We’ve spent some time in a field before; this week let’s revisit that open space: this time with a surreal twist of some kind.
Anna Ådén, Untitled from Autumn Fields series. Photograph. www.imable.se
Rune Guneriussen, Circle of reception, 2011. Photograph. www.runeguneriussen.no
Daniel Gordon, No title from Flying Pictures, 2002. Photograph. www.danielgordonstudio.com
The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings by Nathan Williams (Artisan Books 2013)
I’m going to be honest with you folks: with recently becoming a new homeowner, moving, planning a wedding, and summer chaos in general, I’ve hardly had time to take out the garbage, let alone finish an entire book. My brain has been too scattered (well, more than it’s usual scattered state) to follow the layered plot lines and intricate poetry I normally gravitate towards. I’ve forgiven myself for this, and instead, focus on what I can do. I can keep up with blogs, I can read a literary magazine here and there, and I can devour cookbooks. Yes, cookbooks; one of the other ways I escape and decompress is through cooking. And while a big novel might be too much for my brain right now, a recipe at a time from a cookbook is the perfect amount. Consequently, this is post is dedicated to the culinary literature I’ve been reading. Enjoy.
The Kinfolk Table was given to me by a dear friend, and it shows how well she knows me. Author Nathan Williams writes about community, about finding simplicity in art form (in this case, the art form is food), about telling a story through cooking. I am someone interested in building community around any topic, and am especially interested when communities overlap; cooking, cultural heritage, familial history, writing. All of these communities (and more) combine in this cookbook.
The Kinfolk magazine started the Kinfolk movement, which is a “slow lifestyle” magazine, dedicated to community, simplicity, and quality time with loved ones. With The Kinfolk Table, founder Nathan Williams traveled the world visiting cooks with different backgrounds for their simple recipes. He went to New York, Portland, Denmark, and England to find these recipes and their people. He wrote about each cook he visited with intimacy and respect, and let each cook preface their recipes with a little blurb about where that particular recipe comes from.
There are recipes ranging from the most simplistic (Morning Melon), the “unrefined” but delicious (Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwiches), the alternative (Sweet Potato-Quinoa Burgers), to the unexpected (Kimchi Couscous). The cooks also vary from families to well-known chefs, from clothing designers to florists (not to mention the array of nationalities). Lesson learned? Community can come from the most unexpected combinations.
It’s a beautiful art piece of a book, with simple style, yummy photographs, and crisp, elegant design. It’s a hefty book, although unlike most cookbooks, it’s not packed cover to cover with every imaginable recipe thought of. Instead, it lets the reader in on the narrative, the context behind each cook and their recipes. It’s not just about the recipes; it’s about the experience, the conversation and thoughts around the act of cooking. This balance between culinary imagination and storytelling makes The Kinfolk Table unique and utterly loveable.
Have you ever hit a wall of reading? What did you do to snap out of it? Any cookbooks that get both your culinary and artistic appetites going?
Happy Monday! This morning I’m staring at inanimate objects. Mostly because I’m feeling brain dead, but let’s go with it! Imagine that these objects are sitting in an empty room, moments before your character walks in. Then what?
William Brooker, Still Life in a Harsh Light, 1975. Oil on canvas. York Art Gallery, York, United Kingdom.
Taca Zhijie Sui, Untitled from the Odes… series. Photograph. www.tacasui.com
Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Glass Under the Lamp, 1962. Linoleum cut. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Emily Wilson is a poet focused on minutiae and the undersides of things. The cover of this book is a detail photograph of lichens growing on stones, which is an apt way to think about Wilson’s poems in The Great Medieval Yellows. The epigraph of the book, where the title comes from, refers to the yellow and gold pigments used in medieval painting. “The great medieval yellows,” likewise, are details from a larger work. Wilson’s poems hover over particulars, zooming in as far as possible until the thing itself is blurry and changed.
The major unit of lyric poetry is the line and Wilson uses the line to great effect, focusing the reader’s attention on words and phrases, blurring syntax, and generally confounding the senses. Here, the title poem is helpful to read. It begins:
Massicot mosaic gold
saffron buckthorn weld—
how to get your gilding on
it will not take part in
ruination of the blue.
The general lack of punctuation “welds” the phrases together until one is forced to try to break them up by looking at lines individually. In doing so, specks of color and light begin to emerge in an image that’s difficult to make out. “Eidolon” is operates in much the same way:
Ivory under-throats just
you can see
for the mean
interceptions, pinged, pierced
The sharp language here—“pierced,” “stingers,” etc.—hint at the precision of a microscope.
In Wilson’s previous collection, Micrographia (University of Iowa Press, 2009) includes the phrase “the little-boned / complex underthing,” which seems to be the subject of many of her poems. “Secretive Soil Fauna,” in The Great Medieval Yellows, focuses on fungi and parasites that live in root systems of plants:
of the fungi
I have done
apart no crime
mite and nematode
For Wilson, the microscopic isn’t just a way of looking at something; sometimes it is the thing itself.
Sometimes, though, it’s not enough to scrutinize an image or object; Wilson is also adept at dissecting her medium: the English language. Using words that have changed meaning, or creating her own words, Wilson creates another sort of microcosm:
how is it you
think you can
come in here and
scut the fatty mastics
—“Secretive Soil Fauna”
Here, Wilson uses a late-Middle English verb-form of the word “scut,” meaning, “to shorten.” “Antagonies” and “parsimonies” Wilson created from the words “antagonist” and “parsimonious.” The heavy enjambments in Wilson’s poems force the reader to examine her diction searching for new meanings in these skittish lines.
In “Black Reaction” Wilson could be referring to herself when she writes,
what I’m scanning as
the sum of someone’s
tendered “from nature”
The effect of Wilson’s precision is an indistinct picture, often focused on images “tendered ‘from nature,’” that leaves the reader breathless and wondering. Her “jitter-lines” are like trying to look at something too close that just won’t snap into focus. In this way, Wilson’s voice is singular and kaleidoscopic, which is to say bright and shifting.
What other writers are stretching the uses of their language and phrasing?
Editor’s Note: This is the last (and fiftieth!) What We’re Reading review from our dear Timothy Otte, aka Chief Ampersand. Timothy is leaving his Hazel & Wren duties to further pursue and focus his own writing career. As an organization devoted to helping writers along their path, we feel that is the perfect reason to say goodbye. We will miss him terribly (as we’re sure you will, too), but we wish him all the very best writing, reading, and doing great things. You can follow him on the interwebs here: www.timothyotte.com. Timothy, thanks for being our very first believer in this adventure called Hazel & Wren. xoxo, Hazel & Wren