A little while ago I had the honour of being asked to contribute a recipe to a beautiful new magazine called Citta.
Additionally it was proposed that I could write the accompanying text if I wished, which I did of course. I amuse myself greatly writing the Preservation Society newsletter, and I liked the idea of both representing myself and seeing it in print.
If you wish to read the text is below. For the accompanying recipe for Blood & Sand Jam, pick up a copy of the magazine. Find out where here.
I have been to Berlin, I think, three times, and never for more than 24 hours. I am not an International Spy; I played in a touring rock band.
Tour is a strange thing. On its account I can say that I have visited many cities in the western world, but it would be much more accurate to say that I have passed through many cities. Except, perhaps, in the unlikely event of a day off, the touring experience of a city is something uniquely circumscribed. One rarely sees more than two square blocks of any town—dark club and brightly lit hotel, and maybe passing streets glimpsed through the van window as you come and go.
Thus, what the city of Berlin conjures in my thoughts likely differs a great deal from that of its average visitor. I say this because when I think of Berlin I think of beach bars: outdoor courtyards full of trucked-in sand where people lounged and drank perched on huge rubber tires behind one of the clubs we played, whose other salient feature was a fire-breathing dragon sculpture near the stage. It’s what stands out amidst a blur of cities, no doubt on account of its surreality. As for the cuisine: a vegan burger joint, mojitos, and late-night Thai takeout from a street stand. Elsewhere, mainly in gas stations, I sampled currywurst and other more German-sounding snacks, but never in Berlin.
This kind of culinary experience is often the case on tour. Our band played both Krakow and Warsaw, but the entire time I was in Poland no traditionally Polish food ever passed my lips. On account of a vegan in our ranks we were taken to a hippie-ish pseudo-Indian restaurant and an “international” hotel buffet where a Caesar meant a glass of vodka and a bottle of plain tomato juice.
So it’s not old world style pickles that stand out in my mind when creating a recipe inspired by these places. It is rather the unlikely combination of mojitos enjoyed at dusk in a courtyard full of sand, framed by crumbling graffiti’d buildings. The mind being so circuitous, plucks the liquor and sand from the scene and resurfaces in New York City, where I once had the most superlative version of the cocktail Blood & Sand. The trajectories of the mind’s associations are nearly as strange as the impressions of a city as gathered by the flitting eyes of a touring musician.
The art of canning, having experienced a revival in the last few years, is often framed as being about preserving tradition (pun always intended). While the practice does inspire nostalgia in the how-our-grandmothers-lived way, in fact it can also be employed, like so many other facets of cuisine, to preserve more recent memories, impressions, strange moments in time, and, here, Berlin beach bars at dusk.