in sultan ahmed's mosque


birdman (film). i heard birdman described as a cross between louie and black swan, which is about right, though i wish the parallels there could have extended to some rodarte costumes for ed norton. fetishizing the exotic is kind of lazy, ed norton in rodarte aside, but a mexican director (alejandro gonzález iñárritu) skewering hollywood and broadway is much more interesting to me than, say, woody allen doing the same. birdman isn't A Great Movie, but it's a limber (the cinematography in particular is wonderfully cartilaginous) and sly one. we were talking today at the wild bird fund about whether or not shakes made with ferret food could be the next fad diet, speaking of limber and sly. i myself am convinced of it.

cooking with fernet branca (book). i have been trying to limit myself to a single purchase at my weekly shift at housing works bookstore and failing rather miserably; i feel like a man-eating carp working at a hammam. cooking with fernet branca, one of my first and splashiest acquisitions, is that rare modern british satire that doesn't make me want to start a bar fight (looking at you, david lodge). published a decade ago, it's (among other things) a fine takedown of yuppie porn like under the tuscan sun, featuring a british ghostwriter, an eastern european film composer who lives in the next villa over, and recipes for the repellent meals they share. choosing a favorite passage is like choosing a favorite cat, but -
Beyond this point we enter the realm of the sacramental, and words all but fail me. All I can say is that Alien Pie, hot from the oven and with a jaunty buzzard feather stuck in the top, should be eaten on a terrace overlooking a distant ocean above which the remnants of sunset brood like old wounds seeping through a field dressing. It is one of those experiences poised exquisitely between sorrow and oblivion.


"Perfectly correct, papà," says this vision, flashing me a smile I want to lay away in lavender in a dark drawer for the rocky years ahead.


When I turn back to the scene I've just left—which despite the fire brigade is still considerably ablaze—it's just in time to see an extraordinary thing. The two tall cypress trees are standing up to their knees in incandescent scrub and brushwood. One is just beginning to catch fire, the flames running up it like a bright liquid under pressure. The other, though, simply begins to—and I can scarcely believe what I'm seeing—to bend very slowly from the waist, as if it were an elderly butler greeting a monarch. As I watch, the bend accelerates into a grovel and the cypress wilts like a dildo in a smithy, its crest coming to rest on the ground. Curious, I think as I trudge woozily away with my ears singing. Most curious.

kantin (restaurant). in the afternoon, istanbul professionals flock to kantin in posh nişantaşi for the artisanal lunch spread: the shop floor is jammed with bread baked from thousand-year-old strains of wheat, refrigerator cases full of handmade mustard and catsup, and terrier-sized wheels of cheese. the fancy-rural implements on the wall would transfer quite handily to a millionaire-mom cafe in park slope. at night, the upstairs dining room becomes a dionysian temple of modern slow food. i suspect the four thousand courses we were served had something to do with the fact that we were travel journalists, but i can't deny that şemsa "alice waters of istanbul" denizsel and her team have more ideas about what to do with local ingredients than i have hairs on my head. roasted pumpkin with oyster mushrooms! sorrel with caramelized pear! green tangerine sorbet with mastic pudding and sour cherries! i'm even sort of OK with the fact that they snuck a bunch of spicy cheese in with the halvah for the last course of the night.

maleficent (film). i boarded an evening flight to istanbul by myself, chewed a complimentary piece of turkish delight as the runway unspooled beneath us and we rose into the sky (well done on those individual links to the cockpit cam, turkish airlines), and realized i needed to watch maleficent, a film that should be mummy-wrapped with trigger warnings for PANKs (professional aunts, no kids). i think i started crying when angelina jolie first laid eyes on elle fanning (aurora), and it's entirely possible that i sobbed audibly when i thought i knew how the story would end (my apologies, sweet retired rowmates en route to a fancy hike in cappadocia). i'll refrain from revealing how it ends, as i'm hoping one of you will see it and help me understand why it manhandled me so. as matt zoller seitz puts it, "it has a primordial edge that the clumsy filmmaking can't blunt."

nightcrawler (film). not since some demon stylist gave javier bardem a pageboy for no country for old men has villainous hair performed such heavy lifting. like drive, another hypersaturated movie with an implausible jacket, this one is much more about style than it is about nuanced statement; though both los angeles and jake gyllenhaal look quite spooky, gestures alone don't add up to much of a takeaway. nightcrawler goes down a bit like an off-brand black jellybean.

raki (spirit). like most supposedly beloved national drinks, raki tastes like anise and regret; you pour a finger or two of it into a tumbler, fill the tumbler the rest of the way with water so that it turns milky, and tell yourself you're having an authentic local experience. our turkish tour director told us that raki is a good drink if you want to laugh and cry and sing. i didn't laugh and cry after confronting it near gallipoli, but i did end up at something called a Fancy Boozy Roof Bar (which was not on a rooftop) singing "california dreaming" with my fellow journalists, including an australian former newspaper editor who'd borrowed a guitar from the departing band. i spotted a small bottle of raki in my mini fridge a few nights later and did not disturb it.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if ferret-food shakes had magical dietary properties, would you try one?
02 have you ever used a recipe you found in a novel?
03 when were you last reminded of brooklyn when you were elsewhere? (a madrid restaurant menu advertised a Brooklyn Hipster Sandwich last week. it did not remind me of brooklyn.)
04 are you fond of any beloved national drinks?
05 if you were to serenade a bunch of journalists with a borrowed guitar, what would you sing?


Amanda said...

01 No
02 Indeed, several
03 i carry Brooklyn with me (i carry it in my heart)
04 Possibly
05 "Do-Re-Mi"

Rachel said...

01. I have no idea what is in ferret food, but if it's anything like hamster food I'm probably opposed.

02. Never, actually. Even after reading all of Reichl's books.

03. I find I rarely think of Brooklyn, but that probably makes sense, geographically. We did spend some time last month trying to explain to a friend which LA neighborhoods are the equivalent of which BK neighborhoods.

04. I <3 ouzo. I keep some around just for myself. Related - at some point someone brought a water bottle full of ouzo to my Athens apartment and someone else used it to rinse after brushing her teeth, thinking it was water. This is not the best way to try ouzo.

05. I never sing in public.

Laramie said...

01 what's in ferret food
02 once tried to make maple candy per laura ingalls's instructions; failed miserably
03 meh
04 scotch (note: when in scotland, do not order "scotch." it's called whisky.)
05 nope

lauren said...

@amanda you would have gone over well with the journalists.

@rachel i do the neighborhood thing a lot as well. i don't line it up with LA very well, but i know that as streets in reykjavik go, hverfisgata is to laugavegur as brooklyn is to manhattan.

@laramie the ferret food we use is pellets made of stuff like chicken, eggs, brewer's yeast, and rosemary extract(?!).

LPC said...

01 Is it made of pellets? I abhor pellets. (See, I don't cheat and read ahead.)
02 Not to my recollection.
03 At the airport, dropping off my beloved son.
04 Does artisanal gin count? Or pinot noir?
05 You Are My Sunshine, because I can't sing, so it would have to be part of a drunk storytelling session, and my mother who has dementia used to sing it to me and sang it in a duet with my brother-in-law just this weekend and surely, surely, someone would cry.

BTW, can you confirm how to spell artisanal? My spellchecker hates everything I try.

lauren said...

@LPC "you are my sunshine" has always absolutely destroyed me. i am so sorry about your mom; thank you again for talking about her, both here and with your readers. "artisanal" does look weird, doesn't it? i only manage to get it right because "artisan" is so clearly correct.

Anonymous said...

jacob said:

01 not with those ingredients, no.

02 i'm not sure i've even seen a recipe in a novel i've read. reading about people drinking does sometimes send me to the liquor, though.

03 fashion island

04 i'm not sure it's a national drink, but i had a shot of pulque at a tourist trap on the way to pyramids near mexico city. it was delightfully weird.

05 as i have a dream to one day learn the banjo and play pete seeger songs to a roomful of kids, i'll go with "michael row the boat ashore."

Anonymous said...

MDF said:
01 How many carbs?
02 I think there's a flan recipe in 'Julie, or the New Heloise' that I wanted actually to try. I've got big love for flan.
03 Many pleasant things remind me of my few hours in Brooklyn.
04 Turkish coffee is not so good. (The TEA, though...)
05 Timberlake's 'My Love,' always with improvised lyrics, e.g., "If I baked you a birthday cake / would you kiss me on a Great Lake? (Mi-chi-gan LAKE)"
0? Ha- I too saw 'Maleficent' on a Turkey related plane flight ["trigger warnings for PANKs"!]. And deploying 'smithy' seems truly the only way to neutralize an always unappealing dildo simile.