Sunday, January 06, 2008

7 is my lucky number

Yesterday, we received a message from Joanna at Nylon Diner informing us that we'd been tagged for a meme. I promptly made my way to Nylon Diner to find out what the details were and I found the following list of instructions:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I decided to go the "random" route, and though the rules don't specify, I kept things food-related. I also made a point of including a recipe. (You know how we do here at AEB.)

Here goes:

1. Many years ago now I spent about a month in Turkey, a trip that culminated in a 1-week stay in Istanbul. I found Istanbul completely enchanting, but the strangest, most fascinating night that I spent there culminated with dinner at a taverna on a bustling little street--not much more than an alleyway, really--known as the Nevizade Sokak. Back then the street was lined on both sides with restaurant after restaurant--all of them open to the elements on this particular night and all of them with seating spilling out onto the street, leaving only a very narrow passageway through which to walk by and pick your particular taverna. I guess we got there early in the evening, as things go along the Nevizade Sokak, because the scene was fairly quiet when we arrived, but as the evening rolled on things changed dramatically and pretty soon we were witness to the greatest floor show I've ever witnessed. You see, not only were the restaurants now full, filling the night air with the roar of true festivity, but the passageway cutting through the middle of the Nevizade Sokak had been transformed into an absolutely ungodly procession of vendors, hawkers, hustlers, confidence men, prostitutes, and, yes, tourists--utterly bewildered tourists.* They seemed to be selling just about everything--from iced almonds to bus tickets to shoeshines--but stranger still, the food vendors seemed to be operating in symbiosis with the restaurants. In other words, the restaurant management didn't appear to have any problems with their patrons ordering food from passing vendors, it seemed to be understood that you might want to round out your meal with a kebab from one passer-by, a piece of loukoum from another.

Anyway, towards the end of our meal I ordered a bottle of mineral water--not from a passing mineral water vendor but from our waiter--and the mineral water that was brought to me, quite by coincidence, was a bottle of Kinik brand mineral water. I kept the bottle cap and this is what it looks like today.

Kinik sodasi fig. a: Kinik sodasi

2. I once had a collection of t-shirts from restaurants that carried either the name "Anthony's" or "Tony's." Most of them came from the Mid-Atlantic, where I lived at the time and where there happened to be quite a number of "Anthony's" and "Tony's" restaurants, many of which sold t-shirts, for some reason. After a while my friends started helping me out with this quest, and occasionally I'd receive a t-shirt from well outside the Mid-Atlantic. This is the only t-shirt that remains from my namesake collection.**

tony's place tee fig. b: Tony's of Hialeah

3. Back in 1994, I was winding my way along Highway 61, en route from Memphis to New Orleans, when just outside of Vicksburg, MS I came across Margaret's Gro. & Mkt., the most fantastic piece of vernacular architecture I've ever encountered. Margaret's was still a grocery store underneath, and Margaret was still helming the operation, but her friend the Rev. H.D. Dennis had spent the better part of the last 10-15 years transforming her humble roadside store into The House of Prayer, using only salvaged materials. I got a full tour of The House of Prayer and its surrounding campus (including the 50-ft Tower of Prayer) from the Reverend himself.

rev hd @ margaret's fig. c: Margaret's Gro. & Mkt. and Bible Class, the Rev. H.D. Dennis, architect

Inside, the shelves at Margaret's were a little bare and the interior wasn't as elaborately festooned as the outside (the House of Prayer was still very much a work in progress), but that was more than made up for by the New Ark of the Covenant the Reverend had built (again, out of recycled materials) in full anticipation of the Second Coming.

4. I have a small collection of 1930s Chinese posters. Most of them have nothing to do with food or drink, but there are exceptions.

gande price and co fig. d: Gande, Price & Co., Ltd.: Wines, Spirits & Cigars: nice punt!

5. In August 2005 Michelle and I spent a couple of weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area. One day, while rummaging through the loot at a 20th century collectibles store in the Mission District, we came upon a bag of vintage 1960s pins bearing all kinds of vintage Flower Power sentiments that had recently been unearthed in a local warehouse. I figured this was about as good a souvenir as I was likely to find in San Francisco, so I bought a few of these pins for myself and for friends, including "SAVE WATER SHOWER WITH A FRIEND" and "STAMP OUT REALITY," but my favorite one was this beauty.

take a hippie to lunch fig. e: or else!

I'm especially fond of wearing it when I take Michelle out for lunch.

6. Recently I rediscovered my very first venture in food publishing. It appeared in Sunnyvale United Soccer Club Presents Our Favorite Recipes, eds. Wilcox, Ledford, Shaha, and McLaughlin, and today, a little worse for wear, it looks like this.

chocolate mousse fig. f: chocolate mousse recipe

You gotta start somewhere, right? Anyway, I tried it again recently and it works. Thing is, there's an important ingredient missing. I'm sure it was part of the recipe I submitted to the printers (I swear!), but somehow it didn't make it into the published edition. If you can't read my Mom's handwritten annotation, it reads: "1 package of chocolate chips." You don't have to use chocolate chips, of course. Use 12 oz. of any good, dark chocolate. God knows how many people in Sunnyvale attempted to make this chocolate mousse according to the recipe as it appeared. I shudder to think.

Actually, the other thing that's missing is the source (or did the printers leave that out too?) Gourmet? Bon Appétit? Sunset? Nope. If memory serves, the recipe came from that other font of gastronomic expertise, National Geographic World.

7. My maternal grandfather, Freddy--the eldest of 15--was a chef who got his start as a lumberjack camp cook back when he was still a teenager. He eventually moved to Quebec City and there he began to work in the hotel business. He also met my grandmother, Amabilis, there. My grandmother wasn't a cook by trade, but she came from a line of cooks from Havre St-Pierre who'd worked on ships, and she did have a good mind for business. They met in the hotel trade and that's where they remained. They got married, started a family, and in the early '40s when a business opportunity presented itself in Edmundston, NB--then an important regional center at the junction of Quebec, New Brunswick, and Maine, and the so-called "Gateway to the Maritimes"--they relocated. My grandparents owned and operated the New Royal Hotel for roughly 30 years, during which time it was famous across the region for its banquets. This is what it looked like back in its 1960s glory days.

new royal hotel fig. g: New Royal Hotel, Edmundston, NB

One of my favorite photographs of my grandparents is this one, taken not long after they met in Quebec City.

freddy & bilis 2 fig. h: Bilis & Freddy

My grandfather is the one in the middle. Not sure who the woman on the right is, but the doll on the left is my grandmother.

My grandfather being a chef, he tended to do most of the cooking in their household. My grandmother didn't make the widest range of dishes, but what she made she made well. For reasons that I've never fully understood, she never used an oven. She made everything on the stovetop. Even her roasted chicken. It took her a while, but she was patient. My Mom swears it's the best chicken she's ever had.

Today, Epiphany, is my grandmother's birthday. She would have been 100.

And now, passing the torch:

1. My Favourite Things
2. Tiny Banquet Committee
3. You Can't Make Everything From Scratch...
4. Bits and Bytes From Elsewhere
5. Saint Sustenance
6. Word Things
7. The Good Stuff


* This scene apparently originated in the nearby Çiçek Pasaji--the famed Flower Passage--which, by the 1960s, had become a vision worthy of Aragon's Le paysan de Paris.

** Truth be told, my favorite of these was a baby blue "Anthony's Chicken & Ribs" t-shirt that I wore for about a decade. For a while I also owned a matching "NO PARKING Anthony's Chicken & Ribs VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED" sign that someone, um, acquired on my behalf. I didn't keep the sign nearly as long as I kept the t-shirt.


cwi said...

oh, you!

Joanna said...

congratulations - you're the first to complete the task! and very originally too may i add. thanks for participating!

Leigh said...

wow - thats a lot of info - i'll have to get my thinking cap on!

tiny banquet committee said...

I am looking forward to making a list of random things, this afternoon, on my from the desk of Tiny Banquet memo pad.
Chocolate mousse without chocolate - a very fine example of experimental cuisine!

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I looked at the picure first and then looked again. Hey! that's the hotel back home. That hotel was on my way to school, I passed by it everyday.
My wedding reception was held there 50 yrs ago next Friday.It has been many years since I've gone back to Edmundston, wonder if that old hotel is still standing? What you won't see on these foodie blogs, my my!

aj kinik said...

no, you!

thanks--my pleasure!

just let it flow--i'm just glad you're interested

that recipe alone probably helped turn a generation of Sunnyvalers against French cuisine--oops!

wow, that's something! I had no idea I might actually connect with someone who knew the New Royal Hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel no longer stands. It burned to the ground ca. 1980. I think the cause was listed as arson. My grandparents sold the hotel ca. 1970. I think there's been some kind of commemorative plaque since about 1985. My parents' wedding reception was held at the hotel, too.

Small world.

Teri said...

done! thank you for the nudge.

Anonymous said...

so...are you the assistant pastry chef at les chevres?

the fact that you have a touring dessert club is possibly the most amazing thing on earth. I only wish I was a lucky inhabitant of Montreal.

michelle said...

Hi anonymous, I was the assistant pastry chef at Les Chevres while it still existed. RIP. Now I am at Laloux. Feel free to start your own Dessert Tasting Club in your town, wherever that may be. Just make sure you eat something savoury before you go out.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately I live in orange county, calif. honest and delicious food is a rare commodity here. restaurants are more focused on a hipster scene rather than presentation or food quality.
where did you attend pastry school? i'm 17 and am in awe of our current culinary world...any suggestions?

michelle said...

Hello anonymous, I attended pastry school here in Montreal. There are countless programs available in the States, from big-name schools to community colleges. It's worth researching if you are seriously thinking about it. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually looking into somewhere in Canada. My dad's side of the family are all from there and it's always been a desireable place for me, since Canada is a part of my life. Thanks for your suggestions.