Monday, October 14, 2019

Dark Old Miscellany - Black Food, Black Houses, Old Food, Winter Gardens


The Allure of Black-Colored Food
Ligaya Mishan
New York Times

"So what does the color black taste like? More precisely, what do our brains tell us it should taste like? From experience, we might expect the tartness of blackberries or the brininess of black olives or the near-bitterness of charred meat and blistered pizza crusts. Black is the menthol buzz of licorice or the density of rough bread from countries near the Arctic Circle, where the winter months see only a few hours of daylight. It’s marine, like rice blackened by cuttlefish ink in Valencia, Spain, or turfy, like rice blackened by long-soaked djon-djon mushrooms in Haiti. It’s the mineral tang of British blood pudding, Ecuadorian morcilla, Tibetan gyuma, French boudin noir. It’s the funk of huitlacoche, a fungus borne of rotting corn, blossoming like a nuclear cloud out of the dying cob, a delicacy in Mexico. It’s the subtle presence of vanilla, announced by sootlike black spots, scraped from the hard furrowed pod. But even given these associations, when I see a food that’s not naturally black turned that dramatic shade, it strikes me as so discordant that I expect it to taste like nothing I’ve tried before."


New on the Block: The Little Black House
Hayley Krischer
New York Times

"Black represents sadness, anger or grief for many. But that’s not all. Black also evokes a sense of richness and power. Black can be enveloping and warm, and even signify high drama. In medieval times, Ms. Gura said, black was associated with royalty; it was luxurious. Black can be practical too. In northern Europe, where tar was used as a water sealant on exteriors, the color stuck."

"Black is a color of provocation. Nineteenth-century anarchists waved their black flag. Twentieth-century fascists loved it. Beat poets, punks and Goths made it their brand. The Black Panthers wore black leather jackets and black berets. When the fashion designer Rei Kawakubo introduced everyday black clothes in the early 1980s, critics described the collection as 'post-atomic.' Most recently, black is what women in Hollywood and Congress chose to wear to express solidarity with victims of sexual assault."

The Novel Taste of Old Food
Ligaya Mishan
New York Times

"Food past its imagined prime can surprise us, like the 'vintage carrot.' It was a dish borne of scarcity in a cruel winter, carrots that had been left to languish in the earth in iced-over fields, whose skin was as rough as hide. By all appearances they were inedible, but once braised for hours like a côte de boeuf, they turned meaty, mineral and profound."

"Some flavors and textures can only be achieved by pushing foods beyond their limit. Banana bread calls for bananas gone black, verging on mush. Without stale bread, there would be no bread pudding."

"The decline toward rot - arrested at the last minute - is what creates umami, a flavor that defies categorization, that smacks of deep sea and forest floor, animal entrails and sun-gorged tomatoes. Everything that is fermented, too, was en route to death and pulled back from the brink. Pickling is salvation - this was especially true before refrigeration, when we needed to eke out supplies to make it through the winter." 


The Barren Charms of a Winter Garden
Ligaya Mishan
New York Times

"To flower, literally and figuratively, is to reach the peak of one’s possibility, from which there is no direction but down. Or so we have been taught: that lushness equals splendor, that when a blossom wilts and fails, the plant that bore it is finished, returned to drabness, spent of purpose. Spring is a pageant, winter a graveyard."

"Edney embraces a plant’s full life cycle, in flower and in death - where others dismiss winter as a dormant, liminal season, he insists that vitality may be found all year. For a seed head is no drab aftermath. Like a flower, it adds color to a landscape, from russets and umbers to flaring golds to lunar whites. One of Edney’s favorites, Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendelturm,' retains its spikes in winter, upright, skinnier, with a blush of purple deepening into brown. In lieu of ripeness, seed heads throughout the gardens present an eerie, ossified architecture: tight-mouthed trumpets of Iris sibirica, alliums like exploding stars. Flat-topped sedum might reach barely 10 inches, while miscanthus (silver grass) towers eight feet high, with long woolly tapers of seeds drifting down."



  1. "Some flavors and textures can only be achieved by pushing foods beyond their limit."

    I smell wizardry afoot...

    1. Pickling = salvation
      Salvation = clerical magic
      Clerics = picklers