Sonoma County’s Cult of the Carrot
The Accidental Vinophile
Dave Karraker / by Paul Rattay Photography
When we bought our Sonoma weekend getaway/money pit/wayward home for friends who only call when the pool reaches 80 degrees, our meringue-sweet real estate agent Charleen helped consummate our new, strictly plutonic relationship with Wells Fargo Mortgage by handing us a ring of bent and slightly rusted keys (Sonoma’s idea of a key party?), along with a bursting packet from the Welcome Wagon. Having spent a good number of years living in Los Angeles (don’t judge), I honestly thought the Welcome Wagon was Paris Hilton’s Range Rover.
In fact, the Welcome Wagon is a cavalcade of coupons that you get when you buy a new house. You never knew you needed so many clothes dry cleaned, windows covered and oils changed until they are priced half-off. Also included in the Welcome Wagon packet are easy to digest instructions on how to live a fruitful life in Sonoma County. However, I have a bone to pick with this alleged Wagon of Welcome, because what they don’t warn you about in this cornucopia of local merchant come-ons is Sonoma County’s all-powerful Cult of the Carrot.
This is a word of warning to those who venture forth into the ample, welcoming bosom of the Wine Country – the sun-kissed local residents all belong to a cult and they desperately want you in it. This insidious sect is exceptionally cunning in their recruitment techniques: You first are invited over for a friendly potluck dinner. When you arrive brandishing your foil-encased Costco mini quiches (which are delicious and you know it), your host, resplendent in her smart pastel polo shirt and perfectly pressed khakis, exclaims that everything in her 20 Bean Salad, which resembles a United Colors of Benetton ad, came from her own garden. As other cultists from the neighborhood start arriving, gratins and casseroles in hand, they echo your host’s boast. These people apparently spend a lot of time up to their elbows in mulch and manure.
The next step in your induction into this false religion obsessed with radishes and radicchio is the invitation over to see their “raised vegetable boxes.” Fair warning, dear reader, this is where they get you! Because it is here, as your gaze falls on row after row of fastidiously cared for cauliflower, cabbage and collards, you start to think to yourself: “I could do this.”
At this point, you are hooked. There is no turning back. From this moment forward, you will look upon the grocery store vegetable aisle with the same distain usually reserved for Fox News.
You are now an official member of the Sonoma County Cult of the Carrot.
And here is where I stand today, where I never thought I would: a full-fledged cult member, up to my elbows in endive, overtaken by onion, drowning in dill. Four raised garden beds, fully irrigated, overplanted within an inch of their lives. How many carrots, you ask? I am guessing about 3,000, give or take. Will I eat even a quarter of what I have nurtured with hard work and grime-encrusted fingernails? Probably not.
But, with Pyrex dish at the ready, I am prepared for that neighborhood potluck, when our next victim will be inducted into Sonoma’s Cult of the Carrot.
The Accidental Vinophile is Dave Karraker, a comedian and writer who splits his time between Sonoma, San Francisco, his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and a 61 Ford Thunderbirds. You can find more on Dave at www.davekarraker.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dave on Twitter: @davekarraker