If I can speak for most of us, I will make the assertion that our scent has preoccupied most of us consciously at least since we were young teens, and not so consciously since birth. My mother wore Cacherel's Anais, Anais in her early 20's, when she was pregnant with me and later, in the united states, an expatriate, for a few years, for the sake of nostalgia, hungering for her country. When I was around the same age as she was when she was pregnant with me, I was taking a leisurely break from college by living in Madrid, her home city, and I remember being drawn into the palatial marble halls of El Corte Ingles, the Spanish answer to Macy's, in the Sol district. It was winter, and I would venture into the fragrant and warm department store to linger amongst the glass counters whilst their smartly-suited tenders with their hair in tight, high chignons and their sharp, definite noses, scrupulously ignored me.
It was there that I first sprayed Anais, Anais on my white wrists, clammily rubbing them together, taking discreet little snuffs. The scent didn't appeal to me directly, but it unleashed overwhelming feelings in me, confoundedly private while streams of shoppers hustled by me. Anais was and is cloyingly floral, with a strong lilac power that I found inescapably wrong for me, but I couldn't ignore the indistinct nostalgia it evoked in me. Quite simply, it smelled like my mother, but not the one I knew then and now, but the one that lived in our white stucco houses in Miami, amongst the heat and humidity and melancholy. I bought it, not to wear it myself, but because I needed to own this piece of history. Its squat white bottle, wrapped in a pastel band and curling, elusive letters, still sits on my wood vanity table at home in Virginia. Whenever I'm home, I revisit it by spraying it in the air, to be consumed in the private essence of a mother whose youth I never knew, walking through her layers, always marking the scent as one irretrievably sad and lost.
Other scents enter into my early years: the smell of wet mold, cigar smoke, grandmother's cool, mineral-smelling tiles in her kitchen, mingling with cumin and citrus, sunscreen, the heady rich of olive oil, flowering jasmine from the garden of my fenced backyard.
It wasn't until I was 12 or 13 that I reinterpreted scent as important in my self-image; in middle school, suddenly, how you smelled became another element of social paranoia. My scent became public, instead of exclusively personal and self-defined. Partially, it came to signify the greater importance of presentation to others and the myriad repercussions tagging along; another important facet was the fear of being found "unclean" in the early years of becoming a woman, with a woman's smells. A persistent fear came to seize me when I was 13, in public high school, of smelling primal, animalic, and thus, dirty, embarrassing, ill-adept at keeping my body under control at such a crucial time, when the thoughtlessness of childhood had transferred into a painfully heightened consciousness of every aspect of being, transferring into levels of acceptability for others. Visiting my friend Tia's house around that time, I remember being shocked by an odor that pervaded the home, one I could only describe as a combination of raw meat and fusty camphor; ever after, I could smell the faint waft of it on her clothes and it became a secret renewed whenever in her presence, even though I'm sure she wasn't aware of how wierd she smelled to me.
My teenage years' scent history can also be found in the bottles that I saved for and bought in the mall, that important locus of teenage identity. Most of them still remain in variously used states in my bedroom in Virginia. I've never been able to discard them, these unlovely anthropological artifacts of my insecurity. First in my memory is Lancome's Tresor, which strictly, didn't belong to me but my mother and was re-appropriated for my use around 12 years old. It was a very musky, adult scent for a girl, one that I didn't like much then but have grown to enjoy more when I revisited it recently. I cringe a bit thinking about the liberal sprays I enjoyed in the mornings before heading off to middle school, and how I must have stuck out like a sore, old thumb amongst the chemtrails of Tommy Girl perfume my peers seemed to bathe in.
My first real bottle of perfume came later, and somewhat randomly, in that I can't remember how or why I came to it: for 2 years, or 2 bottles, I became enchanted by citrus dominated Ô Oui de Lancôme, with its pretty cut-glass square bottle and the light sparkly florals it evokes. It's definitely a summer fragrance, but I wore it year round. 15 year olds of my milieu all swore to live and die by Clinique Happys and Love's Baby Soft perfume, the latter's appeal understandable: it was sweet, nonthreatening, comforting, it could be bought at the drugstore and its little metal spray bottle could be thrown in a backpack to be accessed throughout the day if your baby powder scent faded. Later came Prescriptives Calyx, which strikes me, again, as a scent whose appeal to me at that age is somewhat mysterious, given what a serious scent it is, though also, like my O, a very green, citrusy one, albeit far stronger and more complex. Later, my senior year, I found Gucci Rush, in its weird red plastic box imaginably supposed to seem futuristic and slick. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I still like the way this smells, though it never fails to remind me of a mall, through no fault of its own. I find the jasmine, vanilla, and base notes of patchouli and vetiver to be an appealingly accessible Oriental, one that I might not buy for myself today, but seeming to get closer to the scents I found through trial and error to form my current perfume identity (more on that in Part 2).
What perfume(s) did you wear as a teenager? Would you still wear them today?
I confess: I ride my bike everyday, and I do it without a helmet. I've been holding out for over 6 months, searching in vain for a bicycle helmet that doesn't bear any likeness to the hot-pink, splatter painted braincase of my 90210-smitten early biking years. Is it too much to ask that this essential item in my daily commutes not invite speculation that a small, gnarled, plastic UFO has landed upon my head or that I'm a rejected Mad Max extra?
Apparently not, if these chic little bike helmets below have anything to say about it.
Where the Bern helmet above is simple and sporty, for a girl who lives in J Crew sweaters and jeans, these Yakka covers have a dashing air, for the girl who rides a little too fast, leaving a trail of Chanel no. 31 and dried leaves in her wake.
The Luzern cover, from the same company, has a completely different feel. Think Dr. Zhivago mixed with a healthy heap of Russian junior fashion editor.
Oh, you thought I'd leave with all these visions of beautiful bicycle safety and no food porn? Mais non!
I've been slurping(and tweaking) this celery soup for a month or so now; it's warm, comforting, and hearty, thanks to the inclusion of a barley mix. The celery pesto that tops the soup is so highly addictive, I can't stop myself from scooping up bites straight from the food processor on hunks of bread for a pre-dinner nosh! The soup can be rendered light and clear, or thickened to a creamier consistency with the switch of one simple ingredient. Perfect for warming up after a brisk bike ride in the autumn.
by Frank O'Hara
blue overhead blue underneath
the silent egg thinks
and the toaster's electrical
the stars are in
"that cloud is hid"
the elements of disbelief are
very strong in the morning.
Frank really does nail it here, doesn't he? For the past few months, I've been waking very early, always before 6am, usually to finish a bit of work, but that's the pale justification. In truth, I've come to relish my early morning rites, the diaphanous blue light beginning to light the sky through the fogged windows,wrapping a light robe tightly around my waist, quietly measuring, spooning, preparing the coffee, the silent reverence of the morning suffusing my every action with a prayer-like contemplation. There is something delicious in the secrecy of the early waking, your only companions the gray birds whispering flight through the trees and telephone wires, just beginning their greetings to the dawn. Even the eggs I palm, preparing for the pan, seem to be transposed from an infinitely mysterious sleep as they suddenly, with a hard crack, yield their gorgeous golden crowns to the morning. Frank (I feel I know him so intimately, I can't call him by anything but his first name) shares my affinity for the "silent egg" in the early morning, but I've included a far more robust recipe, more appropriate to the vigor of a yellow 9am, but also perfect eaten cold and leftover, solitary, on these blue mornings.
Bunch of red-veined kale, spinach, beet greens or whatever greens you prefer
4 organic tomatoes, or (in the winter) 10 sun dried tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Roughly chopped dill, parsley, chives (to taste)
1/2 cup Panko/Japanese bread crumbs
2 TBSP light olive oil
1 TBSP grainy fie mustard
Salt, pepper to taste
Chop tomatoes roughly. Don't discard the seeds and juice! They will add succulence to the frittata. Chop your washed greens finely. Heat frying pan with 2 TBSP oil over low-medium heat and add garlic and shallots, for 3 or 4 minutes, until shallots are translucent. Add tomato, with juices, mustard, and greens. Sautee lightly ( you can work on your crossword puzzle or listen to NPR while the mix warms), stirring ever so often. Now, preheat your oven to the Boiler setting. Crack your eggs in a bowl and stir/whip lightly, with salt and pepper. If you prefer to streamline and are absorbed in other morning things, don't bother to whip the eggs, simply crack the eggs and let them stream out of the shells between your hands, a wonder unapreciated in cooking, then stir to mix the yolk. Add to the pan, mixing a few times. Cook, undisturbed, over low-medium heat, for 5 minutes, or until egg has begun to 'set', ie, appear less liquidy and more wobbly. Add the goat or feta cheese, daubing chunks in little circles around the pan, much like a margarita pizza. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and herbs. Put the entire pan in oven, previously pre-heated to the broiler setting. If you are worried that your pan's plastic handle may not be heat-safe, wrap in 2-3 layers of foil, though it won't be in for too long, and I've never had a problem with this. Let cook in oven for 5 minutes, checking often to observe progress. When the cheese and breadcrumbs are melty and lightly browned (it may take longer than 5 min, given your boiler settings), remove carefully. Let cool, and enjoy a silky, protein rich breakfast. To pump this simple recipe up for a dinner, add cooked pasta(macaronis are best) leftover from a pasta dinner, and a bit more tomato and cheese. No one will ever know how little time this lovely recipe took to whip up!
dream song 4by John Berryman
Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken paprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact that her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her or falling at her little feet and crying
"You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance." I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni. -- Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls. --
Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
--Mr. Bones: there is.
John Berryman's Dream Songs are some of my favorite poems on earth; they narrate the musings of a Henry, who seems to have a constant (invisible?) companion and foil in Mr. Bones. I always imagined Mr. Bones to be a dark glistening raven with wry, flashing eyes. This poem in particular navigates the same social periphery of Eliot's Alfred J Prufrock, but instead of cucumber sandwiches and tea, we have chicken paprika and the wonder of Henry's object of affection, her "compact and delicious body".
And here, we have just as scintillating of a recipe, which is warm and filling and redolent with spice.
1 cup onion, peeled & roughly chopped
1/2 cup carrot, peeled & roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
2 small green chilies, roughly chopped
2 liters veggie stock
1 - 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, ground finely
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander powder,
or seeds, ground finely
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
5 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
Remove from heat and allow to cool until the mixture is merely warm. Pour into a large food processor, and puree until completely smooth and beautifully orange. Return the puree into the stock pot, and add the can of coconut milk, stirring. Season with salt to taste, and warm over medium heat until simmering. Serve with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkle of pepitas.
For the next 7 days, I will be featuring a poem and a recipe, not necessarily anything to do with each other, but perhaps each informing the other in not immediately foreseen a manner, very much like accidentally eating caviar while watching reality television. Otherwise, take from each what you will.
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
Sweet potato merges with rich, fresh goat cheese in this little dish, which makes a lovely appetizer or a decadent breakfast. It can be seasoned to make for a sweet or savory bite, whichever suits your fancy at the moment.
Sweet Potato Beignets with Blackberry Sauce
- 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
- 1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg white
- 1/8 cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Powdered sugar, for garnish
Bake 2 medium sized sweet potatoes in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin crackles. Out of the oven, cut open and scoop out the flesh. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; if using a mixer, use the paddle attachment at medium speed. When the mess has come together into a stick dough, roll into 1 1/2-inch balls (the size of a walnut) and set aside on a plate. They are very sticky, so flour your hands up when forming the balls!
Just before serving, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil (I used canola) in a deep, heavy pot fitted with a deep-frying thermometer to 365 degrees F. If you don't have this device, you can use a turkey thermometer, or heat the oil on medium-high heat for 4 minutes, keeping an eye on the oil to make sure it doesn't smoke or burn. Working in batches, to avoid crowding the pot, fry the balls until golden brown all over, turning with a slotted spoon in the oil to make sure they cook and brown evenly. Between batches, make sure to let the oil return to 365 before starting on the second. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels, patting lightly. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Alternately, for an equally delicious finish, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and serve with tart apple slices and a spinach salad.
To make the blackberry sauce:
Heat 2 cups of fresh or frozen blackberries with 1/4 cup of water in a pot over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of sugar (or to taste, use less if you prefer a tart sauce), a dash of cinnamon, and a vanilla bean(or a teaspoon of real vanilla extract). Let sauce come to a simmer, stirring every so often to keep from sticking. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve warm with the beignets.