Friday, May 31, 2013


I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about William Faulkner’s reluctance to attend a White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners, complaining it was “a long way to go just to eat.”

And I know he certainly didn’t want to go to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize, though he did go in the end, and now I’ve been reading a book titled Faulkner’s Mississippi (text by Willie Morris, photographs by William Eggleston) which contains an account of Faulkner’s days prior to his visit to Stockholm.

In honour of the trip he went on a colossal multi-day binge, in and around his  home in Oxford, Mississippi.  The family watched for a few days and then decided to sober him up.  They and told him it was a few days earlier than it actually was, that the trip was imminent and that he’d better pull himself together.  This was on a Saturday, though they told Faulkner it was Monday.  But drunk or sober Faulkner was no fool.  When he asked somebody where his stepson was, they replied he was at the football game.  Faulkner’s reaction, “Somebody’s been deceivin’ me.  They don’t play football games on Monday.  I’ve got three more days to drink.”

When Faulkner was in Hollywood, he drank prolifically at Musso and Frank (passim in this blog).  And I was just trawling the internet continuing my obsession with the work of William Eggleston, and I happened to find this photograph of his, which I’d never seen before.  My favorite photographer takes a picture of my favorite bar: does it get any better than this?

Sunday, May 26, 2013


There’s a piece in today’s New York Times by Jake Halpern about Mata Amritanandamayi (that’s her above), known to her followers as Amma, or Mother, who is an Indian holy woman and a serial hugger.  To date she has apparently embraced at least 30 million people, thereby spreading spiritual comfort and joy.

The hugs are free - she’s been known to hug 50,000 people in a single, continuous 20-hour session - but of course contributions are welcome.  She’s used them to build a “mega-ashram” as well as to finance hospitals, orphanages, housing projects, and other good works.

Halpern also reports that Amma has performed miracles, including diverting a storm, and turning water into (wait for it) pudding.  This is not as immediately impressive as turning water into wine, but in India I suppose there are other priorities.  According to the United Nations, India is home to about 25 percent of the world's hungry poor, and according to the Indian government’s own figures, around 43 per cent of children under the age of five are malnourished. I suppose you have to start somewhere; so why not with pudding?  Halpern doesn’t say what kind of pudding, but not black pudding, I expect.

Of course, there’s always something funny about the word pudding, and I find it pretty much impossible to think of pudding without thinking of Lenny in the Simpsons, “Ow, my eye.  I’m not supposed to get pudding in my eye.”

 But I only just found this, a product featuring, and endorsed by, Sylvester Stallone.  It looks miraculous to me.  It's not about money.   It never is, is it?

Friday, May 24, 2013


As you may well imagine, New York wasn’t all pork pies and wine gums. A surprising number of duck hearts were involved too.  I ate them first at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 Second Avenue @ 13th) where they came with fava beans and chili oil.  And then I had ‘em again at Craftbar (900 Broadway @ 20th) where they came with smoked bacon, black garlic, a dumpling and a Fried Egg.  Personally I could have done without the egg, but otherwise they were great, and much richer and more complex tasting than the ones at Momofuku Ssäm, and I enjoyed them much more: I think it may have had a lot to do with the bacon and black garlic.

 But the duck hearts weren’t the best thing I ate in either place.  People apparently go crazy for the pork buns at Momofuku – and I had one of those, and it was pretty good, but I can’t say I loved it quite as much as I felt I was supposed to.  But I also had a plate of Edwards Wigwam Ham, from Surry, Virginia, which was just devastatingly wonderful.  I’m quite a newbie to the world of the southern ham (the Loved One swears by them), and this wasn’t quite what I expected – it was more like prosciutto, but none the worse for that. Whether duck hearts, a pork bun and a plate of ham really constitutes a balanced meal, I’m not sure, but I had no complaints.

 Smoke also figured in the best thing I had at Craftbar: a brined, smoked pig’s head terrine.  The words sum it pretty thoroughly.  It was salty, smoky, fleshy, chunky, quite loosely packed, and right now I find myself drifting off into a fugue state just thinking about it.

 There’s not much succor for vegetarians at Craftbar, and none at all at Momofuku Ssäm where the broccoli salad comes with crispy duck skin, and even the “bread and butter” has a side of whipped lardo.  I can live with that.  But to my amazement, two of the things I most enjoyed eating in New York were vegetable dishes.  The first at an Indian restaurant called Devi (8 East 18th Street); was dal makhani (creamy black lentils with tomatoes, it said on the menu, though I gather kidney beans are usually involved as well).  It’s pretty hard to make dhal exciting, and very easy to make it bland, but this was just great.

And then, perhaps more surprising still, at a restaurant place called Co. as in Company (230 Ninth Ave. @ 24th Street) - essentially an up-market pizza joint, though but it doesn’t look that way when you first go in – I had shaved asparagus salad.  

It was just wonderful, very thin, long shavings of raw asparagus in a very light citrus dressing.  I kept thinking it must have been marinated or blanched or hit with gamma rays or something, but the waiter assured me it was simply raw.  Who’d think that raw asparagus could be such a winner?   (Co. also offers it as a pizza topping, in which case it becomes baked and charred which seems a whole different ballgame.)  And since I got home I’ve been shaving my own raw asparagus and it works.  It really works.   

Travel: it broadens stuff.

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