“vexatious” peaches and the nostalgic voice

On a tip from a friend, I turned to the Wednesday New York Times greenmarkets column, Bringing it Home, entitled "Ode to a Peach." As my eyes fell on the first sentence, “Peaches vex me,” I knew I was going to settle in on some entertaining reading. The piece, a perfectly lovely little meditation on flavor, home made desserts, domesticity and fetishistic description, had a tone that was immediately recognizable, but a difficult one to define exactly. The author CB, an acquaintance from long ago, is a former long-haul Martha Stewart Living editor and the voice she employs, what I call High Martha, is lyrical, allusive, nostalgic. For me, the writing style in general is gag-inducing but intriguing; I'm simultaneously drawn to it and repelled. It parlays the now-familiar commercial "romanticism" of Ralph Lauren (or even, at another price point, JCrew) that makes one yearn for weathered cedar shakes, heirloom candlesticks with evergreen bobeches and a compound on the Vineyard. I am forced, over and over, to "remember" the succulence of fresh-picked berries and pumpkin carving parties that, oh yeah, I never experienced growing up. This nostalgia for what one has never experienced is the most insidious --and fascinating--aspect. A longing for false memories. It is this tension of being both drawn in and repelled, comforted and disappointed, that leaves me with a faint malaise. It is this nostalgia that almost brings the term's medical origins back to the surface.
In CB's column, the tone has less of the prescriptive aloofness that is part of classic Martha, more "just us girls" :
But the best thing I’ve ever done with a peach isn’t something I’d serve to company, or even to my family. It falls into a category of things I think of as single-girl food, since it reminds me of the quirky indulgences that brightened my days before my husband came into my life....Purchases in hand, I rode the elevator upstairs and entered the remarkable quiet of our empty apartment. I set everything out on the dining table. First, I spread the fromage blanc on the bread, then sprinkled a bit of damp gray sea salt over it. With a little paring knife, I cut a peach into slim slices and laid them carefully on top. Then I dipped an old baby spoon into the honey and let it drizzle onto the peach slices.

A soft halo of light reflects back from that old baby spoon and envelopes the reader in the warmth of... mounting queasiness? Envy? Befuddlement. From whence this style? And I don't mean CB specifically, I mean all of it. The whole precious lot of it. I am guessing-- and I need more research and input here-- that the poetic, metaphorical tumbles of MFK Fisher and the arm-in arm, raconteurism of EB White have been distilled, or better still, left to ferment in the mouthblown heirloom glass decanter of self-consciousness...
I will be mulling this over further. [photos: polo.com; Gerry Manacsa]


Towards a New Architecture: "Bricolagism"

I read this little exchange on Brownstoner (where this image is from) about the particular hideousness of a recent residential development and it's as though someone proved to me that pigs were flying. Is it possible that buildings like this (left) and this are actually designed, on purpose, by architects?
A commenter from the Brownstoner article thought that the designers for this building were a firm called "Brickology" (which, though very wrong, is kind of brilliant). My quick google search for a company I thought might be called "bricology" yielded "bricology.com" which had a very architecturally-oriented definition of bricolage:

bricolage ("brE-kO-'läzh, "bri-):
• construction or something constructed by using whatever comes to hand
• an assemblage improvised from materials ready to hand, or the practice of transforming 'found' materials by incorporating them into a new work
Now I've only recently waded into the pool of Brooklyn real estate gossip and goings-on so it was news to me when I subsequently found out that the firm Bricolage Design existed, and that owner/architect Henry Radusky was already on the "Wanted!" posters. Can it be true that these people named their firm without a trace of irony?
Not sure if BD are the designers of these exemplary instances of (Real Estate) Bubble Architecture but I am fascinated by the notion that Brooklyn is being reshaped by "design with whatever is at hand."
Certainly many lower-end Do-It Yourself renovators appear to be schooled in the art of bricolage -- gleaning random material from the sale-price bin at Lowes. However this is often accompanied by the very sincere intent to improve the building and to display monetary status with the proud proclamation of one's taste. That, in my mind, is DIY-ism: owners/builders mimicking architecture and miming the gestures. DIY-ism is the karaoke of architecture. Most developer-driven real estate has neither the sincerity mitigating the mess nor any of the fun. This particular form of developer-driven architecture is Bricolagism. Architectural pastiche born of witless* economic expediency. Bricolagism is like Post-Modernism without the irony.
(*as opposed to Brutalism which was almost too smart for its own good)


the olfactory of facts*

(a "postcard" from Robert)

Its August in New York, the pavement is fermenting, there's an abundance of what my friend Robert calls, far too evocatively, "curb chowder," so perhaps its not quite
synchronicity that the New York Times had an article about smells in the Real Estate section yesterday.I've been thinking about odors: good, bad, memories related to. The other day I passed a store that exhaled an odd combination of cat 'spray' and a very specific mustiness-- the kind that, to me, indicates old water pipes, a mossy dankness. Immediately a vision of myself at about 6 or 7 with my parents, visiting an aunt in Lynn, Massachusetts, popped into my head. At that time she lived in a very working class neighborhood, in a New England version of a rear tenement: three or four stories, 19th c., wooden. I remember my mother attempting to make tea and recoiling from the ring around the insides of cooking pots left by boiling water. A discussion ensued on the state of Lynn municipal water supply. All this, in an instant, came back to me on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn as I passed that store on my way to lunch. I have several olfactory connections that aren't typical, lyrical associations. Oil-based paint, for one. That will always bring back my grandmother. A small-statured but hefty woman in her early 70s, she was, in my memory, always up on step ladders painting her rooms colors I would never choose but seemed right back then, pale pink, yellow, a soft blue. A certain kind of diesel fuel reminds me of Paris. I was on my first trip there with my parents and we stayed in a small hotel-- the Ideal-- that had an astonishingly tiny--lilliputian!-- elevator that put-putted along on fumes of diesel... This elevator could accomodate 1 slim French person with, perhaps, a baguette. Large American baggage was sent up, unaccompanied, piece by piece.

A "trick" I have that seems so saccharine it belongs in Real Simple is to begin wearing a new perfume at the start of a trip. Thereafter, every detail of that trip--breakfasts, museum highlights, clouds, purchases, persons met--will be contained in that bottle.
I haven't smelled the perfume I wore (I think it was my first bottle of perfume) on that Paris trip in years, but I remembered the commercial!

*see Luc Sante The Factory of Facts


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