Posts filed under 'nina sparling'

Three Must-Reads from the Spring 2016 Issue

The blog recommends three more must-reads from Asymptote's April Issue—

Hi there, Asymptote readers! When Asymptote’s April Issue came out (nearly two whole months ago!), we recommended five slick pieces to start off your reading. The issue’s still fresh, featuring dozens of articles, poems, interviews, stories, histories, and visual art definitely worth your perusal. These’ll work to stave off translation cravings until you can get your keyboard on to the July issue—which is slated to come out in a little over a month. Let’s get started (in no particular order, of course):

  1. An Interview with Ha Jin, by Henry Ace Knightrecommended by Allegra Rosenbaum, blog editor

    When I first read Ha Jin in high school, by no means did I appreciate his writing. It wasn’t until I was applying to university that I really started to feel the effect that Waiting had made on my life. Part of the application process in the United States is a personal essay. I wrote the first draft and felt fairly confident about it. I told my mother when she got home. She had just seen Ha Jin talk at her job. READ MORE…

Cooking Her Way to the Top: Chef Rossi on Feminism and Kosher Hot Dogs

"Rossi tells a story that deeply satisfies the consumers’ appetite."

The Raging Skillet isn’t like other food writing. There are no pictures. Chef Rossi doesn’t bother with the finer points of locally sourced organic vegetables. The recipes rely on her own systems of measurement: a dollop, a shake, a shot, a coffee cup. She believes dishes will work out, even without weighing ingredients to the gram or composing the perfect image (and appropriate filter) for Instagram. The only weddings Rossi writes about are ones she caters. When she writes about cooking, it’s to describe flipping thousands of burgers or deboning a hundred pounds of salmon. Her patience is thin, her work ethic tough. READ MORE…

Au Comptoir, Au Terroir: Eric Rohmer’s Nadja à Paris

Nina Sparling's latest essay on foreignness, film, and fluidity between private and public spaces.

Eric Rohmer’s 1964 film, Nadja à Paris, follows a Nadja Tesich through the city. Tesich is an exchange student at the Sorbonne, living at the Cité Universitaire at the southern edge of the city. The film is short—just ten minutes. There is no plot; Nadja leads Rohmer, he in observation of her movement through the city. Nadja narrates the film in a voice-over. The film treats Nadja’s position as a habitual stranger, a regular foreigner. She is not French, nor does she desire to be. She learns the habits and patterns of the city and participates in them as she is: a Yugoslavian-American studying in a city that is not her own. The habits she adopts fixate on two spaces, le terrace and le comptoir. READ MORE…

What’s a Tomme Cheese?

In her continued column about food & language, Nina Sparling examines just what—and how—"tomme" cheese has come to mean

Some words for foods are easily translatable. The word’s functional meaning shifts effortlessly between tongues. Tomato and pomodoro both indicate Solanum lycopersicum, member of the nightshade family. Poulet, pollo, and chicken look the same rubbed with oil and garlic roasting in a hot oven. In these cases, there is little room for deliberation: oil, butter, wine. Rice, wheat, corn. Their translations are patently accessible. Learning the words for foods in other languages is particularly satisfying. There’s immediate sensory recognition: the words indicate familiar tastes, smells, textures, and sights. The intimacy with what we eat follows. In learning to say tomato in another language, we begin to feel in it also.

But this question of feeling is where it gets finicky. While most anything carries a “literal” meaning in another language, its usage and implication remain awkward in translation. A New York bakery and a Parisian boulangerie operate in different ways. In both places flour is mixed with yeast and water, let to rise and baked. Yet we do not eat bread in the same ways, and the bread we eat is not the same.

Take, for example, the French word tomme. My first day of work at the cheese shop a colleague asked me what kind of cheese I liked. Tomme, I said. He was quick to call me out.

Tomme is not a kind of cheese. Be more specific.” READ MORE…

Women, Cooking

On women, place, and nourishment

I have never been able to cook from Madeline Kamman’s When French Women Cook. I read the recipes and my mouth waters: noisettes de porc au pruneaux from Claire in Touraine and tarte à l’orange from Magaly in Provence. Yet I cannot convince myself to cook them. The lists of ingredients appear too systematic for food that has more to do with familiarity and wisdom than measurement.

The herbs in my fridge have spent too long away from the earth, the red ocean perch far too many hours out-of-water. The stage is wrong: a railroad apartment in West Harlem with dusty windowsills and dreamed-of copper pots could never measure up to a grandmother’s worn-in kitchen. I dream of meeting these women, listening to them, absorbing their habits and tricks. More than their food, I want their knowledge. READ MORE…

Au Marché, with Emile Zola

Nina Sparling finds Emile Zola's Les Halles in an NYC farmer's market. Part 3 in a series on food, literature, and translation

Runners zipped down the bike lane, out to beat the rising temperatures. We arrived at Skillman Avenue, just west of 43rd Street, a little after 7am. The sun was rising, the sky still lit with the glow reserved for early-risers and weekend revelers. It was opening weekend at the Greenmarket in Sunnyside, Queens. Ron parked the truck with a jolt and I almost spilled my coffee. The cider, oversized apple turnover, and apple farmers had not arrived yet. Patrick pulled up behind us, honking. He would unload crates of integrated pest management apples and tomatoes, challenging the expectations of seasonal produce. He works with Jesus and together they take home thousands, I’m sure. READ MORE…

Drinking with Boris Vian

Part II in a series on food, literature, and translation—this time featuring Boris Vian and his classic "L'ecume des jours"

There is a way a room full of people drinking cocktails feels. It is distinct from the stale fog that spills from a fridge packed with six packs, and it is altogether different from the rosy-cheeked stupor induced by a case of wine. There is a severe and attentive atmosphere to the room. The alchemy of balancing sweetness, bitterness, and bite in a few ounces is mysterious and tempting. There is a self-awareness that comes with drinking an old fashioned, an edge to the precarious glass that a Manhattan arrives in. There is also enormous satisfaction in drinking a good one. The pleasure doesn’t last long—the drinks are always short and expensive. READ MORE…