It is true that sometimes I complain about being internet famous and the enormous amounts of complaints, fanmail (sometimes excessively bizarre) and general weirdness (nearly always excessively bizarre) that it generates.
But the truth is that gems like this make up for everything.
The quite unique Douglas Buchanan who is 79 and a fellow Shivanaut — and altogether the most charming and delightful correspondent a person could wish for — sent me the following in response to last Friday’s post.
Dear Happy Havi and Splendiferous Duck,
At breakfast today I saw my wife Shirley reading a book on Turkish cooking. Apparently she read your blog before I did and picked up on your gentleman friend and his culinary prowess.
We have just totally reorganized our place and Shirley, who was once the recipe columnist of a newspaper I ran in Chicago, put a few dozen of her cookery books aside for our son. Among them was the Turkish book which your blog temporarily saved from expulsion.
Maybe you could ask your talented friend to make you Imam Bayildi which has a great story.
Apparently the Imam fainted when he first tasted it. Two reasons were given. His palate was so overwhelmed with pleasure that he lost consciousness. He fainted again apparently on learning how much olive oil was needed to make it. Pleasure and frugality.
I hope you can get REALLY good olive oil in Portland. I sop it up from a plate with Italian bread and high quality parmesan cheese made from caribou milk, a meal in itself.
My own limited experience with impossibly delectable Turkish cooking is from the Middle Eastern Restaurant in Chicago and from my first experience with Turkish coffee when I was an editor in Chicago and met a fellow alchemist on the premises.
You may like to read â€˜Douglas discovers Coffee‘ 02/20/2008 on gatesofhorn.com and your talented friend may know the famous Turkish verse about the importance of coffee:
GÃ¶nÅ±l ne kahve ister, ne kahvehane;
GÃ¶nÅ±l sohbet ister, kahve bahane !
That is the limit of my knowledge of Turkish but it’s a great verse. Sorry I couldn’t find the right accent for the u, it’s the same as over the Ã¶.
A quicky precis of the Turkish verse is: It’s not the coffee or the coffee house, it’s the relationships that are important, the coffee is just a pretext.
Bliss filled caravans of pleasure from your kitchen to you,
Blessings and Hilarious Quacks,
I know. I wasn’t kidding when I said best correspondent ever. He’s just marvelous.
And yes, my gentleman friend has — on more than one occasion — made for me Imam Bayildi, and it is completely worthy of a good swoon.
Where am I going with this?
Well, of course as soon as I read this I had to tell Douglas all about the best cookbook in the entire world.
And then I thought that I should probably tell you as well. Though now I’ll have nothing to give you for your house-warming party. Crap.
Anyway, the best cookbook in the entire world is Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Jewish Vegetarian Recipes from Around The World by Gil Marks.
If you’re thinking that Jewish + Vegetarian = not especially appealing, just take my word for it. Just this once. This book is outrageously fantastic. We have never made anything less than sensational from this book. ‘Tis the bomb, I tell you.
Plus there’s neat history tidbits! And fun things like maps that track the migration of stuffed peppers around the world! Awesomeness.
And while we’re telling amusing stories, I have one.
My amusing story:
It was a couple of years ago and my father was coming to San Francisco for a conference, so we arranged to spend the better part of a day together.
He handed me a beautiful package wrapped in gold paper and I said something like “Oh hooray, a present! For me!” and he said that no, it was actually for my gentleman friend.
And no, he wouldn’t tell me what it was since it wasn’t for me, it was for my gentleman friend.
I lugged around this box all day and then went home. My gentleman friend saw me enter with the box and we had the following exchange.
My gentleman friend: Oooooh! You got a present!
Me: Uh no, actually you did.
Me: Here you go!
MGF: What is it?
Me: I don’t know. It’s for you.
Me: I know!
MGF: (making box-open-ey noises) Oh wow. It’s a Jewish vegetarian cookbook. Looks like there’s amazing stuff in here.
Me: It’s a what?
MGF: OMG! Ethiopian braised cabbage! Spicy!
Me: You do realize that you’re not actually Jewish or vegetarian, right?
MGF: Well, you know how it is … close enough!
Me: Don’t you think that’s weird?
MGF: No. You’re Jewish and vegetarian. And I cook for you. Hey, I’m going to go make this cabbage thing.
MGF: Oy. What a day. What a day.
Best. Cookbook. Ever.
I’m just saying.
Anyway, you should own it. I asked Douglas if I could reprint his email and here was his response:
Happy One…you have standing permission to use anything I write to you or for you in any way that your elvish and hippy duck loving thump thump thump desires.
Happy Sunday. Make something good to eat.
Oh yum yum yum! I have a serious weakness for cookbook recommendations. Thank you. 🙂 My current favorite is “The Art of Simple Food”.
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What a lovely man. I hope his grandchildren attend him as deserved. He’s soon to be internet-famous and then they’ll have to make an appointment…
I love stuffed peppers, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about them without the ground beef….
Douglas sounds like a barrel of monkeys of fun
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Oh Havi! For the love of ducks why must you always tell us about your gentleman friend who partakes of some hidden skill increasing potion providing him with insight into the hidden desires of your pallet while you sit patiently at the table with fork in hand? Although my gentleman friend (read as husband in my case) cooks he sticks with the standard mid-western (state-side) fair. Today? Homemade chicken noodle soup. Bliss. And no one in the house is sick even!
Fluffy feathers! I’d give my left five toes for as much writing talent as Douglas.
So long as we’re all shamelessly plugging our favorite cookbooks–my cousins Eli and Max Sussman wrote a cookbook called “Freshman in the Kitchen: From Clueless Cook to Creative Chef.” It’s awesome, although neither vegetarian nor kosher. So I don’t make THOSE dishes.
I know! Everyone loves Douglas because everyone ought to. Isn’t he great? Lucky Shirley!
Loving all the cookbook recommendations.
@Sundie – Fluffy feathers!?!? That’s totally going to become my new exclamation for everything.
@Mira – Ohmygod I have to read that. In my mind of course Max and Eli are still maybe twelve so I’m sure reading their BOOK would bring me up to speed.
I am so envious of your gentleman friend. I need a cooking gentleman friend. Does your brother cook? Can I borrow him?
My wife is Turkish and we live in Istanbul. Her mother cooks the most amazing Turkish food. I love going over there for dinner, it is definitely one of life’s treats!
One of my favorites is Perde Pilav (Curtain Rice). Chicken cooked along with the rice, so they feed off each other’s flavors while baking!
Okay…I’m not a cookbook fan (I’m more of a pinch of this, dash of that kinda girl), Jewish, or vegetarian (anymore…long story). BUT…I am going to buy this cookbook. It sounds delightful. As does your father and your gentleman friend. They both “get” it.
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@Matt – Oh, lucky you! Enjoy! My trip to Turkey was way too brief but the thing that sticks in my mind is definitely how amazing all the food was. *sigh*
@Sandie – Awesome. You can even review it on your site. And try the Hungarian mushroom stew. It’s outrageous.
@Kate – You know, my brother is a fantastic cook and very, very passionate about cooking. Of course I’m not sure how he’ll feel about me lending him out, but what the hell. We can try!
Also, he makes handmade tortillas so yeah, he’s a catch. 🙂
I need to get that book ! Have you read Claudia Roden’s Great Big Gigantic Book of Jewish Food as I call it ? Also stuffed with great history and reminiscences.
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