Sydney Food Diary: Turpan Restaurant, Kensington

We thought we’d grab a quick lunch in the neighbourhood before hitting Peter’s of Kensington to scratch that kitchenware itch. Kensington’s long had a reputation for interesting and tasty Asian food, but on this day, a Sunday, it looks like places are still closed because of COVID, are are closed for good, or closed a while ago and I didn’t notice.

This place was open and has a good name! And the Indonesian place on the corner was actually so packed, we couldn’t get into it. I didn’t even know Turpan was Uighur before I sat down but was excited. I’ve really enjoyed Uighur food in the past.

There was a lunch special for two, which included handmade noodles, a pilaf and some lamb skewers for $40, which sounded like a good deal. I really, really like the texture of Chinese handmade noodles: springy and with a good bite to them.

I found the rice a little greasy. Tasty, but a little rich.

The lamb skewers had that beautiful cumin and grilled flavour that I am familar with. The taste was nice although the meat was a bit tough, probably not an expensive cut of meat.

All in all, it was a fun experience though. And this was way more than two people could eat, but leftovers are always good. If we can’t travel at the moment because of COVID-19, why not be transported to exotic places through where we eat?

Turpan Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Asian, Food n' Grog, Sydney | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sydney Food Diary: Casa Barelli’s Burgundy Truffles from Aldi

Newsflash!

As of right now (28 June 2020), these truffles are back at Aldi. Maybe only this week! Run out and grab them if you like them. They’re $7 (seemed to be $8 in July 2018) and both varieties are available: the whole truffles and the salsa.

They are labelled as Tuber aestivum, which wikipedia helpfully explains in the link. However, Wikipedia says that the summer truffle is different than the Burgundy truffle, Tuber uncinatum, that is harvested earlier with a less intense aroma. And the label calls these Burgundy truffles. Oh well. The label also says they are a product of Italy: I’d read on a site originally these are Chinese truffles so I stand corrected!

We shaved them (the two truffles in the little jar) on two portions of mushroom and chicken risotto, and we found them subtle but pleasant. I mean: for the price, it’s pretty amazing.

This useful Italian website page of a truffle company (which charmingly describes their ‘hystory’ recommends that they are better cooked than raw:

Use in the kitchen: Less perfumed and flavourful than the winter truffle, more preferably used cooked.
Whole: slivers on fillet, fondue, eggs in the pan, tagliatelle.
Diced: sautΓ© with oil and a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. The preparation can be used on pasta dishes, main courses, omelettes and eggs.

The last time I saw these (and wrote about them) was nearly two years ago! Below is what I wrote:

Aldi is a phenomenon. I love it. The middle aisles, filled with their current specials, are like a surprise door from a game show: What’s behind door number 3 today? While Aldi has provided me with various delights over time (mmm… truffle butter), a few days ago, I stumbled on a tiny jar of truffles, so to speak, from Casa Barelli labelled as Burgundy Truffles, for $8.

I was preparing an afternoon birthday party (my own) with snacks from Italy, as we’ve just returned from there. So, I thought I’d figure out a way of using them; I’m sure I was first introduced to truffles in Italy. I searched online and saw that while a number of people online have bought them from Aldi, and asked what to do with them, no one has really reported on the result. So, I thought I’d do a favour for the next person to do an online search…

I was going to douse them with truffle oil, but even the smallest bottle I could find at Harris Farms was $20, so I thought I’d be brave and do without.

While I really wanted to find savoury tart shells, I couldn’t! So, I made my own out of frozen shortcrust pastry (that turned out much better than I thought), filled them with fresh ricotta (delicious, and better than when I’ve made it myself, and relatively cheap as I went for the cow’s milk version rather than buffalo milk), and then put thin slices of the truffle on top (with a bit of basil to top it off).

The result? Not bad at all. It had the texture of shaved truffle that I’ve had in the past, slightly woody, almost a nut-like texture. It was missing a hit of truffle flavour so perhaps I should have gone for the truffle oil (or mixed in a bit of truffle oil with the ricotta). But for only $8, this was worth a try. If anyone’s reading this and has used this, tell us about it in a comment!

I liked it enough to buy another jar but this time a ‘truffle salsa’. I mixed in about one-third of the jar with some pasta and cream and… you could barely taste the flavour at all. I should have just dumped the whole jar in.

I’m amused that as of September 2019, I see that this blog post, a little over a year old, is one of the most popular posts on my website! And starting to get comments from other people who’ve bought them. If you found them, did you enjoy them? What did you do with them?

And today, in June 2020, I see some joker in Sydney is selling these on eBay for $45 and it says they’ve sold 9 of them at that price. Yikes! Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Posted in Consumer, Home, Home cooking, Sydney | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

What’s your favourite men’s cologne?

We’re running out of one of our current favourite men’s colognes right now. I only learned that my husband really likes it too, both on me, and to wear. It was Dsquared2 Wood, and it was discontinued a few years ago. The reviews of its replacement are pretty bad, so it’s time to look for something else.

I decided to ask Facebook for opinions and am surprised at the response: 125 comments and counting. I do love a message string like this. Friends really do want to converse, share their opinions and be seen. I think the info here is a great snapshot and far too interesting to not share.

I’ll leave it to you to judge what kind of friends I have… And I’ll remove the names because that wouldn’t be right to leave them up!

My specific question was: Am looking for inspiration for the next bottle: what’s your favourite men’s cologne?

You can see that some of my friends are … jokers. Also, I was surprised (but shouldn’t be) how many of my women friends weighed in.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ Paul Rudd may be able to provide some guidance on this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ccp-lEmoAE

Anchorman - Sex panther

YOUTUBE.COM

Anchorman – Sex panther

πŸ§”πŸ½ That is awesome.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ Hugo Boss. Issey Miyake.

Image may contain: text that says 'Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homm...'

πŸ§”πŸ½ I’ve worn this one in the past: I like the light, orange scent of it.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Czech & Speake: I only wear No. 88, but their others are also good.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Jo malone of course

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I don’t know if they still make it but Dolce & Gabanna = lime deliciousness
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ:Moi le parfum que je prΓ©fΓ¨re pour les hommes c’est Eau sauvage de Christian Dior. Un classique, mais still incredibly sexy!

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:

Image may contain: text that says 'EXPLORER MONT BLANC EAU UDEPARFUM 00MLE3.3FL.OZ'

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Oud from Oman

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Eau d’Eau, as any scents trigger my complex chronic diseases …
Once upon a time I wore Lagerfeld (for men), but that’s out now for a number of reasons. I literally can’t stay in places where a lot of scent is around or a little of what I react to most … your pukin’ and wheezin’ cuz …
πŸ§”πŸ½ Ouch, cousin!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: This was one of O’s favorites. Not exactly unique, but it was a great scent on him. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terre_d%27HermΓ¨s

Terre d'Hermès - Wikipedia

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: ‘Acqua di Gio’ by Armani – people (including a lovely young Frenchman on the Paris Metro!) stop me and ask me what I am wearing…

πŸ§”πŸ½ It’s my fave

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: PACO RABANNE.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Marrakech | Aesop Australia
Marrakech | Aesop Australia
AESOP.COM
And their other one which is very Smokey is good too, just cannot remember it’s name
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I will thrill you momentarily
THE AFTERNOON OF A FAUN | Etat Libre d'Orange
ETATLIBREDORANGE.COM

THE AFTERNOON OF A FAUN | Etat Libre d’Orange

Thank me later

πŸ§”πŸ½ good to see Justin Vivian Bond getting credit for that perfume again

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Oud Wood

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Try this fragrance. It is also an ancient disinfectant Ottoman Turkish style.

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πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling – like wearing a Gin & Tonic !

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πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: OMG, if you try all of the above, you will smell good for the rest of your life!

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: Or I’ll smell like Duty Free at the airport.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: the new fragrance of travellers: Duty Free No 5!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Tom Ford Oud Wood, Comme des GarΓ§ons β€œAmazing Green”, Histoires de Parfums 1740: You can’t go wrong with these 😊

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: You and I like the same smells. I was just going to mention Oud (there are a variety but the classic Oud Wood is best). I also like and have Commes des GarΓ§ons Copper. It’s hard to find outside of Japan though. It also smells a bit too metallic and weird for most. The bottle is beautiful. I love bringing it out for inspection at airport security check.

Image may contain: one or more people

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: oh wow, thanks for the info. What other Oud smells do you like?

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I bought Arabian Wood by mistake, which is spicier but I liked that. Tobacco Oud is also nice but a little too much “decay” undertone.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Hard to find but Jil Sander for Men is amazing!

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: None! Men’s body odour 😝
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ:Le Labo – many options but I like ThΓ© Noir
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Gin
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Hai Karate
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Chablis is good! Or for strength a good St Emillion or Margaret River Cabernet.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I always go for KENZO πŸ˜‰πŸ‘
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Old Spice.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Aqua di Parma Intensa. It is so good and very discreet. And you like Italy. Just try it. There are also some divine shave products also.

scale.coolshop-cdn.com
SCALE.COOLSHOP-CDN.COM
scale.coolshop-cdn.com

scale.coolshop-cdn.com

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Happy: I always feel happy when I spray
Served Neat: This Homemade Whiskey Cologne Will Bring Out Your Inner Bond Villain

BIRCHBOX.COM

Served Neat: This Homemade Whiskey Cologne Will Bring Out Your Inner Bond Villain

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: Uh, I smell like alcohol too often already…
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Scotch.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β  Channel Allure Blanche is light citrusy and my current go to.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β Baldessarini

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I don’t know if you have Lush in Australia? I love their scents!

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I’ve got a soft spot for this, myself…

L'Occitan Eau de Toilette 75ml | L’OCCITANE UK

UK.LOCCITANE.COM

L’Occitane Eau de Toilette 75ml | L’OCCITANE UK
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Brut 33 splash it over – feel like a 70s porn star
πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I thought you felt like that all the time
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Terre d’Hermes
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Old Spice, Brut, Aqua Velva (although Aqua Vulva, which autocorrect suggested, does sound enticing).
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dove soap. Screw those headache-inducing poofy stinkystuffs.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Apparently Carolina Herrera’s new fragrance is nice. It’s called β€œBad Boy” 😜

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dyptique Philosykos

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πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Terre d’Hermes

πŸ‘¨πŸ½: My husband loves this.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Track down a sniff of Stercus by Orto Parisi. Armpit in leather bar, with hint of… stercus.

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: I always liked “Right… HE won’t be back. Could you turn the omelet, Love? I brought fair trade beans!”

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Have you tried Frederic Malle or Creed?

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rhubarb! Sounds weird but it’s great

Image may contain: text
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:Β Tommy Hilfiger original
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Guilty by Gucci. Medicinal.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Bleu de Chanel
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Eau naturelle

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Boucheron

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β OMG! I love that also! I just ran out and want more!!!

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Anarchiste – from Caron
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Happy
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: A few drops of Chanel No. 5
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I was hoping you were going to say wine.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: TOM (unaf)FORD(able). Oud MinΓ©rale is what I was treated to a while back, and it’s lovely. But it’s at least Β£195 for 100ml. Advantage is a little last a long time, and so it should at that price.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ:
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ:Soap
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Bvlgari Black
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: This is my fave!!!
No photo description available.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I was all set to type Hendrick’s gin, then I read the rest.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Aqua di Parma – most of them but I particularly like Arancia di Capri, Chinotto di Liguria, Ginepro di Sardenia and the Fico di Amalfi.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I can never go past the classics – L’eau D’issey Pour Homme by Issey Miyake for summer & Fahrenheit by Dior for winter
πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  Exactly the two out of the four I have (the other two are JPG’s Le Male and Chanel’s Egoiste).

πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ

Image may contain: text that says 'TOM FORD Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau De Parfum 50ml TOM FORD OUD WOOD EAU DE PARFUM 50ML'

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  You have expensive taste πŸ˜„ I’m going to go smell this one: I think at least three people have mentioned it.

πŸ‘¨πŸ½:Β  She is on to the good stuff there. Le Labo Santal is similar.

πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rick it old school!
No photo description available.
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Rock it that is…
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Bleu de Chanel … so hot
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Try Replica: Jazz Club
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Issey Miyake
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: D & G Light Blue
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: I had a dream once that I drank every bottle of alcohol in the place. And when I ran out I drank every bottle of aftershave. The Island Lime aftershave was delicious.
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: Bacon grease. Your cats will love it!
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Pasha de Cartier, my all time favourite
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Cool Water/ Davidoff. Excellent!
πŸ’β€β™‚οΈ: Dior’s Fahrenheit. It makes me feel like a daddy! (A millennial work colleague told me once that I smelt like her dad while wearing this)
πŸ’πŸ½β€β™€οΈ: So many places have banned perfume that I know very few people who wear it. Most workplaces here are scent free. That being said, a men’s cologne that doesn’t smell like you doused yourself with cheap booze is a nice touch.πŸ™‚
πŸ‘¨πŸ½: I remember hearing about perfume being banned in places in Canada, and perhaps the issue being raised in some parts of the United States. But as far as I know, it’s really not an issue in Australia and most other countries.

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Cocktail of the Day: The Sencha Flip

I love Japanese tea and often serve it to my reiki clients before (and after) a treatment. While hojicha is my standard, with roasted rice, sencha is another green tea that I like and got a hold of lately. It’s a green whole leaf tea, and apparently makes up 80% of Japan’s tea exports. The other factoid for the day is that it is made of leaves grown under sunlight, which is different than other teas (uh, grown in the dark? Grown under moonlight?).

No matter. I brewed up some sencha and my client declined to drink any of it and this gave me the inspiration to look up whether I could make a cocktail with it, since I’ve been making daily COVID cocktails since the lockdown started in Sydney. Should I admit that? While I know that a cocktail today is not necessarily a good thing, I find such pleasure in it.

And I found a lot of pleasure in this drink.

TheGinQueen.com posted this recipe posted by Gazregan.com which came from Jason Walsh, a bartender in Brooklyn, New York, from CocktailLogic.com (which no longer seems to work). But you can see what Jason looks like here, where he’s spruiking some sort of tea drink as a mixer for cocktails!

Jason said: β€œThis cocktail was inspired by my adoration of Sencha Japanese tea. Many people use Matcha; however, Sencha has more complexity and flavour so I prefer it over Matcha in certain cocktails.”

I’ve made the recipe for two (because cocktails like company) but halve it if you’re drinking solo.

🍸 4 oz gin of your preference
🍸 3 oz sencha green tea
🍸 1/2 oz (or a big squeeze) of honey
🍸 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice (one medium-large lemon)
🍸 1 egg white

Dry-shake, then add a few ice cubes (say 4 or 5) and shake again. Strain into a coupe glass and enjoy.

This gave me the opportunity to perfect my dry shaking technique, which I read should be done as long as you can (60 seconds?). It really does create a much more significant amount of pretty foam than when you shake an egg white (and other ingredients) with ice.

The original recipe called for sweetened sencha while Kindred Cocktails got confused and removed the reference to the sweet part. I considered using sugar syrup, but I think the honey is a nice match.

This drink reminded me a little of a pisco sour. Something about the tea mellows out both the gin and lemon and the end result tastes sophisticated and complex. And yummy. Tell me if you try it!

Posted in Cocktails | Leave a comment

Sydney Food Diary: Alex ‘N’ Rolls, Marrickville

My friend Lai Heng (whose photos appear in this post) enthusiastically recommended that we take up the suggestion from this rave review in Broadsheet and head over to Alex ‘N’ Rolls to see if they really do have the best Banh Mi in Marrickville. Or Sydney even!

Che-Marie Trigg, the author of the article, describes them better than I could, but here’s to say: Yes. She’s right. These were uh-mazing.

Even getting them, standing in line, and then sitting at the small table, while the line continued was fun. I like eating somewhere where you know, because of the demand for the food, that it’s good.

I absolutely can’t believe that the sandwiches were only $6. This has got to be the best deal in town. Sydney’s expensive for food, drink and coffee, so $6 hardly gets you anything in most places, much less a delicious pork sandwich.

You can tell when they are making the sandwiches that they are pros at it, and that they take real care to get exactly the right amount.

The hit of chili was strong, but perfect. The pork was soooo delicious (choose between three kinds). The buns were crisp without being crumbly. The fresh vegetables and herbs: great.

What else can I say? Get there.

This is the first review I’ve done since before the COVID-19 lockdown. I think for my Zomato reviews, I’m going to give all the restaurants and cafes five stars until things stabilise. Any restaurant and cafe that is managing to stay open and serve customers at this time I think deserves the highest praise. And I’d give Alex ‘N’ Rolls five stars anyways!

Alex 'N' Rolls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Asian, Food n' Grog, Sydney | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cocktail of the day: NutriBullet Watermelon Daiquiri

So, the COVID cocktails turned into a daily habit and I haven’t managed to shake it, even now that the lockdown has eased. It still feels like a treat to finish work and have a cocktail before dinner, and to delight in the discovery of a new recipe or to purposely choose to indulge in an old favourite.

My routine generally is to either get an interesting bottle of liqueur from which I base a number of cocktails on, or sometimes an ingredient. It is a sad reflection of my health these days that I buy fruit, because I should eat more fruit, and end up making cocktails out of them.

The watermelon in the fridge also gave me a chance to use some of the Captain Morgan Spiced Rum that I bought to replace the Bacardi White Rum that we’d run out of. I’m not sure whether I like it! Something tasted a bit artificial and strong when I used it in a Dark and Stormy the other day. But it tasted fine in this cocktail.

Looking up a recipe, most recipes are for JUGS of this, and the majority recommend freezing the watermelon first. And using a blender. We’ve got a NutriBullet and it’s a favourite among many kitchen appliances. It makes super creamy soups. Husband uses it for healthy shakes. And I think it whips up a rather nice cocktail.

Adapted from the folks at the Fitchen, this recipe makes enough for 4 glasses, or in our case, 2 glasses each!

Nutribullet Watermelon Daiquri (4 servings)

🍸 4 oz. spiced rum
🍸 2 oz grand marnier or cointreau
🍸 2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
🍸 2 cups of watermelon cubes (seedless makes it easier)
🍸 6 ice cubes

Blend it all up. Drink with pleasure.

Also: I’m super happy that I finally got coupe glasses (which also seem to be known as champagne saucers). They seem to be popular for serving cocktails these days.

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Home Cooking: Jack Monroe’s Cannelini Beurre Blanc

This surprising dish is luxurious and delicious while at the same time being easy to make and very inexpensive. It deserves the same viral popularity as #TheStew in my humble opinion.

I stumbled across the recipe in the New York Times (where I get a lot of food inspiration). While I’m grateful for their columnists for introducing me to these great chefs and great recipes from elsewhere, I think I’m a little uncomfortable that the by-line of the person who reprints the recipe is more prominent than the person who created it: in this case, Jack Monroe, an English food writer.

In fact, the recipe on her website, not behind the NYT pay wall, on her awesome website, Cooking on a Bootstrap, makes me like the recipe even more, which I didn’t think possible. It explains Monroe’s food philosophy, where she says ‘I want to live in a world where everyone should be able to put a beurre blanc on the table without hesitation.’ The servings of this recipe costs LESS THAN A DOLLAR and yet, it ‘would sit proudly on any hifalutin restaurant menu’. I think I’ll serve it as a first course sometime.

I was drawn to the recipe since I’ve been wanting to make more beans in my pressure cooker. I hear they’re good for you, beans, and rather than buying them in tins (which is cheap and easy and I don’t have anything against), I thought I might as well cook them myself. Throw a cup of them in the electric pressure cooker, with more water than I put in the first time (ahem) and they’re perfect, some 40 minutes later. So, after buying some dried cannelini beans, I found this recipe, which was perfect.

But I was also intrigued because I couldn’t really figure out how the recipe would turn out. You cook the pasta in the broth! I’ve never done that before. It gave me a chance to try out a new shape, a garganelli, that I watched Laura on this season of Masterchef Australia make (she’s a pasta expert). But you can use whichever is your preferred small pasta shapes. And then, beurre blanc: I wasn’t even sure what the taste would be. Butter, white wine vinegar and white wine.

What happens, magically, is that the beans fall apart into this thick, luxurious sauce and any vinegary taste disappears from the beurre blanc so that when combined, it tastes rich and buttery and balanced and elegant. It’s an amazing recipe, methinks. And if you care to learn more about Jack, she seems super cool, super smart and she’s an anti-poverty campaigner as well as a food writer. Cheers, Jack. You’re awesome.

Posted in Food n' Grog, Home cooking | Leave a comment

Why we like the writers we do … or not

The pages of the print-out are dated 13 January 2009, in fact, more precisely than that: 12:01pm. It’s an article that I liked in Salon.com from 2002. I suspect that years after I first read it (I was reading a lot of Salon those years), I remembered it and printed it out so I could save it.

It seemed that I had found in the words of a journalist named Tom Bissell something profound and correct in a long essay about how we connect with writers and not with others, even though we know that everyone else might like/hate them, and even when we have contradictory feelings for very similar writers. Perhaps I liked it as a justification for the authors that I’ve not connected with, or haven’t been drawn to read.

The article was called ‘I’d prefer not to‘ and I’m happy to see it’s still online.

I’m amused to now read that the author went on to co-write the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” which I’d heard of, after my friend James introduced me to the semi-regular showings of The Room at a cinema here in Sydney, Australia. I’m also interested to read that Bissell has kept writing, including a book of short fiction, and including video games scripts. I’ll have to check out those short stories.

The argument that he lays out is that the books we end up falling in love with are akin to finding a friend that provokes a ‘nearly cell-level sensation’, the pages emitting an ‘aura, the ineffable, almost psychic pulse’. It is more than just subject matter or aesthetics or whether we like the politics of the book, but something that is both describable and indescribable.

At times, we might not be in the right place to connect with a book (physical, temporaral or mental), but when it happens, it is love, yes.

Now, I’m going to recycle these pages, since I know where to find the article, which he wrote when he was only 28 years old. It’s worth a read if what I’ve written has peaked your interest.

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Book Review: Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story

The End of the StoryThe End of the Story by Lydia Davis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found The End of the Story a confusing book, and yet, it felt like it was purposely so. The narrative and descriptions could be emotionally precise: ‘slipping back through those years to an innocence or freshness that had a certain helplessless attached to it.’ Or both poetic and precise, ‘the sidewalks were full of canes and walkers, the old people swaying among them’. Or even in details, extremely precise, for example where the protagonist recounts both a 37- and a 14-minute conversation with her lover/ex-lover.

But a lot of the book is about being vague and imprecise. The narrative plays with how much detail to divulge, admitting that ‘memories are quite often false, confused, abbreviated, or collapsed into each other’. The locations are described in abstract without names. The lover/ex-lover only slowly gains physical details, over many pages. He is wide. He has reddish-brown hair. It is surprisingly late in the book that we learn he is 22 years old. A major argument occurs, and we are told she shocks him, but we are not to learn what it was that did so.

The End of the Story, winner of the Booker Prize in 2013, was written by Lydia Davis, her first and only novel. She is well-known for short stories. I like short stories so I’m not sure how I haven’t stumbled across her in my reading history. The novel is about a relationship between a 34-year-old woman writer and, as mentioned above, a 22-year-old man.

It is a novel about writing a novel, in a way that with the mechanics laid bare, I found interesting at first but then somewhat painful. What it reminded me of most was Karl Ove KnausgΓ₯rd’s My Struggle of which I only read the first and meant to read the rest. The writing is clear and competent and often elegant, but most of all feels like a direct reflection of the author’s thought process, a detailed and complete, and somewhat cold recounting of a relationship, with all of the author’s thoughts, indecision about what to put in and what to leave out, and a level of forgetfulness of how events actually occurred. ‘There were five quarrels, I think,’ she writes, and tries to decide whether it would be better to conflate events for easier storytelling. ‘I was acutely aware of the smallest sounds in the room,’ she writes. We sometimes get, like in KnausgΓ₯rd’s writing, every detail, every thought.

Although I found this exploration of memory and the writing process interesting, it became less interesting the longer the novel went and actually found it hard to finish, reading about that constant ambivalence. And I felt disengaged with the main story. It’s a relatively short relationship, less than a year, I think, and while the narrator explains that she missed the man afterwards, and was hurt by the breakup of the relationship, her descriptions of him are cold. She’s mostly annoyed with him, distant and admits to treating him badly. She’s not particularly interested in his life outside of their time together. I think it’s about halfway through the book before I finally read a reason why she likes him, a physical attraction and comfort and feeling seen by him, that she got his full attention. She’s honest about it, admitting that she may have felt ‘that I did not have to love him very deeply, or considerately, for him to go loving me’.

But I found this a difficult narrative. Why should we care about the relationship when she didn’t care much for it? How are we supposed to care about her and how hurt she was by the break-up, when neither the relationship nor the man seemed very substantial. Then she becomes a stalker, after the end of the relationship and won’t leave him alone, won’t stop thinking about him, wanting him, calling him. This wallowing in broken-heartedness seems indulgent because he doesn’t seem worth it. He’s barely employable, drifting, happy to use people for his own purposes and not particularly truthful. But then I found it hard to find any sympathy or interest in the narrator for her self-pity, her coldness and her endless churning of thoughts.

It becomes evident that more important than the relationship is the story of the relationship, ‘even though the novel claims to be fiction and not a story about me’. It is about how to write the story, about what is remembered and what is not, what is falsely told and corrected, or left out.

I’m puzzled why this book was so praised and how it won the Booker Prize.

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Book review: David Lebovitz’s Drinking French

Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, ApΓ©ritifs, and CafΓ© Traditions of France, with 160 RecipesDrinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, ApΓ©ritifs, and CafΓ© Traditions of France, with 160 Recipes by David Lebovitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of Lebovitz’s blog and website, and his regular newsletter, having discovered them around the time that I was lucky enough to live in Paris for a few months of time, in two consecutive years. He was an indispensible source of advice for restaurants, bars, food stores and recipes (which I made in Australia, as we never had very big kitchens in our AirBNBs or rental apartments). Moreso, he imbues a sense of adventure, discovery and delight for what to discover in French eating and drinking.

As I’ve been making more cocktails lately, I ordered this book as soon as he announced it, and it arrived, fortuitously, not long before the COVID-19 lockdown. So, I’ve already been making various cocktails and drinks, including some homemade crΓ¨me de cacao, and mixing up drinks with Lillet and St Germain Elderflower Liqueur. I found a bottle of Dubonnet, so that’s the next ingredient on my list.

But it’s far more than a recipe book. His writing style is so engaging, and each recipe is an opportunity to let us know something new about French drinking and cuisine, or the culture. It’s all very romantic, and feels much more real (and authentic) than the whole genre of books about ‘Living in Paris for a Year’ or ‘I fell in love with a Frenchman’. You really feel like you want to hang out and have a drink with him, and I felt terribly envy that I’m not in his home when he’s serving up these drinks … and snacks, as there’s a lovely selection of recipes of food to match up with the drinks.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves Paris and France and anyone who likes a good cocktail. He’s also stirring up cocktails online on Instagram (in lockdown and unable to do a book tour): I’ll have to check it out.

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