Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

1000 Splendid Valium

Write what you know. Better, write what you love.

Thats what a high school English teacher once told me. Funny, the seemingly innocuous details you recall as years go by. Something tells me that Khaled Hosseini must have had the same advice. The native Afghan knows Afghanistan; the history, the people, the details of countless personal tragedies. Obviously he cares and it comes out in every line and chapter; not so much with the sweeping grandeur of masters past but with an urgent, primal talent.

With all the time in the air I've had this month I managed to get through two books, both by Khaled Hosseini. I love his writing style. It is both broad-stroke history and small-village personal. His words have a cadence that build a familiar voice; quietly he describes an everyday situation which will usually end with a sledgehammer sentence, completely changing the course of the story and completely taking you by surprise - over and over again for the first time.

I liked his first, Kite Runner but I loved 1000 Splendid Suns. It is the equivalent of walking through a Holocaust museum; the characters and story are fantastically depressing. Every chapter you expect the ray of sunshine to emerge but every chapter there is more and more heartbreak, less equilibrium and dread that must be equivalent to living in the region during that time. Its not the book I would recommend if you cant compartmentalize, that is if you cant separate yourself emotionally from something at will. I think this is why most people I know who have read 1000 Splendid Suns, didn't like it; they couldn't get out of the emotional cloud to see Hosseini's beauty, which is simply that he feels the need to tell the stories that 1000s of people can no longer tell.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy WhateverYouCelebrate!

I'm off blog for a little bit, see you soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I loved this peasant breakfast dish in Israel. I've made it at home a couple of times and found I like the sauce part on pasta too.

  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 Red Onion, Chopped
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
  • 2 Jalapeños, Seeded and Minced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, Chopped
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 8 Plum Tomatoes, Chopped
  • 4 14.5 Ounce Cans, Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes
  • 1/2 t Hot Paprika or Chipotle
  • 2 t Sweet Paprika
  • 1 t Smoked Paprika
  • 1 t Tumeric
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Pepper, Freshly Ground
  • 2 t Sugar
  • 1 C Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 C Vegetable or Chicken Stock
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • Pita Bread
  • Za'atar (follows)

Heat oil over medium high heat then add onion and saute until browned.

Add garlic, bell pepper, jalapeños and saute for 2 minutes.

Add fresh and canned tomatoes, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

Add paprikas, tumeric, salt, sugar and pepper. Stir and cook for 5 minutes to blend.

Add tomtato juice and stock and bring to a full boil. Reduce to low and simmer until little moisture is left, about 1 hour.

With a large spoon make 5 indentations in the mixture. Crack the eggs into the indentations, cover and cook for 8 minutes or until eggs are set but yolk are not hard.

Spoon mixture and one egg each into bowls and serve with pita.

Za'atar is equal amounts of ground sumac, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. This gets sprinkled over the top.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

47 Years and 5 Lives Later

She was abandoned by her parents when she was 3. A relative took her to a brothel where she was raised by prostitutes. She suffered a 4-year stint of meningitis-induced blindness. After she recovered she was taken by another relative from the brothel to lead an equally bizarre life in the circus. In the circus, at age 13, she first sang in front of an audience. The singing would become her singular passion and her life's work. Through chronic illnesses, mob run ins, abandonment and a tragic affair with a married Moroccan boxer, she would become what was and maybe still is France's most notorious and celebrated singer.

She was Edith Piaf.

I had never heard of her. Of course, that could be because she died before my time. I had never heard her trademark song and the title of the recent Piaf bio film, La Vie En Rose. But after seeing the movie I downloaded some her music. She was fantastic. Not really my style of music, several generations and a language removed, but still, the quality of her voice was amazing.

The film itself is a seductive and stylish production. The actress playing Piaf gave a heartbreaking performance portraying the steely-spined but unraveling artist.

Thanks to ebay and a little insomnia I now own the DVD. I totally admire this woman for living 5 complete lives in her brief 47 years.

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf

La Vie En Rose

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Phoenix Trick

Kevin Costner was really great at some point, the 90's I think. The early 90's. Afterwards he kind of morphed himself into the patron saint of all things razzie. I walked past his latest a few times in the video store thinking, no, there is no way even-tempered, patient, reflective Costner is going to pull off a serial killer. But its exactly those qualities that make him a good one.

I was blown away by Costner's disturbingly calm and detailed portrayal of the "man of the year" with a secret. His ever-present alter ego, egging him on in Fight Club manner, was also expertly acted by William Hurt. Even the oddly cast Dane Cook does a great job as a sloppy, greedy serial killer in training.

The Costner/Hurt team execute their fatal craft in a suspenseful and sometimes darkly comedic way. That is definitely enough to keep you interested. But there's more, much more. There are plot twists that no one in their right mind could possibly predict. Whoever wrote the script was a sincerely twisted soul. I would like to thank them for that.

Mr. Brooks may not be on an award wining level like Dances With Wolves but IMHO its certainly brought Costner screaming out of obscurity.

Mr. Brooks

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hine Ani Ba (Here I Come)

Cousin Marnina kept playing this song from HaDag Nachash in her car. I liked it but couldn't figure out most of the words and the ones I could figure out I didn't understand in context. She said I would understand it after she translated it (which she did below).

Its a song about a guy that moves from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and back. Once you've seen Tel Aviv and Jerusalem back-to-back it makes even more sense, the contrast of the two is incomprehensible.


Yerushalayim a city worth a bang
Walk the sidewalk (the Midrahov - such as the place we had coffee)
Feel like on a kibbutz
Diaspora a thousand cultures
Each has a brother and nine sisters
Arabs ok ultra-orthodox in heder (study room)
Everybody here gets God on a band wave (like a radio)
After Teddy (Kollak the most influential mayor) Yerushalyim declined quickly
From day to day Tel Aviv glimmers more
Friends left or became closer to the creator of heavens
Grey, boring, no sea
Thoughts of leaving
It took me three years to reach the decision
Pack my stuff into a suitcase
From the village to the city going downwards.

Tel Aviv - here I come
I am reaching you - here I come
I am coming to sweat - here I come
Cause you are the only one I swear

I went towards the coast
I am about to be shocked
And now that I am finally in Tel Aviv
Fitting in the scenery everything is fresh and that's good
Wow so many breasts my eyes burn
After two years of Sodom and Gomorra
I can't recognize myself in the mirror
I know everyone, combine with everyone hang with
All of the discotheque owners
Now that I am "in" I understand that it does not glimmer
So much noise, so much smog
Give me grass give me a tree
The whole day is wasted on hello hello
The rent costs a fortune, the humidity drives you crazy
And then the coin dropped (a phrase meaning he understood) I had heaven in my hands
Thoughts of leaving
It took me three years to reach the decision
Pack my stuff into a suitcase
From the city to the village

Yerushalyim - here I come
Back to you - here I come
To your walls (of the old city) - here I come
Cause you are the only one I swear

I came back to Yerushalyim
Here the humus is good that is verified
Give me calm give me quiet
A yawn cant hurt
When is the last time I put a note in the western wall,
Had good food, made new friends
This city will let me regain control over my life
Get mixed in with myself instead of mixing in water
Breath mountain air as clear as wine
Yalla Beitar (soccer team) Yalla the life in the village
The most important thing is to be happy

Here I come

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Red Square

My mom is a very talented artist. I'm still amazed at the pencil sketch she did of my dad back when they were both still in high school. And to think she did that while eating French fries out of Mc Donald's bag and sitting in the sand near the beach in St. Petersburg.

Everywhere I've lived almost all of the paintings on my walls have been my mom's. People compliment. People hire her. Shes good. But modern art has never been her thing. Not that she cant appreciate it, it just doesn't speak to her. So when I asked her to depart from her usual watercolor realism to do a big block modern acrylic, I wasn't sure she would want to attempt. She did. She loves a challenge and learning; modern and acrylic being completely foreign to her.

She delivered over Thanksgiving weekend.

Red Square by Mom


Me like. I like the orange detail she added. She said she wanted to put something in the painting that would abstractly remind me of my trip to Israel. It does!

There will be 5 more of these coming in time, then they will all get moved above the big white sofa.