Culinary Diplomacy (and other adventures)

The mostly-book blog of a wandering non-profiteer. Hear more about my start-up life on Twitter, or follow my travel and kitchen adventures on Instagram. Older travels and juvenalia can be found on my previous blog.
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Kaboul Kitchen is a French show set in a lightly-fictionalized version of l’Atmosphère, one of the most consistently popular restaurant/nightlife options among foreigners in Afghanistan. It’s a flawed story—its Afghan characters, in particular, fall somewhere between gross caricature and racist stereotype—but it captures the expat experience remarkably well.

This clip from the pilot killed me: Sophie arrives at an Afghan NGO fresh from Paris, ready to pitch in. Her new boss gives her the tour, then introduces the job—founding a ski school (“Ski Sans Frontières”) for the children of Kabul, using the fine, fine equipment bought by a Swiss billionaire after it occurred to her one day at Chamonix that the children of Afghanistan couldn’t enjoy one of her favorite pastimes.

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

- Wisława Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak

(photo credit: my friend Ateeq)

So what should you expect from yourself? Not much and everything, I guess. But what do I know? I haven’t solved any of life’s deep mysteries; I’m just a dumb 30-year-old monkey in pants, so I only know how to help myself feel good about my day to day. Most of the time when I give advice, I’m unconsciously doing a poor imitation of my mom, which is fitting, because she was probably the wisest person I’ve ever met. She’d say: be kind to yourself and others, and smile if you’re able. Take care of the people you love, and try to make yourself known and understood. Dial it down, work with your hands, keep it quiet, and share what you know.

Did you know that was the original slogan for the World Wide Web? Before we had disruption, innovation, changing the world, and giant piles of money, we had “share what you know.” Isn’t that nice? What a humble and auspicious beginning. All we have now is built upon that spirit, and I myself would like to get back to it.

via aminatou


"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"What’s that?"
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."

librarians, fuck yeah.

…be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.
Paul Harding, tinkers


Sociology, Grinnell College

I like this thesis. I love this tumblr.

(My own submission? “You should probably consult with the people who will be using these buildings before, you know, building them.”)

The Kankakee Daily News polling place guide, 1949. I love my grandfather’s old files…


A haiku from the article: Bob Dylan: Musician or Poet?

"Gooseberries" contemplates the idea that perhaps it is the self-limiting philosophies of the sort that Tolstoy implicitly prescribed for Pahom that are the real cardinal sin. That perhaps the only arena fit for the human mind is the entire world. And perhaps, Bond villains that we are, even the world is not enough.

Venkatesh Rao, from “The Gooseberry Fallacy

As an avowed skeptic of self-help books, I recently read Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. In it, he discusses how conventional (and shoddy) self-help tips purport to teach us how to reach our own defined goals, while psychologists contend that an enormous prerequisite for happiness comes from cultivating comfort with uncertainty (John Keats called this “negative capability,” Plato’s somewhat-similar term is “metaxis”) instead of fighting for closure and definitive answers. I thought of this while reading Rao’s post—he uses short stories from Lev Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov to make a case similar to Burkeman, arguing that we should “embrace ambiguity and uncertainty in a fundamental way, and choose life over death, even when you don’t know what that life might hold for you.

(via malevichsquare)

I love that I’m not the only one rereading “Gooseberries” these days.


Cloud Eaters