Table covers and procrastination

Table covers and procrastination

Aylin Öney TAN -
Table covers and procrastination I lazily browse on the internet to procrastinate writing an essay I need to deliver for a gourmet supplement. It is a usual seasonal piece on pickles, preserves, jams, and jellies. It’s just the right time to blabber a few words about conserving summer tastes, so I was asked to contribute. My pick was to go deep into the history of Mason jars; I actually found a few interesting facts, still I’m not in the mood of writing so I keep doing other things; like grazing in the social media for a bite of fun.

Suddenly I get stuck in a facebook message. It’s a cliché post, about a kebab joint at Göcek, a place I used to frequent years ago. I terribly miss the person who posted it, but I cannot reveal. Instead I drop a handkerchief.

I comment: “They used to have the strangest linoleum table covers, if they still exist can you take a pic for me?”

No reply, not even a click of “like.”

I shrug, I’m already in a negative mood, it cannot get worse anyway.

I continue to procrastinate my writing. It’s a full moon night and people keep posting songs, quotes about the blue moon, seaside photos, beaches, sand, pebbles, sunset, and of course all the food & wine they’re enjoying right at that moment. I feel left behind, and post “Claire de Lune,” inspired, of course, by the google doodle honoring Claude Debussy.

Aha! Here is another one. A sailing scene from Bodrum. Damn, if I did not have all those deadlines I could have been in this pic, right there, I had an open invitation to this boat, and I declined. Green with envy, filled with self-disgust, I return back my word.doc trying to concentrate on jars and preserves.

After a time-lapse, I check my inbox again. Past midnight is still working time in US. Suddenly a message drops from another dear friend from sunny California. I’m instantly carried to a snowy day past February in New York. There is a blizzard and we’re a group of eight trying to reach a Midtown Sichuan restaurant. We’re all in town for the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference, some coming from an hour’s distance, some from West Coast, and me, the only one from overseas. Our mutual interest is researching and writing about food. The message is written to five of us only, the sender sadly says one of our friends has gone: Leslie Land had passed away. She was a prolific writer on food and gardening, a longtime contributor to the New York Times.

It’s been only six months since that blizzard-struck NYC night, yet it seems so far away. Ken Albala, who lets us know about the sad news, also describes an incredible detail of that night. Ken is one of the most productive, versatile writers I know, and apart from his academic work as a food historian, he is an amazing editor of a zillion publications, including encyclopedias. He was up to editing a Food Issues Encyclopedia, and I remember asking him if anyone of us would be interested in contributing. I think only Leslie Land was truly interested. There were Willa Zhen and Anne Mendelson, right on my left side, busily scouring the menu from its Chinese version. Willa is the only one with a true Chinese background at the table, but I’m astonished to hear how fluent Anne is uttering words in Chinese. Though I'm trying to find out about their orders I cannot follow, it all sounds too Chinese to me. Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, a noted food historian, is the Dame of the table, having just received a life-time achievement award at the conference.

Bruce Kraig, a professor of history, is the man who knows all about hot dogs, but with me, he’s very much interested in talking about Turkish politics. Well, I’d prefer hot dogs Bruce, or why we cannot get a proper piggy tube in Turkey, that’s also related to politics, or religion... Whatever...

I’m quite nervous about my presentation the next day, and I’m easily detached from conversations. Obviously, what Leslie and Ken were discussing, I completely missed. Ken now tells us:

“Leslie accepted an assignment to write an entry on refrigerators for the Food Issues Encyclopedia I’m editing for Sage. Several months later she told me she hoped she could get it done before she died.

That is, she diligently spent her last hours on earth writing (without pay) an entry for me, which she finished. Her husband told me she was even testing recipes, having to move her oxygen tank far from the stove to prevent explosion. He said this entry kept her mind focused. Her model of commitment was truly remarkable. A writer to the end.”

Our dinner that night was adventurous and fun with the picks of Willa and Anne, savoring flaming hot dishes on a snowy night was a delight, but it was our shared company at the table that was so heartwarming. I regret not having talked with Leslie more that night.

I browse through Leslie’s website. There she is standing amid boxes of heirloom tomatoes sorting them out for preserving. I’m finally inspired to finish my damn Mason jar article…

Next day, I’m happy with a message from the missed one with a picture of the linoleum covered tables. The pattern is as crazy as I remember, hopping bunnies, deer in a forest, birds circling above trees. However there’s something missing. The bold colors that struck me years ago are not there. They flew away like faded memories.

Leslie’s legacy in me is clear now.

Life is too short for procrastination!

Note: Obituaries for Leslie Land:

Recipe of the Week: Leslie Land’s website is the address to visit for this week’s recipes. There’s no point me re-writing a recipe of Leslie’s here, and it’s hard to pick up one among so many. If you go and click this, you’ll reach for the wonderful details about canning tomatoes and recipes from her. Just the right season!

Buy of the Week:
Buy yourself a funky linoleum table cover at Tahtakale this week. They’re sold by the meter, and the best one to cheer your table is not the juicy citrus pattern, but the bizarre forest scenes, just like the ones in Kebap Hospital.

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: Kebap Hospital in Göcek is the rescue for carnivores of the seas. I’ve seen so many opting for a kebab fix after a week of sailing in the seas.

Cork of the Week: There is nothing like a cool beer after finishing an article. That’s what I’m going to do right now. My pick is Duvel, a Belgian Golden Ale, it’s been a while since they made their appearance in Turkey, I’m glad they did.