Duality

They look like jam.

I’m referring, of course, to the films of Jordan Belson.

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Photographing percolating jam is actually rather difficult: the lens fogs immediately and there’s the risk of stabbing little splashes of hot bubbling preserves.

Achieving Samadhi, the title of Jordan Belsen’s abstract colour film from 1967 is of course, much tougher, as is the act of describing it by the uninitiated without gross copyright infringement. Essentially its a non-dualistic state of consciousness reached through advanced yogic practice.

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In making the jam I broke Petunia’s rule of triangulation. I used 4 ingredients in addition to sugar: blueberries, lime juice, tequila, and flakes of red pepper. During the cooking process W. commented that the mix smelled like old socks. I believe this was due to some sort of condensing action of the lime juice and the tequila. Or perhaps it was something to do with the neighbors. Gratifyingly the jam does not taste like Limburger (however you also can’t really taste the red pepper flakes; I thought of adding Sriracha sauce but restrained myself. Genius may have been snipped in the bud).

I also thought of adding bits of bacon, which lead me on a reverie linking Paula Deen, jam making, bacon, speck, class-based cultural critique, and late-stage-capitalist just-in-time breakfasting (all the ingredients in-one for greater expediency).

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I was thinking about bacon and Belson because I’m helping to curate a show and this weekend we looked at alot of proposed pieces (one of which made me think of bacon and another Belson; no jam though). Some really great work, but sadly we had to send out rejection notices because there just isn’t room for it all. I’d never sent a note rejecting someone’s art before and I came finally to understand the saying “this is going to hurt me more than you” (about spankings). Ultimately it doesn’t hurt more: its the difference between a splash of liquid and enlightenment, but its interesting to see things from the other side.

For more information about Jordan Belson see the Center for Visual Music’s website. A DVD of a selection of his films may be ordered from them: Jordan Belson – 5 Essential Films. The image at right is a still from Samahdi; its actually rather different from some of his other films. It also looks a bit like cotton candy.

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Chestnuts

For some reason the idea of roasting chestnuts scares me.

I’m not afraid that they’ll explode from the heat. Rather, its that post-oven they’ll go whizzing around the kitchen in some snake-like airborne state, hissing and weaving and emitting odd steam.

This fear of roasting chestnuts may date from a childhood visit to New York where there were vendors selling roasted chestnuts and hot dogs outside the MoMA. For some reason I confused the logic behind the construction of their wheeled metal sales contraptions: large and solid to avoid damage and the elements and shiny to attract patrons. But I took the solidity as a barricade between humans and the dangerous materials heating within and thought the wheels might serve as a means of expedient removal in times of extra threat. Like a chestnut powered tank or perhaps a mobile anthrax culture lab . . .

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Eating chestnuts is another thing and I’m particularly fond of chestnut jam (Through the Eyes of French Design has some wonderful images of prepared chestnuts, including Confiture de Marrons. Many chestnut jams/spreads are from the Ardèche region of France). Chestnut flour is gluten-free and may be used to make desserts and even pasta. The first time I went to Coppa in Boston they had a delicious sounding chestnut pasta dish on the menu but I’ve unfortunately not yet tried it. I’m not sure if its always the same one; the current menu lists Fettuccine di Brambly (House made chestnut pasta with heritage pork and roasted chestnuts). Yum.

Coppa bills itself as an enoteca: an Italian term essentially meaning “wine bar” or “wine cellar”. Italy is a major producer of chestnuts, exporting them to France and the US among other destinations. Not surprisingly “European (sweet) chestnuts” are grown in Europe whereas a number of “American chestnut” species once grew in the US and Canada until they were almost eradicated by the chestnut blight of the early 20th century. You can however, buy domestically grown chestnuts in the US. One source is Allen Creek Farm, in Washington State who sell a variety of chestnut products. Their site has a page of Tuscan chestnut recipes, including the amazing sounding Crema con Fave e Cardi (Broad Beans and Cardoom Thistle Cream) which uses chestnut flour. They will not ship chestnuts outside the US due to the fact that unlike other nuts chestnuts must be kept chilled and spoil easily. Culinarily and evolutionarily this seems a mis-step on Nature’s part and I assume the squirrels are up in arms (about the rotting, not the shipping). I never refrigerated the chestnuts I bought a month ago so I assume something disgraceful has happened internally.

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All of this leads back to the other day’s entry on beer. Peeled roasted chestnuts are an optional flavoring. I bought new chestnuts and roasted them. Quite a mundane experience, except that the instructions with the beer state the wrong roasting temperature (far too cool). No explosions, snakes, or strange steam.

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If you acquire some chestnuts and then think better about roasting them you can watch this video for alternate suggestions. Its very cute but keep the volume turned down. . .