Thing Of The Week: LJ's Vouvray, A Glass of Champagne with a Shot of Chambord

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: My Vouvray. My Vouvray! 

I wrote a wine list! And not just, like, for fun: it was work, or rather, "work." Work goes in the quotes there because it was really, barely work, as what I know work to be- it was definitely the most fun I've ever had doing something someone was paying me to do. I really want to figure out a way to swing "only writing wine lists" as being my job- I don't want to be a sommelier, since sommeliers have to polish glasses, and I ain't got time for that. I just want to swoop into every restaurant in the world, write them a magnificent wine list, and then swoop out as quick as I came, never to be seen again. Is that a thing? Can I make that a thing? I want to be that, and then also be "Kanye West's personal wine consultant," and "a novelist who lives on a vineyard." Let me know if you have any suggestions for how I can turn these dreams into a reality AKA do you know Kanye? Please tell Kanye about me. 

I suppose that "writing an actual wine list for a functioning, operating restaurant" is a good first step on the road to becoming Yeezy's swoopy wine guru. It's a really sick wine list, but it's also very functional, and only about 3% self-indulgent. Too many wine lists in this world are just a big chaotic mess of some crackpot sommelier jerking himself off. Nobody wants your weird wine that tastes like basement, loser! I'm the people's sommelier. You can't ask every single person in the world to care deeply about wine, or even care at all; I want the people to have chill, delicious wines that taste like fruit and get them drunky drunk, and then they can try out the weirder, cooler shit if they're balling harder than usual or feeling a little experimental that day. I judge the excellence of a given wine list by the quality of their house white and red. It's about a billion times harder to find a solid, good value house wine then it is to curate a list of sexy and expensive stunnas. 

No disrespect to sexy and expensive stunnas, though! When I started working on my list I had a vision of what I wanted my sexiest, most expensive stunna to be, and then I found it: it's my Vouvray. My Vouvray is called "Cuvee Pere Lucien," which means "My Dad Lucien's Cuvee," which is cool. Lucien is such a good name for a dad who you named your Vouvray after. Lucien's Vouvray tastes like honey, straw, macadamia nuts, chantilly cream, steel, and flowers; according to the Internet, it also tastes like quinces, but I have my doubts about that. Anytime a tasting note says a wine tastes like quinces, I'm like "Shut this down, you're making shit up." Nothing tastes like quinces. Quinces taste like nothing. 

Last week, I had a bottle of my Vouvray that I took home from a wine tasting and every night I'd get home from work and pour myself a generous, restorative glass of it, which I would then proceed to drink "with great ceremony." There is no wine in the world more expressly tailored to my palate than my Vouvray, and I have decided that I am going to start buying my Vouvray by the case (I get to buy my wine at cost now BITCHES), so that I can drink a restorative glass of Vouvray every night of my life. I know there are people in the world who would argue against drinking your favourite wine in the world every single night of your life, but I'm really not afraid of "ruining" Vouvray for myself; worst case scenario, I'll get a little bit sick of the Vouv, switch over to exclusively drinking my second-favourite wine in the world (a white Burgundy, no doubt) for a couple months, then get back on the ole Pere Lucien once my palate has been effectively cleansed. You just can't live your life sitting around drinking crap wine when the Vouvray of your dreams exists and is accessible to you. What if you died in the middle of drinking a crap glass of wine? You'd be filled with regret! If you died in the middle of drinking a glass of Vouvray, you'd die happy. Or I would, at least. 

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEK: Gregg Araki's New Short Film, A Glass of Champagne with a Shot of Chambord

Gregg Araki made a short film for Kenzo's fall/winter line and it's my second-favorite Gregg Araki movie after Smiley Face. It's a mini teen soap opera set in some bad year like 1996 and it's got glitter eyeshadow, Slowdive, a flying cheeseburger, a joke about Silver Lake, a boy named Dark, a coffeehouse that looks like every coffeehouse I ever went to in the bad year of 1996, grunge clothing, a nun. My favorite line is: "Is it possible to be so sad that your brain actually melts?" I want it to be a TV show, or at least 10 more little movies. This is it:

And these are my other Things of the Week:

-On Sunday my friends and I saw Magic Mike in the special part of Arclight where they let you drink in the theater. I got one of the cocktails made especially for the movie, a glass of champagne with a shot of Chambord. It was called The Main Event, and there was nothing transcendent about drinking it, but I appreciate the poetry of "glass of champagne with a shot of Chambord" and also of mixing champagne with a liqueur made of raspberries and vanilla and cognac. Whoever thought that up is a sweetie pie and very much attuned to the spirit of Magic Mike and its big cute heart.

-This is actually a Thing of a Few Weeks Ago, but look at the wine I drank on the Island Queen ferry from Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard last month:

It's a little plastic mini-carafe with a gold foil top that you peel back, like Yoplait - only so much better than Yoplait, because it's wine and you're on a boat to Martha's Vineyard where you'll eat a clam roll and visit the Flying Horses and the gingerbread houses and the classic Strawberry Fields Whatever haunts Our Market and Book Den. I'm truly considering buying a case or two of Copa Di Vino so that "drinking chardonnay from a mini-carafe with a gold foil top" can be this thing I do at parties, so that every party is an Island Queen party.

-Last night I went to see Morris Day & The Time at Santa Monica Pier. After Magic Mike, it was the second most outrageously joyful thing I experienced this week. At one point between songs Morris explained how if you take a bottle of champagne from the fridge and set it out on a hot day, the moisture on the bottle will start to condensate, because that's what happens when you're cool from the inside out: you condensate, not sweat. Later on when Shaz and I were waiting for the valet at Loews Hotel, Morris Day walked past us in his sparkly suit, drinking a can of soda, accompanied by a hot woman and a little kid whom he addressed as "buddy." I don't know, it was just really nice for me to hear Morris Day call a little kid "buddy"; it was sweet and made me feel like the world's a sweet place. On the way home I got weirdly lost and ended up in Bel Air and then in the tunnel in Less Than Zero where Blair hits the coyote. I also drove through the Valley, Griffith Park, Venice, West L.A., downtown, other places, and got home and reread the coyote part of Less Than Zero, which I'd underlined for teenage reasons I don't remember:

Probably I just liked how L.A. sounded tragic and evil. L.A. is absolutely tragic and evil, but it's also not, it's nine million different things and I love how there's no way I could ever get to know all of them.


Happy Birthday, Mick Jones! With Love, Liz & LJ


I don't ever want to objectify the Clash, but I can't talk about why I love Mick Jones without talking about his body, his face, his teeth, his hair. I love Mick Jones and I love the way he looks, the kind of skinny that I bet feels bad on his bones, his pasty bug-eyed face, his snarly black hair-cloud, his mouth that's usually hanging open, like he's some goofy kid whose mom or grandmom should have told him a long time ago: Close your mouth, Michael; we are not a codfish.*

By and large, codfish-mouthed is not a great look for a man, or for anyone: it's unbecoming. But for Mick Jones it really works, it suits him. From Viv Albertine's book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys and from the Slits song "Ping Pong Affair," we know that teenage/just-past-teenage Mick Jones loved glam rock and comic books and got picked on by other boys for his weird clothes and weird hair. And while I know that glam rock and comic books probably weren't very unique things for odd boys to escape into back in the mid-1970s, I like the idea of Mick's codfish mouth having lots to do with his dreaming other worlds, hearing songs in his head, semi-forgetting everything around him. He's happily lost in himself but also looking out for anyone who might mess with him; he's fanciful but scrappy, a Dickensian orphan who bought a lot of Who and Yardbirds records and got really good at guitar. So to me the codfish mouth gives Mick kind of grace and magic power.

It's totally hokey and disgustingly romantic, but I love the idea that the thing that makes you a misfit can also make you lovely. And I think Mick Jones is lovely. I think it's so cool, in an almost completely uncool way, the way he moves around. The way Mick Jones "comports himself." So much of what I love about him is encapsulated in that video of the Clash in Munich in 1977:

Everything about Mick in Munich is perfect to me, but I'm especially passionate about:

-his dance move of marching/stomping up and down the stage, sometimes while making his shoulders shimmy

-that goofball stag-jump he does on the last note of "London's Burning"

-awkward finger-snapping mid-"Police and Thieves"

-stupid Pete Townshend-y whatever-y windmill thing

-every single second of the backstage scenes, which mostly involve Mick complaining about hating Germany, just bitching away in his cute quacky voice. He looks so good drinking his Coke, lighting his cigarette, messing with his hair, handing out plastic forks. Holding up his own plastic fork and staring into the camera, hatefully. I don't relate to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I don't relate to being one of the best-looking people in all of world history, and I definitely don't relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper" - but I do relate to being the kind of person who smiles easily but also has total bitch tendencies, so I guess that's a huge part of why Mick's always been and always will be my very favorite.

More than that, I love Mick for writing lots of songs that I would rather die than live without and for singing in what Viv Albertine always calls his "sweet, soft voice," for being one of those boys who sings without ever losing his accent.

My favorite Mick-sung Clash song is probably "The Card Cheat": the melodrama of it all speaks right to my heart. "Up in Heaven" and "Hate and War" are runners-up, though they both come in after "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Lost in the Supermarket," which I've loved since I was a cutely and luckily Clash-aware child so they automatically beat out everything else. And a few months ago I changed my alarm clock to wake me up to "Jail Guitar Doors," because I really liked the idea of Mick Jones counting off the start of my day - but then it turned out to be way too aggressive, and so now I wake up to "Strawberry Letter 23."

And "Train in Vain" is somewhere in my "Mick Jones-Clash top 10" too: I think it's fantastic that Mick Jones responded to the lyric "Typical girls stand by their man" in a way that ignores the joke and takes on this sulky attitude that's saved from being repellent by virtue of the fact that it's Mick and he's not sulky, he's sensitive. He's a Cancer and a cute dad and when I was 13 I bought a tape of The Globe by Big Audio Dynamite and it was the first weird music I ever loved. Mick Jones was such a nice ambassador into loving weird shit; because of him I knew that you could get into something different and strange and sometimes dark and still be a goof, an easy smiler. The awareness of that still means everything to me today.

*This is actually a line from the movie Mary Poppins, but it works because Mick Jones's name is Michael! I love at the beginning of "Rudie Can't Fail" when Joe Strummer says, "Sing, Michael, sing," and then Mick Jones sings. Do you think Joe called Mick "Michael" a lot, but only in certain important moments, and no one else ever called Mick that, and it was this cool special thing about them? I hope so. I hope that's true. I really get so romantic about the Clash.

LJ: Unlike Liz, I relate very much to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I even kind of relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper"- I mean, obviously I'm not a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper," but if I woke up tomorrow and was, it wouldn't really surprise me. I relate to Mick Jones only slightly more than I relate to being one of the best-looking people of all world history, but that has ever stopped me from deeply appreciating Mick Jones. You can't only love people you relate to. That would be so boring. 

It was my thirtieth birthday two days ago, and I decided to spend my birthday afternoon wandering around my neighbourhood and listening to music on headphones (because what else really is there). I made myself a birthday playlist named "dirty thirty," which included: every single Buddy Holly song, Zanzibar by Kritty, Miss O'Dell by George Harrison, and all the Mick Jones-i-est Clash songs I love best. I put Magnificent Seven on my mix, which isn't very Mick Jones-y as far as Clash songs go, which helped me have the very important thirtieth birthday revelation that my new life concept for being thirty is to be the human embodiment of the part in Magnificent Seven where Joe Strummer yells out "What have we got?" and then the rest of the Clash yell back, "MAGNIFICENCE!"- actually, I think it's Joe Strummer himself who yells back "MAGNIFICENCE," but in my head I like to imagine that it's Mick. I think if I could make up any dream relationship for myself and Mick Jones to share, it would be the two of us existing in an eternal state of me asking him what we've got and him yelling back "MAGNIFICENCE!" 

(Awww! It fills my heart with joy just imagining it.)

A few months ago, when my boyfriend (who is definitely A Mick) and I were looking for a new flat (but mostly I was looking for a new flat, because looking for a new flat's the exact kind of thing I live to be a control freak about), I thought we were going to move to south London, which is where Mick Jones is from. My first flat in London was near Holloway, which is sort of close to where Ray Davies grew up, and while I was living there I felt like every moment of my life was imbued with a really Ray Davies-y spirit, which was cool but sort of dismal, really, since The Ray Davies-y Spirit falls dangerously close to the most depressing aspect of The Laura Jane Faulds Spirit on the A Given Person's Spirit scale. So I had this idea in my head that when I moved to south London my life would become very Mick Jones-y, very boppy and pragmatic and positive, and I was really excited about that. I looked at a flat on a street called Adelaide Avenue in Brockley, across from a gorgeous sprawling park, and in my head I wrote a song called Adelaide Avenue from the made-up perspective of the main character in my novel, and felt really stoked about how cool my new Mick Jones-y life on Adelaide Avenue was going to be. But then we never moved to Adelaide Avenue, because the flat was dingy and out of the way and not very good value for money. "Cute street name" and "reasonably close to the neighbourhood where Mick Jones grew up" are just not solid enough reasons to justify moving into an expensive shithole. 

Around that time, I too read Viv Albertine's memoir, which I didn't like very much. There was this really excruciating part set in, like, 2004 (such an unromantic year!) about how she almost cheated on her husband with Vincent Gallo but then didn't; it made me feel like the world was a really terrible place. I was only really in it for the Mick Jones anecdotes, which were plentiful, and beautiful. My favourite Mick Jones part of Clothes Clothes Clothes Blah Blah Blah Etc. goes 

"Mick is that person in a band- and there's always one- who does all the organising, who takes the pain and the losses of the band to heart, who lives, breathes, and would die for the band."

Viv then goes on to describe Mick Jones as being "in the hall, on the phone for hours and hours every day"- she thinks that he's "having relationship problems, probably breaking up with someone," but it turns out he's just, like, sorting out gigs for his band. I really, really love that detail. It's very Paul McCartney-y of Mick Jones. I love Mick Jones so much for being the Paul McCartney of the Clash, because where would the Clash even be if they hadn't've had a Paul McCartney? Certainly not world-famous, that's for sure. 

All in all, I fucking love Mick Jones. I guess if I had to pick one Mick Jones song to be my Mick Jones song to end all Mick Jones songs, I'd have to go with Stay Free; it's so sentimental, and I love sentimental art. The other night I was Skyping with my Dad and drinking the most gorgeous Mercurey Blanc in the world as it turned into my thirtieth birthday, and I was talking about how I'd recently read and loved Boyhood by J.M Coetzee, which is one of the least sentimental books I've ever read. It impressed the hell out of me, but I definitely resent J.M Coetzee for being too cool to be sentimental about his childhood, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel about Stay Free by the Clash. There is nothing in the entire world that I resent less than Mick Jones' romanticisation of smoking mentholated cigarettes as a young teen. Literally nothing. 


Champagne was my drink in the spring



My mother came to visit at the beginning of May, and I took her to the place I used to work at. The fine-dining place. I’d made the booking back in March, back when I still worked there. I knew that I was leaving and I was looking forward to leaving but it was still my home then, or a home at least, and I wasn’t scared of leaving, but I wanted to know that I’d come back. And then time passed, and I moved forward very quickly. I didn’t care if I ever went back or didn’t go back. I wanted to cancel my booking- I didn’t want to force my mother to spend that money on something I cared so little about. And things with my sommelier, my enemy, had ended on an even sourer note than I’d expected. He yelled at me at three in the morning, it was a really dark emotional thing for him, just the two of us alone in the restaurant. He asked me a weird, negative question, I forget exactly what it was but I think it was either “Do I look like a fool?” or “Do I deserve to be treated like a fool?"
        I can’t remember what I said exactly. I think I just said, “No?”
        I haven’t spent a single moment of my life mulling over what might have been a cooler, sassier answer to his question. No point in forcing myself to remember it, remember myself wriggling out from the confines of his perfunctory goodbye hug. The point is that I wriggled out. The next morning I wrote him a text about hating him and then never sent it. And then I pretty much forgot.
        He made me feel small, he was very rude to me, the kind of sexist you can’t quite put your finger on; I think they engineer it that way, so you can never call them on it. He lived to question my palate; he never thought any wine I thought was off was off, even when it was off. Sometimes it was so obviously off. But what can I really do about it? Any of it? The older I get, the more I’m beginning to understand that no one’s really evil. Some people just hate themselves, and it’s too sad to think too hard about. Imagining how horrible it must be, scurrying about like a little rat in a cage, scratching things and eating wood chips and spitting out a wood chip. Squeaking and/or ralphing out or up any imbecilic bundle of rude words that happens to enter your mind, just to take the pressure off yourself. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many of those bundles, those furballs, more times than I could count. I hate a lot of things but none of them are me. And they can smell it on me.
        We went anyway. I was too lazy to cancel my booking, and there was nothing really else to do. Having people come visit tends to clarify how boring and pointless cities actually are. The only London-specific thing I’m really passionate about doing is wandering around and looking at houses but it doesn’t really translate. It’s an obvious one-person activity. When people come visit, all you can really do is shop and eat and drink and go on the London Eye. We went on the London Eye, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. It’s formally known as the “Coca-Cola London Eye.” My mom was scared to go on the London Eye and I said “Come on, come on, please, it’ll be fine,” and then I turned out to be the one who got scared on the London Eye. I knew we weren’t going to die but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of just hanging there, and I felt stuck there, suspended in this cold little pod with nowhere to move or pee or buy a drink. I sat on the bench in the middle of the pod and listened to The Beatles sing Words of Love on my headphones and it calmed me down the way aromatherapy or clutching a crystal’s supposed to and the wheel hit its highest point and and I got over my fear; for whatever reason, going down went down way easier than coming up.


The Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet: Special Sisters-in-L.A. Edition


My little sister Carly came to visit in the middle of May; she was here for a long weekend, the main purpose of her visit being our trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where we saw Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey. Here is everything we ate during her visit. 

Carly got in at like midnight on Thursday and Friday morning we went to Republique for breakfast. For breakfast dessert - but the kind of dessert that comes before the actual meal - we split a chocolate bomboloni and a peach raspberry pistachio danish thing. The bomboloni was adorable, a perfectly spherical donut filled with chocolate pudding, but the danish was the true star. If you look at the photo above, you'll see that its center is basically an entire half of a huge fat peach. I don't know where Republique's getting their peaches from, since the peaches I've bought at the grocery store so far this year are all so puny. Probably Republique gets their peaches from peach heaven.

For my actual breakfast I ordered the Walter's Favorite: a hot baguette and a little pot of poached eggs, plus coffee and orange juice. I didn't even like the eggs that much - I don't like poached eggs, I don't get why I ordered them - but what's important is I loved them, just for being so weird and beautiful. My plan of attack was to tear off a chunk of bread and dip it into the egg pot; it was a nice little game to try not to run out of bread before the eggs were all gone. In Walter's Favorite and in life, I get a lot of inspiration from Albert the badger in Bread & Jam for Frances and his finesse in making "the sandwich, the pickle, the egg, and the milk come out even."

After Republique we went to LACMA, where we saw that fantastic Chris Burden piece with the miniature cars and lots of photos by Larry Sultan (including this picture from "The Valley" series, which was my favorite). Then we walked up Fairfax and went to Farmers Market for a little snack (chips + guacamole from Loteria, plus beer from the Farmers Market bar). The overall theme of this edition of the Strawberry Fields Whatever Diet is "Places I love but hardly ever go to + places I've always wanted to try but never have, for some reason," and Farmers Market fits into neither of those categories. I love Farmers Market and I go there all the time, ever since I wrote my "To Anthony on His 50th Birthday" post three years ago. One of my favorite things is to go there on a Sunday, get a pint of strawberries and a pint of beer, go up to the secret little room in the upstairs eating area, and then drink beer and eat strawberries and write. That is me in my element.


Thing of the Week: The Day LJ Went to Marc Bolan's House, The Vegetarian Epicure, Fabulous Fake Food

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEK: The Day I Went To Marc Bolan's House

I went to Marc Bolan’s house on Monday. I was in a mopey mood for no real reason, just for love of the mopeyness game. I wondered if maybe I should save my pilgrimage to Marc Bolan’s childhood home for a less mopey day, but then I decided to just suck it up and be mopey on the day I went to Marc Bolan’s house. Whatever. I wore heels and a trench coat and big sunglasses and tried to throw some shade. I didn’t want to throw shade at people, and I certainly didn’t want to throw shade at nature. I guess I just wanted to quietly throw shade in general. And I think I succeeded.

Marc Bolan is from Stoke Newington, which is where I now live. He lived at 25 Stoke Newington Common from when he was born on September 30, 1947, until 1962. I don’t know what happened in 1962 that made him move away. I’m assuming his family just moved to another house, since that’s what people do. I moved too.

According to my Citymapper app, Marc Bolan’s childhood home is a twenty-seven minute walk from my house, but I made it in twenty-one. Citymapper underestimated me. I guess it doesn't want to make slow walkers feel bad about themselves. 

I listened to Electric Warrior and The Slider on shuffle as I walked. Telegram Sam came on, and I started to perk up a little. Then Life’s A Gas played, and I perked down, in a good way. It’s about as sad as a song called Life’s A Gas could be while still managing to successfully communicate the fact that life’s a gas. The first line, “I could have loved you, girl, like a planet,” really murders me, right off the bat. I don’t understand how any girl could ever have been stupid enough to reject Marc Bolan’s love. (Like a planet! What a cool way to love somebody.) During Life's A Gas, I realized that I am almost exactly the same age Marc Bolan was when he died. Marc Bolan died fourteen days before his thirtieth birthday, and that day was twenty-four days before my thirtieth birthday. I felt so sad to realize what a short and unsatisfying life length poor Marc got stuck with, but also grateful to comprehend the duration of his lifespan so accurately, so viscerally. Moments later I spotted a snappy green sports car, which I think Marc Bolan would have liked. It motivated me to listen to Jeepster and really hype out to “Just like a car, you’re pleasing to behold,” which is such a hot and creative thing for a jeepster to tell a girl he’s got a crush on. Marc Bolan had a lot of game, in my opinion.

Eventually I got to Marc’s house. It was meaningful, but not life-changingly so. It was medium-meaningful. I thought, I spent the first half of my twenties constructing meaningful experiences for myself to live out— I’m going to go to X place and listen to X song at X time while wearing X outfit and eating X and it's going to be soooooo X— and then the second half of my twenties condemning my early-twenties self for so desperately trying to create something out of nothing. I’ve spent the past five years of my life confronting the meaninglessness of everything and relishing in it, in doing so forcing meaninglessness to take the place of "meaningful-ness", which was defensive of me. Now I’m thirty (more or less) and I don’t expect anything to be meaningful, though if it is, that’s great. And if it’s meaningless, there’s not much I can do about it, so whatever. That’s maturity, I guess, for me: just letting things be. "Let It Be Medium-Meaningful," that's my new life-motto. 

It was a cute house, but nothing too special— Stoke Newington is basically the cute house capital of the world, and I would put Marc Bolan’s childhood home in maybe the forty-fifth Stoke Newington-house-cuteness percentile. I’d ripped a white flower off a bush to leave at Marc Bolan’s front door as a way of saying thank you to the Universe for giving me Marc Bolan but by the time I got there I’d forgotten about it. It died in my pocket and when I found it a few hours later I felt guilty for killing it for no reason.

I sat on a bench on Stoke Newington Common and listened to the T.Rex song Main Man. I got it confused with Ballrooms of Mars; I’d wanted to hear Marc Bolan sing “John Lennon knows your name and I’ve seen his,” but instead I got to hear Marc Bolan sing “As a child, I laughed a lot/ Now it seems I cry a lot/ Oh, tell me true/ Don’t you?” which was probably better. I imagined baby Marc Bolan frolicking around that very park, and decided that Marc Bolan must have been the kind of kid that grown-ups constantly congratulated for having "such a good imagination!" I was a “good imagination” kid too. Adults praise the hell out of little kids for having such fabulous fucking imaginations but once you grow up, they stop caring. All us good imagination kids are just supposed to convert our imaginations into business acumen or social media savvy or whatever, and it’s really unfair, because imagining things is my skill. Marc Bolan was the dreamiest, most poetic sweetheart ever to grace the face of rock & roll. He stayed a good imagination kid forever.

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEKThe Vegetarian Epicure

My gym is next door to a Goodwill. Yesterday morning I was leaving the gym and saw that Goodwill had set out a bargain-book table, so I popped in to check it out, and ended up buying a copy of The Vegetarian Epicure for $1.25. It's a cookbook from 1972 and it's by Anna Thomas who, in her author's note, self-describes as "strongly committed to the women's liberation movement and involved in its activities." I love Anna Thomas. I love her book. It's very cutely illustrated, and overwritten in a way that I can really get behind. For example, here's a paragraph from her intro to the "Vegetables" section:

"The vegetables presented to you believe wholeheartedly in their own importance. They combine smartly with eggs, cheese, and one another; they are on intimate terms with herbs and spices, and you will find them frequenting the tastiest crusts and custards. Certain of them are capable of gently dominating the table, alone or in discriminating combination with other glories. All are prepared to please you."

She's such a poet about eggs too. A few months ago I listened to Brian Koppelman interviewing Ivan Ramen, and Ivan Ramen said something about how "People who don't like eggs need to reflect," and I've seriously thought about that sentence every day since I first heard it. Anna Thomas would agree with Ivan Ramen about eggs and reflection, I feel. Here's some of her cool egg thoughts:

"The humble egg astonishes us with its versatility. It binds together, puffs, lifts up, thickens, enriches, makes smooth, and makes strong - all this when its simple beauty would alone earn our admiration...To some great dishes, it is soul and substance: custards would not exist without it, nor would crepes, or mousse...a serious thought."

And, on souffles:

"It is its ephemeral nature that is responsible for the mystique of the souffle. Brought to the table straight from a hot oven in the full glory of its lofty architecture, it lasts only for a choice moment of drama and acclaim. Then it must be eaten at once or it will disappear of its own accord. Thus a sweet excitement climaxes the dinner, and not lasting long enough for reconsideration or ennui, the airy souffle leaves a more intriguing memory than sturdier fare."

I also like when she throws shade in the "Eggs" section recipe for Parsleyed Eggs on the Half Shell, writing: "I have known this elegant and simple dish ever since early childhood and, as a consequence, when I first was exposed to American-style deviled eggs, I found them painfully plebeian by comparison." Anna Thomas really tells it like it is.

I don't like this guy, the "Rice and Other Grains" guy. I feel like he's the stuffy, no-fun version of "France George Harrison" that I wrote about in our Top 5 Hottest George Harrisons Ever post earlier this year. When I first saw this drawing I was going to make a big deal about how "Rice and Other Grains" dude is the George Harrison of The Vegetarian Epicure, but I pretty quickly realized that (a) George Harrison's personal style is way too on-point to ever grow such awful facial hair, and (b) George Harrison is way too cool a human to ever pretentiously use chopsticks while eating a bowl of rice in lotus pose. This guy is maybe the "random Jethro Tull member" of The Vegetarian Epicure, at best.

But I love this guy! He's so terrible at eating his pasta. What a trainwreck. Imagine if you cooked a plate of spaghetti for a dude and that was how he went at it? I like how the woman's expression is all "Oh, umm...okay, yeah - cool." Maybe she's about to teach him how to twirl up his spaghetti in a nice little fat bundle, using a big spoon for support - a la Cher in Moonstruck, aka the most beautiful spaghetti-twirler there ever was.

Speaking of romance, I like this bit from the "Pasta" section intro: "It is well represented in restaurants, but most Italians, understanding the delicate nature of the art, wisely partake of their pasta at home. Follow their example. Remember how wonderful is the privacy of home, even when shared with friends, for such a voluptuous activity as the eating of pasta." That's a cool point, although I'm of the opinion that spaghetti should absolutely be eaten in public. On my birthday last year I ate spaghetti in a bar, and I think it'd be great if everyone ate spaghetti in bars all of the time.

The most exciting part of the "Curries and Indian Preparations" section is when Anna Thomas lists off potential items to include in the condiment tray for curry dinner, such as:

-apricot halves broiled with anise
-baked grapefruit with sherry and cinnamon
-deviled almonds
-peach halves stuffed with seasoned cream cheese
-stewed gooseberries
-spiced eggs
-pickled walnuts
-pickled mushrooms
-preserved ginger
-shredded coconut
-soaked raisins
-lemon, lime, or grapefruit peel
-green olives

Apricot halves broiled with anise! I haven't eaten Indian food in a thousand years. I want to go to Paru's and drink iced water from a copper cup and white wine from a carafe and get the Queen Paru for dinner and the Bombay Punch for a dessert drink. Paru's is one of my fave Los Angeles restaurants, I just decided. I love how you have to ring the doorbell to get in.

My main point about the artwork accompanying the "Sweets" section intro is that I'm really into how all the people in The Vegetarian Epicure illustrations have this melancholy air about them. Though maybe they're all just very much deep in thought, meditating on the splendor of their foods. As for the text, my favorite "Sweets" moment is in Anna Thomas's recipe for galub jamun. She describes the dish as "a very special sort of Indian sweetmeat, with an impossible fragrance: roses and saffron...It will always be greeted with a chorus of 'What is it?!'" I can't see these four duds speaking anything in chorus, but maybe the guy in the vest and ascot would pipe up. I also like the babe in the starry skirt, and of course that four-layer strawberry cake is just to die for.

In the intro to "Holidays, Traditions, and Some New Thoughts," Anna Thomas has lots to say about rethinking holiday meals. She tells this big long story about some Thanksgiving she hosted, which sounds crazy and like heaven:

"That meal began, amid genial toasting with a venerable, ruby-red Margaux, with Roast Chestnut Soup - a rich and mellow liquid, flavored with red wine and cognac, it emerged as instant tradition with us. Gracefully following it was Curried Lentil and Tomato Salad in pineapple boats. The third course consisted of crisp Almond Croquettes bathed in creamy Bechamel sauce, accompanied by Cranberry-Cumberland Sauce and Potatoes in Wine. Chilled Cider-Spiced Apples ended the first part of that debauch. Four hours later, in a mood of lackadaisical hilarity, we had some pumpkin pie, coffee, and a ceremonial pipe."

Potatoes in wine! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I like how Anna Thomas is all wink-wink about getting stoned on Thanksgiving. Classic Anna Thomas. And that's fantastic about the ruby-red Margaux - Ken Cosgrove'll have a snort!

And at first I just wanted to include this picture because the cat looks like my cat, but then I realized that the woman looks kind of like me, too. So, here I am, guys. Hi. I'm making a menu for dinner tonight. Come over for almond soup and potatoes romanoff and Russian vegetable pie and chestnut souffle and spoonbread and tomato rabbit and apple pudding and raspberry fool and everything.

JEN'S THING OF THE WEEK: Fabulous Fake Food

I had the opportunity to walk through Eclectic/Encore Props in Long Island City last night. I fell in love with the entire place, which is a warehouse/wonderland filled with props. Furniture. Cups. Armor. Crystal Balls. Abraham Lincoln busts. Religious statues. Chairs. So many chairs. Most importantly,a beautiful collection of fabulous fake food. Look at these glorious plastic and foam cakes, breads, ice creams. Surrounded by plastic meat and deviled eggs, I almost felt like I was in John Waters' home.





"Retreat Don Draper" Is Our New Life Concept Forever


On Wednesday we watched the Mad Men season finale on the phone together and talked for three hours about how we're going to be exactly like Don Draper at the retreat from now on. Here's a partial transcript of RetreatDonCon.

LJ: You really called it on Don Draper not falling off a building.

LIZ: Well, I had a feeling.

LJ: Yeah - some gut feeling that the people who make the show aren't complete loser-idiots.

LJ: Don's basically the hottest he's ever looked here. I like how he's really '50s. 

LIZ: I like how there's finally some Doors on Mad Men.

LJ: Yeah, I don't really care about The Doors, but I thought it was a cool "We're in the '70s now" move.

LJ: Stan's jacket here is in the running for Outfit of the Week. I wish I could understand the exact 2015 equivalent of what it would mean to wear that. Would he be hip-hop, kind of? I don't even understand how people dress anymore.

LIZ: I don't care about this woman in bed with Don.

LJ: Yeah, we've sat through seven seasons of this. I need a little more than Don Draper having promiscuous sex with a hot blonde woman. I guess I'm happy that there's no Diana in this episode. It makes a bit more sense now that he was really just fixating on her unhealthily because he felt lost and he was putting it all on her. That checks out.

LIZ: Joan is the cutest person on coke ever in the world. I like how she's impressed by the efficiency of it. "Oh, it's so fast!" 

LJ: "Just like Harry Crane's computer! Just like a great secretary!" I also like that cocaine weaseled its way into Mad Men, like The Doors.

LIZ: Her boyfriend is so gross. That's such a gross positioning of his body.

LJ: He makes chillness so disgusting.

LJ: Peggy looks so cute this entire episode. She's so frumpy the entire series and then she finally just busts it out.

LIZ: I love all the cats on Bert's painting. And this is really cute too, her and Pete.

LJ: Harry Crane looks the best he's ever looked. He looks bad-ass.

LIZ: He eats that nice cookie. He's winning.

LIZ: I'm glad we got to see Pete again, I thought he was gone for good.

LJ: Yeah, I needed that. They just let us see them all again. 

LIZ: They really indulged us. After I watched it I was like, "Oh, Matthew Weiner's so nice! He was so nice to us." 

LJ: He really gets what lame losers we all are. We need it so bad.


Our Weekly Mad Men Column: Liz & LJ on "The Milk and Honey Route"

LJ: Betty Draper is dying. That's a spoiler. But it's really late in the week and if you haven't watched this week's episode of Mad Men yet then you're obviously not that committed of a Mad Men fan- I was going to say "Or else you are just a committed Mad Men fan having a busy week," but nope. I retract that thought. There is NO amount of busy that could keep me away from watching the PENULTIMATE episode of Mad Men! There are subway rides, there are breaks at work, there are bathrooms- so many opportunities to watch this episode and learn that Betty Draper is dying for yourself. It's not my responsibility to babysit all the half-baked Mad Men semi-fans out there; this Betty Draper spoiler is your karmic punishment for not loving Mad Men more. (By the way, who else is nostalgic for like ten years ago when nobody ever used the overly fussy word "penultimate" to describe the second-to-last episode of a freaking TV show. I really doubt we were all like, "Ah, tonight I'm staying in to watch the penultimate episode of Friends." Back in 2003, the only people who ever said penultimate were "pedants.") 

Anyway, I think Betty Draper's dying is the most beautiful fucking thing. Like, obviously I'm really sad about it, and have basically never stopped quietly thinking about it underneath all the other thoughts I think for the past four days or whatever. But she's just been so impressively serene all season, so placid, like a river, and this episode she just floated- I don't mean that in a condescending way; of course Betty has her head screwed on maybe even too tight: she's very much Of This Earth. (Virgo with her moon in Pisces, would be my guess). But in her pretty pale chiffon nightgowns, she reminded me of the ghost of a bluebird or the flower called a bluebonnet or a jellyfish. Betty's never been on any huge spiritual quest, but by peacefully and maturely accepting her own death she has ended up self-actualising more completely than any other character the show's wrapped up for us so far. Who knew? I guess Betty Draper was the George Harrison of Mad Men all along.  

I wish Henry Francis was a little less obsessed with the Rockefellers. Like, seriously, dude. You really have to stop incorporating the word "Rockefeller" into every conversation you and your wife have about her terminal cancer. It's not necessary, bro. (Henry Francis and I are bros, btw. Sorry! We just are.) Anyway, I just wanted to take this moment to shout out this mid-episode Betty and Henry argument, when Betty's like "Stop chasing your tail!" and Henry's like, "You're morose." What a classy fight! When my boyfriend and I fight we're just like, "Ugh ew leave me the fuck alone I had such a lame day at shitty work I'm fucking tired EW." A coupla boors, we are. But at least we never bring up the Rockefeller dynasty at inappropriate times. That's our saving grace. 

"Oh good, it's Duck Phillips," said... NO ONE! No one said that, except maybe, like, a serial killer? Maybe a serial killer would be a Duck fan? If there are any serial killers out there who watch Mad Men. I feel like there aren't, though. Serial killers would probably all fall into the category of people who are like, "Mad Men's just too slow for me."

So yeah, I don't know, here's Duck Phillips. I feel like it was a really masochistic move, on Matt Weiner's part, to bring Duck Phillips back for one last disgusting hurrah. He was like "Yeah, Matt, do it. People are gonna hate this." And it's true, Matt! They did. Duck's storyline got off to a characteristically disgusting start with him saying "Fit as a fiddle" in a way that would have been "adorkable" if Pete Campbell had said it, but we can't all be Pete Campbell, can we? The part of the whole Duck-Pete-LearJet narrative that I hated either most or least, depending on how masochistic I'm feeling, was when he was begging Pete to go to the LearJet dinner and then said, "I just need to fill this one position, and I'll make it through the winter"- like, what the hell? Make it through the winter? How poor are you, dude? Are you a homeless person on the street? So dramatic! 

Also: I feel like Duck and Lou Avery must know each other, and like each other. I'll bet Duck was a supporter of Scout's Honor from Day One. 

Glad everything worked out for our boy Pete Campbell! I mean I am REALLY glad. But I don't have much clever shit to say about it, just wanted to state for the official Pete record that:

1. I thought it was really cool how he empowered his daughter by calling her Wonder Woman and not, like, Lambie-Pie or whatever
2. His globe bar is cool
3. When resident grosso Duck asks him, "Who's going to win the World Series this week?" he cutely replies "I don't know!" in an inflection reminiscent of how my thirteen-year-old self might have responded to my mother asking me a question about either a boy I had a crush on or my menstrual cycle.
4. At some point over the course of my day today I had the genius revelation that Wichita-Pete is going to become... wait for it... I'm so smart... *DJ airhorn sample*... THE WORLD'S HUGEST ELTON JOHN FAN. 

(Picture him wailing along to "You can't plant me in your penthouse" when he thinks no one's watching <3)

I know I already said "our boy Pete Campbell" in this Mad Men recap, but that's not going to stop me from being like 


And then in the background Jay-Z calls out "Ya boy! Ya boy!" 

That's how I feel about presenting Don Draper to you guys this week. This entry has a bit of a hip-hop feel to it, on my end. Do you think Kim & Kanye watch Mad Men? I don't. I feel like they fall into the "Mad Men's too slow for me" camp, just like serial killers. Kim and Kanye need ACTION. 

Don Draper is Mad Man Of The Week this week. I like how he's just full-on going for it, in terms of his insanity. Did any of you watch the TV show Togetherness? It's fucking brilliant. There's this part in one episode where Mark Duplass' character is talking to his kooky spiritual guru about how when he was growing up his friends and family would always make fun of him for "weirding out," and then he goes on a cool psychedelic journey toward embracing his own weirdness. I think so much about how "weird"-ly applicable that is to Don's character arch- the whole idea of "feeling ashamed about weirding out until you have nothing left to do but weird out in a really extreme way." I'm so proud of Don for giving up on trying to be normal- such a fruitless pursuit!- and I love how he's totally open about the ins and outs of his weird new vagabond life with Sally. That seems healthy.

PS: I know the depth of this episode seems a little beyond such frivolities as Outfit Of The Week, but Sally's nightgown-and-tousled-hair look is taking home the Milk and Honey Route prize nevertheless. 

PPS: What does "The Milk and Honey Route" mean? When you Google it, the only thing that comes up is this Mad Men episode, and I already know about this Mad Men episode. 

LIZ: What a beautiful bushel of apples! I wish we could've seen Pete at the orchard, plucking those shiny red macintoshes from the trees in his turtleneck and blazer. And I'm curious as to whether Trudy asked him to pick up a jug of cider, or if he went and bought it on his own. Probably it's the latter. New-Lease-on-Life Pete Campbell's just a really thoughtful guy.

I also want to know if Pete ended up taking Tammy to Friendly's, and I want to know what he ordered when they got there. I feel like the old Pete Campbell would've ended up with some drab, dainty, Pete Campbell-y thing - like, one little measly scoop of butter pecan, and not even with chocolate sprinkles on top. But the new and improved Pete Campbell would totally just go for it and get himself a Jim Dandy, which is basically the ultimate "divorced dad taking his daughter to Friendly's" dessert option. A Jim Dandy, in case you don't know, is five scoops of ice cream, a banana, strawberry topping, marshmallow topping, chocolate topping, whipped cream, walnuts, sprinkles, and a cherry. It looks like this. Pete would eat that whole thing and then he'd eat the rest of Tammy's ice cream - which I just decided is a strawberry sundae, because he spoils her. His little Wonder Woman, "no worse for wear."

(Side note: I used to do some freelance work for a filmmaker who was a real loose-cannon type; every Thursday I'd go to her house in Hollywood and send emails for her while she stomped around and yelled a lot at no one in particular. One time she sent her boyfriend out to get her ice cream, and he came back with butter pecan, and she threw a huge temper tantrum, shouting, "HOW COULD YOU GET ME BUTTER PECAN? I HATE BUTTER PECAN!!! BUTTER PECAN IS FOR DEAD PEOPLE!!!!!" My point is that I thought that was a very original take on ice cream, and also on death.) 

It's possible I just really need a vacation, but the idea of drinking whiskey and eating pretzels and watching TV in my underwear in a motel bed sounds like heaven to me right now. Other than that, Don's creepy motel adventure was not so heaven-like for me. My stomach hurt the whole time we were at the vets fundraiser: I kept waiting for those men to do terrible things to Don, and when Pam Beesly's ex-fiance showed up I got all extra freaked out, probably still traumatized from that time he tried to beat up Jim Halpert. So apart from the pretzels, the only motel-related things I enjoyed were:

-when Don boredly dove into the pool
-when Don made a big deal of hatefully staring at the Coke machine
-that new bit of info we learned about how Don went to night school. It's just very cute to think of Muppet Baby Don Draper in night school in New York City, learning how to type.

Oh hi, I'm Pete Campbell, the cutest person in the whole wide world, with my giant glass of milk and big hunk of pie that my adorable daughter made me. Look at me, look how I've arrived. I'm about to live my best life. I'm going to Wichita, far from this opera forevermore. I've also made the weird move of taking a job at an aircraft company, despite the fact that just years ago my father perished in a plane crash. I am truly extraordinary. 

So yeah: Pete! My sweet darling Peter Dyckman Campbell. I woke up on Monday morning to a text from LJ, reading "Happy 4 Pete," which was a great start to the week. My best moment from the pie scene was when he said "Eat with me" to Trudy. It was one of my top five Pete Campbell lines of the night, along with:

-"I dare say, it got you excited trying to close over coffee"
-"I think it feels good and then it doesn't"
-"YOU STUPID WINO, YOU'RE GOING TO DESTROY EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
-the part when he says "Good morning" to Trudy instead of "Goodnight," and his voice is the most perfect balance of creepy and sweetly tender. Pete is just the cutest little cheeseball-creep.

My only complaint about the pie scene is he forgot to take the pie home. I hope Trudy had the good sense to throw the pie out, or at least hide it, so that Tammy wouldn't think that Pete didn't want it. Apparently I'm very concerned about the Campbell family's dealings with the Lyman Orchard apples, and all 
related apple-produced goods.

The last thing I want to say about Pete is I love it when he talks all cosmic-like, going on about the supernatural origins of things. And that it's so classy how he didn't try to stay the night. I agree that his singing along to "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on that weird stereo thing that Ken Cosgrove/Ben Hargrove wrote a short story about would be the most breathtaking thing in the world.

And here's Don, with his stupid Sears bag and his big dumb life, sitting on the bus bench all pleased as punch. It's cool how he inspired that Andy kid to get the hell out of dodge. And I loved how no-drama he was about delivering the bag of money to the awful Betty's-dad-lookalike motel owner. Don is so chill. I don't get people who say things like, "Don Draper's gross and sleazy and a drunk, I don't see the appeal." They're probably the same people who don't like Anthony Bourdain because "he's arrogant." Why would you ever want to turn on the TV and watch people who are nice and sober and humble and completely free of all vices? That sounds so depressing. It's so depressing to not love Mad Men.

Anyway - the one Don-related concern I want to voice here is: he's not going to abandon Sally, is he? He can't. He can't orphan his kids. Along with the ghost of Anna Draper, Sally is his soul. 

In addition to not getting people who don't like Don Draper, I also don't get people who are like, "Matthew Weiner killed Betty on Mother's Day! Matthew Weiner hates women!" That seems pretty reductive to me. Let's all just allow for the possibility that the world is a little cooler than Matthew Weiner holing up in his office and studying calendars and triangle graphs and bending the plot of his entire series so that the revelation of Betty Francis's impending death will occur exactly on Mother's Day, 2015. Let's just live that way instead.

So, yeah, Betty. The thing I can't shake is that moment when we see her climbing the stairs at school, and she's having a hard time and obviously hurting - but then a boy says hi to her and her face lights up into the biggest, brightest, most beautiful smile. She's partly faking but she's also so excited to be at school, so proud of herself and so happy to be recognized. In general I think a lot about the idea of wanting to do something forever, and putting it off and putting it off, and finally getting the courage to give it a shot - and then having it all blown to hell by forces entirely beyond your control. That's what's happened with Betty, and the way she carries on so tranquilly, with such grace and actual joy: it's so heartbreaking and beautiful. Birdie is a hero now.