Every so often I go to a new place and my first reaction is, “Whoa. This is one flat place.” Florida was one. The taxi drove us from the airport in the muggy dark and for a second I wondered if Galileo and the rest of that lot might have been, uh, flat-out wrong: might the world be flat after all? Of course not, but the flatness of Florida was impressive. Last October, barreling into Oberlin, Ohio off Interstate 80 I thought precisely the same thing. Shoot, I said to my son, this place is flat. I wondered if it wasn’t the flattest place in the country, at least the lower 48. I went a-Googling.
I found this.
And this, from this:
"With a struggle I can remember aspects of the Oberlin of my time… I can remember, for example, that this is the hottest, coldest, wettest, flattest part of the state of Ohio, so uninteresting and disagreeable that Plum Creek, the arboretum, the reservoir, and even the cemetery seemed like scenic gems glowing in a dull setting of yellow clay. I can remember sitting every day in this room on the most uncomfortable of all chapel seats, trying hard not to hear what the speaker was saying. I can remember the dancing rule, the rules confining ladies to their rooms [after dark], and the smoking rule, which I abhorred but was not robust enough to violate. But these items do not disturb me very much. On the contrary, they help me to preserve my illusion of the uniqueness of the Oberlin of my day… My college had the worst climate, the hardest seats, and the silliest rules of any institution in the world.” Hutchins went on to say that Oberlin gave its students the best teaching to be found anywhere. That may or may not have been a lapse into nostalgia.
8.17.18 | A swell sweeps from one of my favorite travel magazines.
— AFAR Media (@AFARmedia)August 17, 2014
8.9.14 | And so it starts, the final two weeks (and two days, but who’s counting) before college. Everything feels heightened; ritualistic errands, like buying a supply of frozen meals at Vace that will last us this last stretch, a busy one, since I’m working, assume symbolic significance of the first order. (I got cassareccci, a thick, twirly braid of a pasta, and mortadella with pistachios, too.) It will be the small things, the quotidian doings, that fill our days between now and our departure date. What else, what else? Dinner with friends (since kindergarten! another since U9 travel soccer!), catching a movie I’d always wanted to watch with Isaac. Maybe The Best Years of Our Lives, one of Hollywood’s first antiwar movies? A stroll around the neighborhood, to say good-bye to our favorite neighbors, like Judy in Safeway and Sue at the corner store. Oh, and saying good-bye to Carolyn, who works the front desk evenings and who has known Isaac since he was born, that will be emotional. And then we’re off, he’s off, to Oberlin.
Separately, I laugh at my New Year’s resolutions. Sweeps of the Week? As if I’d have time? That said, I still want to master the curling iron.
6.28.14 — Borderline hoarders such as myself get a bum rap. I’m a saver, not a hoarder, and much of what I’ve accumulated constitutes an archive to myself. Papers, photos, clips. A collection whose size reveals a pre-digital existence. Today, attempt to declutter. And yet I hesitate. Do I keep this? And that? And what about this?
I was a frustrated cartoonist in my youth. A caption: If you are going to bite off more than you can chew, would you at least chew with your mouth closed? An actual drawing, William F. Buckley’s Wordrobe. Words from a column: Cavil is one. Oh, clever girl that I thought I was.
I had a baroness for a neighbor. She used to leave notes at the front desk. This one, on Hilton International Paris stationery: Dear Barbara - Loved the article. Will get the magazine. Thanks so much. Love, Garnett.
I am lusting after this chair, but in blue with no contrast buttons. Love this!
1.22.14 | Here’s a great interview of Matthew Weiner by none other than Allison Hope-Weiner, the Mad Men director’s sister and host of the online show Media Mayhem. The nearly one-hour exchange, taped last summer after the Season Six finale, touches on many things, including Matthew Weiner’s not thinking Don Draper is an anti-hero and, on a personal note, their not being allowed to watch television when they was going up. Movies yes, TV, no. Now, he notes, everyone in the film business is trying to get into TV. He of course played a role in that development.
The two siblings also discuss hotels which, as all Mad Men viewers know, figure in the show as clients and as sets. The first photographs of Season 7 show Don Draper leaving the Algonquin Hotel. The hotel exchange takes towards the end of the interview at about 48:00.
Allison Hope-Weiner: You have a total fascination with hotels.
Matthew Weiner: I am obsessed with hotels. You love hotels!
AMW: I know!
MW: I’m different than you though. I just take the one room that they give me.
AHW: We did have the upgrade wars, where we were trying to see who was the better upgrader.
MW: I defer to the hotel most of the time and I suffer through — I’m usually next to the elevator.
AHW: There have been some great scenes of the show in super luxurious — .
MW: I think it’s part of Manhattan. I think it’s part of these people’s lives. I love the idea of the neutral zone, the neutral space. I love the idea that these men would get kicked out of their homes and would live in a hotel. Roger meets Jane, they’e at the Sherry-Netherland, that’s where he lives when he’s divorced. Don goes to the Roosevelt, which is not as nice, because he’s trying to punish himself.
AHW: Roosevelt, that is a place for self-loathing.
MW: It is. I think it’s really nice now, actually.
AHW: Isn’t that where Dad you used to say.
MW: That. Or the Mayflower. The Roosevelt was a really big ad hotel because it was right down the street.
MW: For me, the other thing, the reality besides my fascination with hotels is it’s a great set. Dan Bishop [Mad Men’s production designer] has found a billion ways – Once I tell him the real hotel he’ll recreate it and you know build a set, you don’t have to find one.
AHW: The Hilton outside of of Rome? That was amazing.
MW: That was amazing.
1.21.14 | One of my New Year’s resolutions this year, in addition to securing a full-time job, winning another trip and mastering the curling iron, is my Sweeps of the Week feature. Each and every week I will select a sweeps that simply sends me, and share it with you all. I’m thinking these posts will be short and sweet, unless I’m finding myself long on both enthusiasm and time.
My inaugural Sweeps of the Week is for a stay at one of @TabletHotels, specifically, at least as I understand it, one of their top 13 hotels of 2013. To enter for a chance to win, vote for your favorite on Facebook HERE. My only quibble is I’m not finding the Official Rules or prize details. I’m not clear what the prize includes (a stay, but for how long?) and when the sweeps closes. They just tweeted that folks have one week to enter, so don’t dillydally and go for it! (I did.)
To enter, click HERE. You’ll be directed to Tablet Hotels Facebook page. You have to like it to enter.
Here’s the High Line Hotel, one of the 13 in the mix. (I love it, I love all of them in fact, but I’m not telling you which one I voted for.)
12.28.13 | On the first night, I fell into the pool. On the second and third days, I swam in the pool.
11.17.13 | Everyone, Mark Bitterman, salt expert, author and merchant extraordinaire, says, has a salt story. I’d just told him mine, about the thrill of seeing the salt marshes in Ile de Re in the mid-1990s, and returning home with an abundance of sel gris, some of which I shared with a chef friend. I used that sel gris sparingly, on things like roasted asparagus or roast chicken or roasted root vegetables, until eventually there was no more, at which point I resorted to a narrow selection of salt, Morton’s and, when a recipe called for it, kosher.
Then, on a trip to Chicago several years ago, I came upon The Spice House, a specialty shop near the North Side / Old Town part of town. This visit expanded my salt horizons to include Hawaiian black lava sea salt and red alaea sea salt. I was over the moon, and took a liking to the red alaea. The baked salmon I make using red alaea sea salt has become a part of my repertoire. (Recipe below.)
Then, in the most expansive salt experience of all, there was an event in D.C., hosted by Visit Portland, which featured a dinner menu designed by the aforementioned Mark Bitterman, who spoke after our meal. (Interestingly, he didn’t plug his store, The Market.) I wish I’d saved that menu. I remember halen mon gold smoked sea salt paired with a subtle ice cream or maybe it was crème caramel. Either way, it was heaven on earth, this salt of the earth at every course and turn. At the end of the evening, we each got a bottle of Garibaldi salt and a copy of his book, Salted: A Manifesto.
Lucky for me, my friends now know I’m a salt enthusiast, and generously ply me with gifts of salt they pick up on their travels. My friend Marie-Elise brought me back an organic applewood smoked salt she’d bought at the Ithaca Coffee Company (along with two packets of peppercorn) this summer. (I inquired by phone this afternoon, and they don’t sell their salt online, they only sell it in bulk at their store.) My friend Tracey gave me a stash of Jacobson Salt she got on a trip to Portland in September. Just this week, and what inspired this post, is my friend Maria giving me a jar of natural sea salt from Eggemoggin Salt Works, which is collected near her family’s house in Deer Hill, Maine. Delightful!
I will never want for salt with friends like these.
I’m especially partial to smoked salts. Besides the halen mon I tasted at the Visit Portland dinner, and the one my friend brought back from Ithaca, I’ve taken to a Northwest alderwood smoked sea salt I discovered in a store while I was traveling last summer, to visit family in Connecticut. It’s intoxicating.
Now, what’s a blog post without some links?
GQ: Chocolate and Salt Tasting with the Portlandia crew and The Meadow’s Mark Bitterman | September 2013 (With Fred Armisen!)
A Pinch of Salt Has Never Tasted So American | Smithsonian | 9.13.13
Lessons from Mark Bitterman | Food & Wine | August 2012
The Super Power of Salt | The History Channel (Bryan Cranston narrates!)
BB’s Salmon With Red Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt and Pepper and Orange Juice
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
I make this in a Pyrex dish. I coat the dish with olive oil, then coat the salmon with olive oil and place is skin down in the dish. Then I pour the orange juice over the salmon. I add pepper and salt to taste. Getting the salt right is tricky, it’s easy to under- and overdo it. I suppose the best way to describe the right amount for me is it looks like dotted Swiss. Bake until done.