The Taste of the Text

Barthes“How blue the sky was”

The figure refers to the happy interval immediately

Following the first ravishment, before the difficulties

Of the amorous relationship begin.

   – Roland Barthes (1915—1989)


The linguistic philosophers of France, especially the late Roland Barthes, understood how French cuisine and French culture are related, and how both fit with structuralist philosophy.[1] A Parisian dinner is meant to be a single elegant statement, like a well-turned sentence or an outfit from Yves Saint-Laurent. The Anglo-Saxon view of a banquet can be expressed in terms of the history of the world. You begin with soup—water with things swimming in it—then move on to the aqueous kingdom, then to flying creatures, then to mammals. Finally you celebrate man in cheeses and desserts, both products of sophisticated culture. This is the diachronic view, which the French reject. They prefer to see the various courses as syntagmas, or sentence components—soup adjective, fish noun, chicken adverb.

Is not a good wine whose flavor oscillates, alters, doubles, so that the mouthful swallowed does not have quite the same taste as the next mouthful taken? In the draught of good wine, as in the taking of the text, there is a torsion, a twist of degrees: it turns back, like a lock of hair.

“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and    architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.”

—Antonin Carême


The Uncertainty of Signs: (signes / signs)

“Whether he seeks to prove his love, or to

Discover if the other loves him, the amorous

Subject his no system of sure signs at his disposal.”

– Roland Barthes


This is no small jest. Remember that architects must build maquettes, models, which require some of the same fine eye and hand movements, the same precision as the confection of a pastry. Carême’s[2] words came true shortly after I had first encountered them: an architect I have known since childhood, upon retiring, enrolled in pastry-making school and now supplies several Bay Area restaurants with his sugared constructions.



[1] Structuralism (1960s) Literary Theory regarded as a French movement, much indebted to the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), but with Russian and Czech sources, and international implications. Principals: Roland Barthes (1915-80), Gérard Genette (1931-   ), Algirdas Julien Greimas, Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-   ), Tzvetan Todorov (1939-   ).

Literary texts, and other cultural products such as myth, are analyzed as systems of signifying units, like language. Preoccupation with formal symmetries, parallelisms,, contrasts; with features of poetic language which differ from those of ‘ordinary language’; with the general properties of literature (POETICS). Jacobson’s POETIC PRINCIPLE and the NARRATIVE GRAMMAR of Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) are important foci and models.

[2] Marie-Antoine Carême: 1784 -1833) was a French chef and food writer. Though named in honor of Marie Antoinette, he preferred to call himself “Antonin”—no doubt for many reasons, particularly after the French Revolution. A celebrity chef, his was a style of cooking that would now be deemed opulent if not outright excessive. He is now seen as the founder of “La Grande Cuisine Française”, having established the supremacy of French cooking in Europe for the next 200 years. He was also very interested in architecture, an interest which he translated into his monumental edible table pieces constructed of food.


My Latest Book – Whispers, Epiphanies and Intimations

whispersCoverThis book is a quintessential wilderness classic coming from the author’s quarter century of living in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, our planet’s biggest temperate rainforest.

This gargantuan rainforest (Tongass National Forest)[1] is unique in that almost all of its acreage is the thousand-and-one islands of the Alexander Archipelago. The scope of this work is largely limited to that part of the archipelago’s geography that remains untrammeled by human intrusion. The author focuses his lens on the experiences of the singular individuals who reside in the pristine beauty of the most magnificent temperate rainforest on earth. The nine stories of the book feature the spectacular geography of the islands and the author’s own twenty-five years of intriguing, dangerous, fascinating living.Carlson 006 Exploring Brownie


Mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures of unknown culture, of an ominous buzz telling you to turn on your radio and hide


A magnificent buck is seen coming down from the ridge, tremendous, unhurried, slanting and titling its head to pass the antlers through the forest under growth


The mind that seeks the deepest intellectual fulfillment does not give itself up to every passing idea. Yet what is sometimes forgotten are the larger intimation of purpose, intimations of new realities and new knowledge. Carlson 010 Our Izba

[1] The Tongass National Forest is not only the largest National Forest in the United States it is also the largest national forest in the world.

Available on

Word Salad

A Posting of New Mental Health Directions:

In the mental health field the term “word salad” is often called schizophasia the psychosis of a formal thought disorder. To put it more simply schizophasia can be thought of as cognitive slippage involving idiosyncratic arrangement of words.
The recipe for a simple manipulative world salad requires only a single ingredient “words.”
I am neither a Dietitian nor a Physician and certainly not a Chemist, but I have a deep conviction, which like religion, is based on faith alone (unsupported by any evidence whatsoever), that these little rum ram ruffs are confections that will add an obscene number of calories to your intellectual diet.
In Herbis, et in Verbis:
Stuffed MirrorMy Dinghy_20160206_0004

Me and my books in the same apartment:
Like a gherkin in its vinegar.
—Gustave Flaubert
In an age when just the composition of a salad required a great knowledge of herbs, their flavors and combined tastes, it was commonly said that “In herbis, et in verbis et in lapidibus sunt virtutes” (“There are powers in herbs, words, and stones”). The syncretic character of late medieval cuisine . . . finds a mirror-like reflection in the taste for farce and linguistic blending, and in the interweaving and overlapping of words. Farce, whether “stuffed” or “mixed,” makes up the combination of seasoned ingredients which conspire to please the palate; it is the dietary archetype at the origin of linguistic structuring and presides over the stuffing of vocabulary and locutions.
About farce, the dramatic comedy genre: it does come from the word for stuffing, which is what it’s made of—overloaded plot, exaggerated characters, copulating coincidences. Rossini (1792-1868) Italian composer, took one look at a cannelloni and decided that stuffing was its destiny. The result was named Cannelloni Rossini—so I learned from an Argentine painter (also inspired in the kitchen and the fireplace) I call him El Gaucho Geométrico. As Cecilia Bartoli divined, Rossini would spend a good deal of time before a deadline enjoying pasta and wines and not composing a single note.
The following is a sampling of some of the more inane of the common societal varieties of schizophasia manipulative word salads. For Example ―
People say they’re “happy as a clam” . . . but why do we assume that clams are happy? They never smile, never attend parties, and live in a puddle of sand. If anything, I’ll betcha that clams suffer from a massive inferiority complex since they can’t make pearls like oysters.
“The early bird gets the worm.”
So? The late bird gets a worm, too.
There is not a limited supply worms in the world. I’ve never heard of a worm-shortage. Have you? Besides, even though the early bird might get a worm, the early mouse gets its neck snapped by the mousetrap. And the second mouse walks away with the cheese.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Over-looking the incorrect grammar in this expression, the dictionary definition of the word “fix” is: To render or make whole a broken object. By the very definition of the word “fix” it’s physically impossible to fix an object unless it’s broken.voicesHead
The phrase “luck of the Irish” makes no sense at all. What luck?! You’re talking about a group of people who suffered through a potato famine, were occupied by England, faced political terrorism, have a history of religious wars, and who’s populous have entirely too many freckles. “Luck of the Irish” ranks right up there with the “luck of the American Indian” and “luck of the Jews in Nazi Germany.”

Erik Satie

Érik Satie (1866—1925) was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colorful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. In 1879 Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was soon labeled untalented by his teachers. Georges Mathias, his professor of piano at the Conservatoire, described his pupil’s piano technique in flatly negative terms, “insignificant and laborious” and “worthless”. Emile Decombes called him “the laziest student in the Conservatoire”.

Erik Satie was attacked by fever and gout repeatedly in his later years, caused his doctor Finot great distress, especially when he refused to eat, claiming that he was already dead, and that the dead did not eat. Yet if he had not eaten, he would have died for a fact. But he could never be persuaded that he was alive, and consequently, that he should eat. Finally Finot and another doctor who attended him decided to agree that he was dead, but to argue that some dead persons ate.

They offered to show him some, and brought in several persons they could count on, and who said they were as dead as he was but still went on eating. This device did the trick, but he would only eat with the other “dead” and Finot. His appetite was good, although Finot despaired at the persistence of his fantasy. Finot would double up with laughter, however, when recounting the otherworldly conversations that took place at these meals.

Erik’s doctor Finot always told him to smoke. He even explains himself:

“Smoke, my friend. Otherwise someone else will smoke in your place.”



The Bliny, a Pancake of Great Mystification

pancakes1I was slumbering in my chair when she entered the darkened room lit only by the sullen embers in the fireplace. She had come to comb my hair, it was one of her eccentricities. She would wet down my head with a damp towel to knead it at length, like bread dough. And then, she would slice a part in my hair with a comb, as though with a knife, dividing my hair the way one divides a loaf of bread. When the combing was finished we would kiss. While I rose to stir the fire she said to me, “By morning your hair will rise like dough ready for the oven . . . ”
My happiest moment came when she said, “I’m going to prepare a cup of hot, strong tea for you so you can sit and meditate, think, or write a thoughtful letter.” I replied, “What happy idea, but please, not Earl Grey which in England, as everyone knows, is consumed only by little old ladies during afternoon tea, and which the English tea lover scorns as a perfumed, old-maidenish drink.” I suggested, “A bliny with sour cream and caviar would be an intriguing idea. (By the way, “bliny” is the correct plural form of “blin” in Russian culture.) It is, after all, Malenitsa week.”thinker
Maslenitsa in the Russian Orthodox tradition is the week that precedes the 40 days of the Great Lent, when no meat, fish, dairy or eggs are allowed. It’s the time when people traditionally make bliny – large crêpe-like pancakes (except that bliny are leavened, thus are thicker that crêpes) that are slathered with generous amounts of butter. Maslenitsa falls on the end of winter, so it is also the time to celebrate the coming spring, to say goodbye to the cold days. Both the idea of feasts and the public celebration makes the festival similar to Mardi Gras.
Her face expressed her bewilderment as each intellectual challenge or unanswerable question arose in her mind. She said, “A bliny is a difficult pancake, a very compound crux. It is one of the most compressed and intricate pancakes I have ever known of.”girl
The bliny has pre-Christian origins, and was connected to the agrarian calendar, customs and ceremonies of the ancient Slavs, in whose animistic beliefs the Russian bliny is a ritual food. They are eaten on calendar holidays and at family ceremonies to influence nature and human beings. The ritual use of the bliny has, with its fertility magic, partly survived in the Christian period.
”But what a supreme pancake the bliny is,” I said. “if you will agree that it is a fantastical pancake I will agree that it is a conundrum of great mystification, and a phenomenon of the first rarity.”

An Anecdoted Biography of Guillaume Apollinaire

Apollinaire3Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918) Born Guillaume Albert Wladimir Alexander Apollinaire de Kosdrowitzky in Rome. Apollinaire was a poet and mouthpiece of Cubism, writing on art and clarifying the significance of the changes afoot in Paris before and during the First World War. Among artists and writers, he was everyone’s friend and kept everyone friendly; Gertrude Stein wrote that after his death (of a head wound, from the war), there was no one to keep them all together. His Cubist Apollinaire2poems included snatches of overheard café conversation and sounds of the street, much as Braque’s and Picasso’s paintings would take in a scrap of newspaper. Apollinaire was incredibly active during these years, and in Alcools he celebrated Paris in poetry that caught the rhythm and light of the city in this brilliant time.

The Bells

My gipsy beau my lover
Hear the bells above us
We loved passionately
Thinking none could see us

But we so badly hidden
All the bells in their song
Saw from heights of heaven
And told it everyone

Tomorrow Cyprien Henry
Marie Ursule Catherine
The baker’s wife her husband
and Gertrude that’s my cousin

Will smile when I go by them
I won’t know where to hide
You far and I’ll be crying
Perhaps I shall be dying

Guillaume Apollinaire