One of the best parts of traveling with a consort whose job guaranteed him local fixers was learning that most of what the “experts” back here in the homeland had to say was total horse shit. Some dilettante would meet an expatriate in Rome and make a pronouncement that food writer after food writer would pick up and regurgitate until there was no arguing about the proper carbonara, even though guanciale has only recently entered the culi-vocabulary. Starting with my first trip to Europe, to Cornwall for a week in 1986, I have been repeatedly astonished at how many myths can be busted just by meeting real people in real places where they don’t know from T&L&F&W&Cookbooks Inc. And so I let my dander up only slightly on receiving a strange letter from an importer who wanted to set me straight on the origin of the name of a certain varietal I had written about in a moment of expense-covering weakness. Before traveling to the source, I had read the same sentence — verbatim — in about 35 locations on the series of tubes. But when I got to the region and started talking to the people who have grown the grapes and produced the wine for a gazillion years, not a single person had ever heard of it. Instead, they all offered their own root, one that seemed weird but sounded right in the vineyards. And what was the response to my carefully phrased response to the strange letter? “Next time, ask me. I’m an expert.” I guess that’s the polite way of saying, “Americans! Fuck, yeah!” It’s the last bleat of insular supremacy.