The Poor Man's Feast Shortlist
What are you reading/cooking/watching/listening to today, Wednesday, November 16th?
Today, items from Joan Didion’s personal collection went up for auction at the Stair Gallery in Hudson, New York. I remember hearing about the auction a while back; I recall wondering what Didion would have written about the event, huddled in the back row, a specter in Celine sunglasses and Loro Piana wrap, making notes. What would she have called it? A feeding frenzy? The opportunity for any person with spare shekels to bring home a favored paperweight, or a set of thirteen blank books, or one of her IBM typewriters. The chance to close the gap between the extraordinary and the mundane, because proximity to fame and skill can always be bought? Why do people do this? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that when I logged into the auction and found Didion’s set of Le Creuset cookware (in Flame, above) for $8,000, tiny beads of sweat emerged on my forehead. The blank books sold for $9,000. Her sunglasses? $27,000.
1- I am currently reading Raynor Winn’s breathtaking The Salt Path, which is leaving me flattened by its beauty; I literally cannot put this book down. I heard my friend Katherine May speak with Winn in September, and ordered the book before their conversation was over. The story is literally about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward in the face of the unknown — in this case, a long-distance walk along England’s 630 mile South West Coast Path. Winn and her husband, Moth —- in their fifties and having been evicted from the homestead where they raised their family after a bad business deal and a lost court battle, and after Moth has been diagnosed with an incurable neurodegenerative disease —- take to the Path in what becomes a life-affirming journey of resilience and revelation. Breathtaking writing.
2- We recently had the lovely legend, Mollie Katzen, here for Sunday night supper, and (yes, Mollie is an omnivore) we fed her one of our favorite dishes: David Tanis’s double duck breasts, massaged with a dry rub of spices and aromatics, left to sit overnight and roasted simply without fanfare or cartwheels. Mushrooms and wild rice, and roasted pepper salad rounded out the meal, which was proof positive that, even in the current state of the world, you can spend an evening together laughing (hard) with someone you’ve never met, and this seems to cure all ills.
3- Because I’m in a Didion state of mind, I watched The Center Will Not Hold, again. Every time I watch it I notice something else in this extraordinary film. I mentioned the Le Creusets, above, but there were was also the collection of copper gratins hanging in her kitchen. When the movie came out, I reached out: would Didion talk to me about food? I was referred to Griffin Dunne and wrote him the same question: would Didion talk to me about food. I’m still thinking about this —- thinking about how we come to know someone in one way and perhaps only that way, and yet that way is the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to know, and so much more to understand.
4- I have been listening to the music of Zoe Keating on repeat; I have been listening to it for a very long time and, if you are a fan of Krista Tippett and On Being, so have you. I finally created a playlist of her astonishing, beautiful work. Accurately called “unclassifiable” in the press, she is a marvel of cello genius who mixes classical technique with an extremely modern gestalt.
Until next week—-