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Wine,Wine Business,Wine Writer

Discovering Writer Mark Pendergrast

[This photo is borrowed from Mark Pendergrast’s Website.]

I enjoy introducing you to other writers in the wine business, or related to it in some seamless way. In this case, it’s a fellow writer whose expertise has earned him columns in Wine Spectator, which are related to coffee and evaluating it.

Mark is best known as the author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, now in its second edition (Basic Books, 2010).

Some reviews of this book:

“With wit and humor, Pendergrast has served up a rich blend of anecdote, character study, market analysis and social history.” –New York Times Book Review

“Few coffee drinkers suspect that they are affecting American foreign policy, the domestic policies of Latin-American and African countries, and the habitat of migratory birds. Pendergrast shows how and why they are. He has taken on a huge subject, but he organizes the facts skillfully and puts personalities in the perspective of their times. This encyclopedic volume is the entertaining result.” –New Yorker

“Pendergrast’s fast-paced narrative reads more like a novel. Uncommon Grounds is a focused and juicy history of our last legal and socially acceptable drug.” –Wall Street Journal

So, it’s a Saturday and I’m going through Emails. The day before I received an Email from Mark Pendergrast late in the afternoon, and I had missed it. He was asking for me to connect him to someone that I know. In his Email he wrote: For information on me and my books, see www.markpendergrast.com.

I went to his site and found a fellow New Englander; he moved from the Atlanta area to live in Vermont.  Vermont… and I’m from Maine… There’s always room for any New Englander (born or transplanted), for understanding our innate natures. So, I dug deeper.

Mark’s wide range of topics includes:

  • Inside the Outbreaks, which is a history of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC
  • Mirror Mirror, a fascinating history of mirrors
  • For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It
    Third Edition ~ For God, Country & Coca-Cola is a cultural, social, and economic history of America as seen through the green glass of a Coke bottle. And what a quintessentially American tale it is. Coca-Cola began humbly as a patent medicine amid the fervor and chaos of Reconstruction Atlanta. A shrewd marketeer saw its value as a beverage, and it rapidly grew through the Gilded Age to become the dominant consumer product of the American Century.

For personal reasons and just for fun.

  • Silly Sadie is another fractured fairy tale about a princess who turns into a frog and whose lovely legs attract the royal chef, with nearly fatal and edible results. The Frog Prince rescues her just in time by jumping into the middle of the king and queen’s chess game…
  • Jack and the Bean Soup is an irreverent, funny take on the classic fairy tale, only in this case Jack is propelled heavenward by powerful flatulence. A children’s book that will appeal to adults as well — and it explains the presence of evil on earth and the origin of thunder!

Ah, yes, someone else who enjoys writing children’s stories.

And then, there’s Mark musical career… All this and writing about coffee, too? Charming…

On his site it’s written: Mark began singing Broadway tunes as a kid along with his parents during road trips and harmonized with his older brother to Kingston Trio songs. Now he is in a great Vermont choral group called Social Band and has begun to put poetry to music for Social Band concerts.

Here are examples:

  • “One Leaf”
  • “Green Mountain Idyll”
  • “Ah! Sunflower”
  • As part of Social Band, Mark got to sing in a quartet, beginning with a solo here:
  • “Redmount”
  • Mark also enjoys harmonizing in folk duos. Here are a few samples:
  • “Night Rider’s Lament” with Lily Jacobson
  • “Flying” with Sophia Donforth
  • “Your Daughters and Your Sons” with Sophia Donforth
  • “Don’t Need This Body” with Michael Wilson
  • “Let Them In, Peter” with Kevin Dann
  • “Last Kiss” with Steve LeClair
  • “Kumbaya” with Wicha Promyong (1950-2014), a tribute to a compassionate visionary who helped the village of Doi Chang succeed with coffee.

I encourage you to get to know Mark Pendergrast. It’s worth the sojourn, discovering the nuances of a writer who has many sides to his own story. He brightened my Saturday, I can tell you that for certain.

Mark Pendergrast was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the “fourth of seven children in a family that valued civil rights, the environment, sailing, reading, and games of chase and charades.” He’s also very well educated, having earned a B.A. in English literature from Harvard, taught high school and elementary school, then went back to Simmons College for a masters in library science. In 1991, he began writing books full time.

This is a snapshot of  Mark Pendergrast, who is the coffee critic for Wine Spectator Magazine.

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