlarged, and the human mind is developed only by the reciprocal influence of men upon one another… and this can only be accomplished by associations,” Tocqueville summarized.
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Immersed in Tocqueville’s American Character on the R-5, I close the book when Market East station is reached. I shuffle off to a meeting where I’m greeted by Ann, Marnie and Christina, fellow collaborators on the The Brewer’s Plate food and beer festival for the last two years. David and Ed of Event Navigators arrive and we are complete, launching into the good the bad and the myriad of new directions and opportunities to infuse into our 2011 event (March 13, since you asked). An hour flies by and it begins to dawn on me, this collective embodies the dynamic association of individuals that Tocqueville cites as uniquely American. Dealing as equals with individual strengths to offer to the collective goal, we strive for both creative and economic impact. In this case the main goal being to provide an exceptional food and drink experience to a lucky group.
Energized, I head for the door of Garces Trading Company and glance longingly at their cheese list. Whoa, Landaff and Bayley Hazen both on the board and both from our friends at Jasper Hill in Vermont. I think of our loose association with them, and our collaborations: Baltic Thunder washed Winnimere cheese debuted at Tria for Philly Beer Week 2009 and, ugh, the video I shot in late May at Jasper Hill, edited but unfinished and begging for my attention to reach completion and its audience. Maybe I need to join a video production association? No time for pity, on to the next meeting. At my next stop I get the low down on the next Chifa beer dinner featuring Brooklyn Brewery. Brooklyn, where our friend Garrett Oliver has teamed up with Iron Chef Jose Garces to bring a form of chocolate into all 6 courses of a beer dinner. Whoa, check this out, Chocolate Crusted Venison with Red Chili Tamale, Mole and Macerated Figs for the fourth course! Garrett, who once politely asked if he might pair our Storm King Stout with Bayley Hazen blue cheese for a public session, is another associate on our common mission of flavor excitement.
Believe me, I’m not just name dropping, I am trying to richly illustrate the point that there are so many ‘associates’ out there converging and creating.
At home that evening, my wife and I flip through the freshly printed Philadelphia Local Food Guide that Fair Food and Grid Magazine brought to life. Good thing it’s dinnertime as the PLFG stokes our hunger for local foods to new heights. In the pages I recognize the names and ads of so many that we at Victory have associated with on projects throughout the years. Yet I see beyond these associations to the consuming audience who both benefit and support the local food and drink producers. I then get that the consumers are willing participants in the associations we’ve been a part of. You are frequently paying a premium and searching hard to gain access to the wholesome products and events we create. You have the individual freedom to make your independent choices and you experience the group joy of participating in a collective cause you believe in.
Thanks for joining our association.
President & Brewmaster