My blog has a crush on this blog. Alma Mahler: I'm coming for your ass!
I'm also developing an unhealthy crush on my husband. He played through his Bach recital for me last night and it was delicious. Left-handed trills: he's coming for your ass!
After our private concert, Ethan and I went to Blue Ribbon for some vodka and oysters. We both had a crush on the bartender Carlito and the skillful shucker Luis. Blue Ribbon is a happening joint. I can't wait to check out the new, 24-hour location opening soon in Manhattan. As the dreamy Carlito said, "Oysters around the clock? How could that be bad?"
I have a crush on Joan Acocella's beautiful book of essays, which is packed with both erotic energy and grief. It reminds me in an odd way of one of my favorite books, WG Sebald's The Emigrants.
In honor of all the above, here's a cocktail called THE SUMMER CRUSH
Take a half-full bottle of gin (I used Bombay Sapphire) and slip a pint of cleaned, dried tristar strawberries into it, along with a dozen leaves of purple basil. (Tristars are an everbearing, sweet variety, now available at the greenmarket.) Let gin sit for a few days, until the strawberries lose their color. Strain it and discard the strawberries and basil. Return the infused gin to the frig.
For each cocktail, muddle a strawberry and a purple basil leaf with a splash of simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add ice, the juice of half a lemon, and a big shot of the infused gin. (Adjust the amount of simple syrup and lemon to suit your taste and the strength of your infusion.) Shake very well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and serve to someone you have a crush on.
(This would also be nice topped off with champagne.)
Orpheus occupies a strange space between god and mortal. He was the son of divinities yet not himself divine. He descended to hell and returned, yet he eventually died at the hands of mortal women. His head was ripped from his body, yet it never stopped singing. He symbolizes the paradoxical vulnerability of the artist and immortality of the art.
Orpheus was the greatest musician of antiquity. Talent ran in the family; he was the son of Apollo, god of light and music, and of Calliope, the eldest and most distinguished of the muses. (An alternate version has him the son of Thracian king Oeagrus.)
Orpheus was one of the Argonauts who accompanied Jason on his voyage to seek the Golden Fleece. When the sailors were tempted to throw themselves overboard in response to the sirens' deadly song, Orpheus saved them, playing his lyre so beautifully that no one listened to the girls.
On their wedding day, Orpheus's bride Eurydice stepped on a poisonous snake and died. Orpheus traveled down to the underworld to plead for her life. He sang his love before the thrones of hell. According to Bulfinch:
As he sang these tender strains, the very ghosts shed tears. Tantalus, in spite of his thirst, stopped for a moment his efforts for water, Ixion's wheel stood still, the vulture ceased to tear the giant's liver, the Daughters of Danaus rested from their task of drawing water in a sieve, and Sisyphus sat on his rock to listen. Then for the first time, it is said, the cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears. Proserpine herself could not resist, and Pluto himself gave way.
Eurydice was allowed to return to earth with her husband, on one condition: that he not turn around and look at her until they reached the surface. You can pretty much guess what happens next. For more on this, and on the beautiful Mark Morris production of Gluck's opera, see this earlier post.
Like most artists, bad luck in love was good for Orpheus's art. After Eurydice returned to hell for good, Orpheus shunned the company of women, taking up with young boys instead, and he spent most of his time wandering through the woods playing sad, sad songs. Most critics consider this Orpheus's best period, although surviving recordings are marred by the audible weeping of the recording engineers.
The career of this great performer was cut short by one of the worst audiences in history, The Maenads. These intoxicated female worshipers of Dionysus came upon Orpheus in the woods one day. Jealous of his preference for boys and scornful of his allegiance to orderly Apollo, the Maenads hurled rocks and stones at him. The rocks and stones refused to hurt him, since they were so moved by his music. So the women attacked Orpheus with their bare hands and mouths, rending him limb from limb. His severed head floated away down the stream, still singing.
We can all relate to Orpheus, those of us who try to make art, sleep with boys, bargain with death, or spend time alone without being harassed by drunks. It's no surprise that so many poems have been written about him.
I've been talking to my writing students about the anxiety of influence, about being scared to do something because it's already been done well by someone else. I've been telling them not to worry so much; there is always room for another excellent work in the world. So it inspired me to see this poem by Fergus Allen in a recent Harper's. He doesn't mind throwing his hat into the ring with Rilke and the rest. It might be tempting to think that Orpheus has been done to death, but there is always room for resurrection.
ORPHEUS by Fergus Allen (from Harper's magazine)
Crammed into packing cases, wrapped in plastic,
the limbs of dismembered masculine deities
are out of sight and do not call for tears.
Screaming and bitching fill the olive grove
and everyone is high on triviality.
The offered lips, the immaculate skin-
so you prefer the smell of own-sex sweat
to that of lion, do you? Well, so be it,
but I am dazzled by other illusions,
vision shifted into another clef.
Serial ism occupies my thoughts
and I foresee the ivy-berry trance
in which the raving maenads will disjoint me
because I've wept too hotly and too long.
So let it be done quickly, while I dance,
my remains serving to fatten the kites,
while my bare head floats singing down the
You will be one of the caring and sensitive;
there will be many prizes to be won
and enough testicled slaves in the field.
Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus by John William Waterhouse
SONNET TO ORPHEUS 2.13 by Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. H. Landman
Be ahead of all parting, as if it were
behind you, like the winter you just weathered.
Because among the winters there is one so endless winter,
that, overwintering it, your heart recovers altogether.
Be always dead in Eurydice - rise up singing,
rise up praising, once again concerned with purer matters.
Be here, among the dwindling, in the realm of leaning,
be a ringing glass, that in sounding swiftly shatters.
Be - but still know non-being's conditions,
the infinite foundation of your innermost vibration,
so you fulfill it fully in this only time around.
To all the used-up, silent stale provisions
of abundant nature, the unsayable summation,
count yourself in joyously and cancel out the count.
Dear readers, blogging's been slow lately, as life has been fast.
In my incarnation as Sarah Iverson, salacious essayist, I will be reading Monday in this event.
As many of you know, I got a new job lately, and I've been doing a lot of going out and getting to know the bar and restaurant scene. This is a great time of year to be cooking and eating.
The farmer's markets are all abuzz, with heirloom tomatoes, peaches, corn, melons, berries, squash blossoms (I want to try this Waldy Malouf recipe) and the usual excellent seafood and meat. I made a yummy mole with a bone-in shoulder from Flying Pigs. I've been getting my home bar up to snuff, putting up produce against the chill fall months. So far I've made: maraschino cherries, ginger syrup, blackberry syrup, gin infused with strawberries and purple basil, vodka infused with dried cherries, marinated olives stuffed with blue cheese, and tomato chips. My goal is to be cocktail ready at all times.
On the dining out front, I was lucky enough to get a preview of Toloache, Julian Medina's new Mexican place in the theatre district that my buddy does PR for. The menu is exciting and the suckling pig is divine.
surf clam muscle ceviche with watermelon and heirloom tomatoes
chicken liver mousse with gastrique of molasses
sea bream collar (i think) with turnips and shell beans
fried chicken in a foie gras sauce (this was really incredible.)
and with an unctuous 1970 coteaux de layon
tri-star strawberries in pedro ximenes vinegar
I was really inspired by this meal. The food was soulful, playful, and in harmony with the wine. Colin was the line chef at Verbena back when I did pastry there, and his wife Renee was front of the house. That was such a long time ago!
I will always remember the moment I first walked through the door of Verbena. It was sleeting outside and I was dripping wet and shivering. There stood Renee, this gamine with fingernails each painted a different color. She treated me like I was a princess. She poured me verbena tea, and I suddenly felt like the world was a beautiful place. This is the power of a great hostess.
Thanks to my writing student Erica for pointing this out to me.
I have always had a crush on Balder, or Baldr as he was called in old Norse. My crush is mostly due to the wonderful illustration of him in the D'Aulaires book I had as a kid, in which he stands in a field of multicolored flowers, a star-shaped halo emanating from his mesmerizing white eyebrows. I wish I could find this illustration on line to post it, but the D'Aulaires heirs/agents seem to have done a good job at keeping their art from circling for free on the Internets. The only things you can find are the covers.
It's great that the NYRB has reprinted so many of these classic books. They are stunning.
From pantheon. org: " The god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. Son of Odin and Frigg, he was loved by both gods and men and was considered to be the best of the gods. He had a good character, was friendly, wise and eloquent, although he had little power. His wife was Nanna daughter of Nep, and their son was Forseti, the god of justice. Balder's hall was Breidablik ("broad splendor"). "
The D'Aulaires translate Breidablik "the far-gleaming," which I like better. Even though I think it's pretentious to name a house, I do think it would be cool to say, "Ethan and I are, like, off to Far Gleaming for the long weekend. We're grilling."
According to the D'Aulaires' Norse Myths:
The Aesir (the Norse pantheon) always turned to Balder when they were troubled, for he was the kindest and gentlest of the gods. No one could think anything but pure thoughts in his presence. Flowers sprang up from the ground wherever he stepped, but even the whitest and most beautiful of them, the Balderblom, was not as fair as his brow.
Everybody loved him; not even the spiteful gnomes and uncouth jotuns could dislike Balder.
The light from his shimmering hall shone into the farthest corners of the world, and it was there that he sat in judgement on his golden throne. He never took sides, and was so kind he could not bear to mete out punishment. Although the Aesir brought their disputes to Balder, they seldom followed his advice. It was too gentle and forgiving.
Balder lived in great happiness with his loving wife Nanna and their son Forsete. Forsete was as constant as Nanna, his mother, and as just as his father, Balder. Calmly he studied the laws of this world and laid down judgements according to them, and his rulings always held. He became the chief judge of the Aesir.
Fans of mythology will start to get a bad feeling when they read about all this peace and stability. Sure enough, such happiness cannot endure. To read about the tragic death of Balder, see my earlier post on Loki.
Tonight, though, I just happened to have chanterelles from Fresh Direct. Once in a while, Fresh Direct comes through with some incredible specialty items, like when they had shad roe a few months back. I usually make this risotto with a mixture of dried porcinis and fresh creminis, but it was better with the fresh chanterelles.
The key to this risotto is planning. Always keep good stock on hand. I make my own, from veal bones mixed with turkey wings, then freeze it in quart containers. If you buy stock, buy the best and freshest you can find. I like the Thomas Keller brand the best, available at Union Market in Park Slope.
Two other items I try to keep in the freezer at all times, both from D'Artagnan, are truffle butter and Saucisse de Canard a l'Armagnac.
Finish this risotto with whatever herbs (thyme, sage, chives) and cheeses (parmesan, pecorino, even cream cheese or mascarpone) you have at hand.
Saute 1/2 an onion or a large shallot, chopped, in 2 T butter.
Add 1/2 lb sliced fresh chanterelles (or 2 oz dried wild mushrooms reconstituted in hot water and drained). Saute until sizzling.
Add 1 1/2 C Arborio rice. Stir to make the rice toasty.
Add about 3 C boiling veal stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly. You have to stand by the risotto, stirring, as you make the cocktails. Seat your guests in the kitchen with you. Keep adding stock until the rice has that perfect al dente texture. When it starts getting close to being done, add 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme.
On the side, grill some duck sausage.
Warm some bowls in the oven. Swirl into the risotto: 2 T truffle butter, 1/3 C grated parmigiano-reggiano (or other cheese), S&P to taste, and serve, topped with the duck sausage, cut on the bias.
What could be better at 2 AM?