Monday, 6 September 2010

Fish death shade circle

Prestigious fish is still hunted - we wait for what comes out. The best fish is fish which you don’t really know what species of fish it is - but you can see what sort of flesh it has, more or less. I am always jealous of desert-island fiction (right, mainly Lost) because they get to spear fish and just eat them. Also, the Life of Pi, because he gets to drink raw turtle blood with no moral issues.

The waterfront in Istanbul - I didn’t know what the name of these were – they were white fish. I have a particular experience, I suppose, because I don’t know much about the names of anything, particularly fish. The hunters along the bridge put these ones in a bucket, and they kept shrimps separate. Baby sturgeon were set aside with water in ice cream tubs, for laying...(which is cool)

There are sort of grill-boats along the waterfront below the fishermen that serve up the fish, butterflied and in a crusty bread with lettuce, tomato and raw onions. They cost 2TL, there is only one thing to order, the guys are very fast and very good at staying upright. People flick the driest bits of crust over into the water when they have finished, for the growing baby fishies, which is nice. I saw one woman come specifically to dump a whole bagful of stale bread – the water near the edge is fairly scummy. Imagine if the pigeons that eat your Greggs crumbs were caught (in wire traps set by young boys saving up their 2d a beak for a bag o’ ferret squall), glazed and splayed on hotplates by the street vendors in Trafalgar Square; identifiable by the feet glued skyward on their distinctive black umbrellas. Pigeon thighs skewered with roast fig, hot potatoes, and paper cones with chestnuts, and malt vinegar with pulp. Instead of, erm...

Perhaps I romanticise. When you get your fried fish in bread, in Istanbul, you can sit on a little stool under a shade. There are lots and lots of people, everyone shares. On the table is a salt shaker which loads of salt comes out of (just let it happen, these salt-hole people knew what they were doing) and a pop bottle with a hole in the lid, full of lemon juice. You put this all over your sandwich. Many also bring over a little pot of pickles from a nearby pickle stand, and munch the both alternately.

The water motion through everything, the death of the fish, the crude perfection of the condiments, the much needed shade, the stillness in crowds...this was idyll, three times in..two days? I forgot. I was quite alone.

what happened while I ate this kebab is more interesting than kebab

So this guy came up while I was eating this, outdoors, by myself – the shade was the pretext for him coming over. Its cool, its fine, whatever, but sometimes crazy people come and talk to me (all the time – why me?!) so when he started speaking I was already thinking of a good excuse for leaving.

Well 2 hours later, I was still not sure if this guy was crazy or not, but he certainly earnt his 2 hours with his totally amazing conversation (possibly lies). This guy was around 60 years of age – an American, with little hair, and a heavy build, with light shades. His name was Michael. Mike.

Ok, here’s his story. This was Mike’s seventh or eighth time in Istanbul, over a period of around 20 years. He had been coming back each time to oversee the same project – a project which he played a critical role in orchestrating, a semi-secret project which was nearing the stage at which it would be released to the media (this was to be his last trip) and, in Michael’s oft-repeated phrase...change the way people think, about...everything.

The project was - the excavation of the Ark. It turns out that Mike had a couple of personal attributes that placed him uniquely well to discover these remains. Firstly, he was an all-out evangelical Christian – he really believed the Ark had been real, in some sense, and this mattered to him. Secondly, he was a high-school teacher of ancient languages, and almost as a hobby, had studied the holy books in several original scripts. Thirdly, before becoming a teacher, he had been a military cartographer.

It turns out that he was reading a passage about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, which I wish I could remember the reference for. Anyway, as Mike was acquainted with cartological things, it suddenly dawned on him that the description –which discussed the grounding of the ark as simultaneous to the appearance of certain peaks – described an altitude, as the waters lowered. Already common theory established that the ark was likely to be found on Mount Ararat – so he began going for long hikes, in circles, around the mountain at that height. It took him a few trips, and he didn’t really know what he was looking for, but one day, the path gave way and he uncovered some really old carved wood in the permafrozen earth. Wood which he recognised as covered in proto-sumerian hieroglyphs.

Let me tell you a little about what the Ark turns out to be like. It is not a boat. Rather, the ark is a long cuboid – like a big shipping container, made of thick wood. Inside – and it had not yet been opened, but rather only scanned with electrics and things – were thousands of compartments of different sizes. These were the compartments were the animals spent the flood. Mike suspected that God had cleverly put all the creatures within into some sort of stasis – rather than the typical pooey roary oinkey picture we learn from school (and 2012). He had a typically anglo-techno explanation (a catholic would have accepted the mystery) about how God would have done this – something about silica – but it basically got around the food and poo problem. Now I could believe something like this had been found – I could believe that someone had once embalmed and stored species in a wooden ceremonial coffin to save them from a prophesised disaster, and that this could be the origin of the Noah story. But while I might expect bones, shells to be inside, Mike was quite clear – he was expecting empty compartments. The turtles had to have walked free, to populate the earth.

The whole operation was being bankrolled by the Turkish government and influential friends in the US military had also secured funds (perhaps the most plausible part of the story). It was all being done in a silver sheet heated tent, carefully melting the steep frozen edge of the mountain. Mike claimed the news was going to be broken in a few months. I never emailed the guy. Maybe I should.

I don’t think he was a compulsive lier. Rather I think he was a compulsive doer, of crazy things.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Is it really necessary to put an electronic tag on a £3 block of mild cheddar?

Second of all; would anyone microwave 700g of cheese in the packet?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Soup 'en' Jazz

Once when we went to Amsterdam, we had soup from a special soup shop. It was still daytime, it was still warm, it was very delicious. Later we would sit by a canal, of course, and watch the city pass for hours and the sun set early, paralysed by fear unless the loitering ducks got ‘too flappy’ when we walked past. But for now everything was fine.

At that soup shop I bought a very interesting cookbook entitled ‘Soup en Jazz’, which has their keynote recipes for 10 soups, but which is also accompanied by a CD which has a designated track for each soup, which you must play when you are eating.

3 years passed. The ‘Soup en Jazz’ project looked like it might go the same way as Bolivian Monopoly and Rain Chime. But a serendipitous glut of beetroot came along last week, and we made borscht. You can visit Sebastian Gampert at his myspace, but his Borscht track is not available. I have asked him to put it up. A fitting track I thought, as it fits nicely into the part of the day occupied by sitting down to have a steaming bowl of soup. But it is in no way Eastern-European, which would have been disappointingly obvious anyway. I have not listened to the other tracks as I am saving them for future soup.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Transient Form, Marmite

Very recently Linz dropped a jar of Marmite on the kitchen floor. The glassy sound was absorbed by the goop within, of course, but its decisive crack was chilling, like a skull, dulled in flesh, against the lowest concrete step. We knew what had happened (the worst), when we heard that sound. Absolutely FASCINATINGLY, however, the jar, which was shattered into a million pieces, did not lose its form as it was glued together by its cannonball of sap. So we could lift it up, whole and put it in a bowl, and watch it collapse slowly over a period of half an hour. 

I wish I had had the foresight to take this picture earlier.


Saturday, 8 August 2009

Sometimes, I wish I still smoked...

Like this time, in Istanbul.

I was sitting around on the waterfront in this ancient city, letting the air and the heat digest a good meal on my behalf. One of these golden cigarettes would have helped a lot.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Restaraunt in La Paz, both real and unreal

So we went to a ‘surrealist’ restaurant in La Paz. I don’t know what they thought was surreal about it; I think it must have been the wacky combinations of coca and spaghetti, or llama and tortellini…and so on. I had a 3 peppercorn beef steak. Fresh peppercorns, insanely good. But surreal? There were a couple of Dali prints up.

I feel I could do better…
Firstly, all the waiters could enter the room from a cupboard, where there would be a hidden door. No! There would be several hidden doors! And the waiters would be under strict instruction never to acknowledge that they were using different ones, or even an understanding of the concept ‘entrance’. The glasses would all be those ones with a layer of colourful fluid sealed in, so that it looks like everyone should be spilling their drinks, when they aren’t. The windows would have devices on the outside so that it appears as if it is raining – they would often be out of synch.

The waiters would have leeway to improvise, and be encouraged to take psychotropic drugs. There would be a selection of wine glasses full of jelly, which they could pretend to spill on someone’s lap at some point during the night. There would, of course, be a team of acrobats secured to an upside-down table on the ceiling. A selection of food would look like other food – this is common. What you ordered would be what you actually got, although shaped to look exactly like something else, but sometimes it would be something alive, eating the salad, which is trained to scream loudly but not move from the plate. Ever.

The chairs and tables would have computer-controlled pistons and would change their heights very very slowly. The ‘ice cream’ would be made out of some substance with a boiling point well below room temperature, so that it would disappear soon after serving. Similar things would happen to the cutlery – the spoon, in particular, would have dissolving ridges so that after dipping it into soup just once, it would become a fork. All replacement spoons would be the same, until the customer was near tears – at which point, as soon as a distraction can be caused (by a light bulb inflating) the soup would be secretly stolen, and they would be asked ‘what soup?’