The Glens Trail, Gorge Metro Park

a “gorge”ous preview of our Saturday hike

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Kurdish in Edinburgh

Vegetarians beware: Although the featured restaurant has plenty of veggie options, this review unapologetically delights in meat from assorted animals.

Hanam’s in Edinburgh, Scotland: A restaurant review

In a tourist town, most prominent restaurants can’t help but be pretty great. Our recent trip to Scotland is a testament to this trend. We were able to sample the high-quality wares of several Scottish, British, Italian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern establishments from Edinburgh and Glasgow through central Scotland, up the Great Glen, and into Inverness. We even managed to find the occasional suburban jewel.

Hanam’s is a Kurdish and Middle Eastern restaurant in Old Town Edinburgh, a short tumble down the hill from the castle. In keeping with the idea that Edinburgh and Glasgow may be more cosmopolitan than particularly Scottish in population, several of our servers at various ethnic restaurants were transplants from Greece or other countries in the European Union. Our server at Hanam’s was from Romania or Bulgaria, if I recall correctly.

After visiting Edinburgh Castle and the Real Mary King’s Close, among other Old Town attractions, we followed our fledgling fancy for Turkish and Middle Eastern victuals back up that steep hill. Incidentally, walking in Edinburgh is, largely, hill walking. My husband’s mouth watered just knowing there was a Turkish restaurant in town, so what was one more climb after a long day of sightseeing and fetching our rental car for excursions northward, which would start early the next morning?

During several business trips in years past he got to know Turkish culture and cuisine, nurturing what would become a deep, abiding affection for both. Unfortunately, the way things are going in Turkey, they’re unlikely to earn membership in the EU any time soon. The restrictive state of things there after the recent unrest and attempted coup saddens us, but I digress. It doesn’t stop us from celebrating the best of their gastronomy.

The husband has even gone gourmet at home with his own recipe for Turkish chickpea stew spiced with baharat, a special blend of spices the combination of which depends on where you’re from and what you like. Hubby uses black pepper, cumin, crushed mint, coriander, a dash of cinnamon, some cardamom, cayenne pepper, and sometimes AllSpice. Chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic, Yukon gold potatoes, and sometimes ground lamb round out the main ingredients.

He has made the stew on several occasions both special and mundane, sometimes with meat, sometimes without. Although I’m not a fan of the cumin or cayenne, generally I like it when he makes this meal, especially since I don’t have to do much of the work!

Thus, among the restaurants we planned to sample in Scotland, we heartily agreed: For our last night in Edinburgh, we would try that Kurdish-slash-Turkish place on the hill.

Soujuk is another one of Hubby’s favorites, which he describes with glee as “spicy, flavorful, cured goodness,” but it’s basically a Middle Eastern and Balkan beef sausage. So there would be Soujuk on the table that night, this time Lebanese style, “sauteed in tomato, green pepper, garlic and chilli, served with naan bread,” which made it very stew like.

His main course was Gosht Kebab, a spiced, minced lamb kebab he thoroughly enjoyed.

The cooking types at Hanam’s also make a mean leg of lamb, which was my main course. It’s called Qozy Lamb on the menu. This magical meat slides off the bone so easily, no edible morsels remain. Ah, tender, juicy little lamb. . . . Accompanying that wonderful meat was a spicier side dish. The menu describes it this way:

“Qozy Lamb – A generous portion of tender braised lamb on the bone, perched on top of rice, with bread and a portion of your choice of tapsi or bamya – simply delicious!” And it was.

leglamb_closeup_hanams

Qozy Lamb at Hanam’s, photo from their website

For my side dish, I went with the tapsi. It’s a type of Shilla, or shilah, sauce, a “Kurdish favourite of aubergines (eggplant for you non-French speakers), green peppers, onions & sliced potatoes layered with a spiced tomato sauce.” Very tasty–and vegetarian.

Bamya is a type of Shilla sauce made with “tender okra cooked slowly with chopped tomatoes & a hint of garlic.”

Other uniquely Kurdish items on the menu include their version of chicken biryani and the Mushakal Kebab Platter, “a real Kurdish feast to share with 4 skewers: chicken wings, minced lamb, lamb fillet and chicken breast kebabs.”

Hanam’s also offers culinary gems in the traditions of Saudi, Persian including Iranian-style kebabs, and other Middle Eastern staples such as fatoush, falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus, and shawarma wraps. Baklawa (baklava) was on the dessert menu, but we were too full and spent to sample any. I drank mango lassi with my dinner, a refreshing mango juice drink often served at Indian restaurants.

Hanam’s full dinner menu is an 8-page document clearly describing each item and how it’s served.

Despite its being a Monday night, we didn’t arrive especially early so we were a bit surprised more people weren’t partaking in the wonderfulness. Granted, it was late September, not exactly the height of the tourist season. But take note: This food really is good, people. If you haven’t tried it, make a point of doing so.

Besides housing great food, Hanam’s decor was rich with reds and golds and a few woven tapestry-type wall hangings, fresh yet crisp night air wafted in from a nearby window we could open or close as desired, and the service was friendly and professional.

A terrific dining experience I’m happy to recommend. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

So if you find yourself in Edinburgh and you’re visiting the castle, walk by Hanam’s and take a whiff of their delightful preparations. Chances are, the rest of your body will follow your nose inside, and your palate will thank you.

The sister restaurants of Hanam’s in Edinburgh are Laila’s and Pomegranate.

Five-Phrase Friday (35): Satirist Koch

After perusing my tattered because well-loved go-to resource for poetry, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 4th Edition, and considering many candidates for a final National Poetry Month set of phrases, I decided on a sample from Ohio-born poet Kenneth Koch (1925-2002).

His work is often funny, satirical, off beat, and tongue in cheek. The sample I’ve chosen shares these qualities through Koch’s use and discussion of the nature of language.

As a famed member of the informal collective known as The New York School of poets (1960s), Koch published numerous anthologies and other works. The article “A Brief Guide to the New York School” at Poets.org summarizes their style:

Heavily influenced by surrealism and modernism, the poetry of the New York School was serious but also ironic, and incorporated an urban sensibility into much of the work.

Kenneth Koch’s grammatical poem “Permanently” sounds a bit like a Mad Libs story, with some blanks filled in, others waiting to be. At the same time, there’s a deliberate mismatch between parts of speech and their labels–for instance, “Adjective” and “Sentence” each represent a noun in grammatical context.

In this sense, Koch’s piece could be seen as a parody of the formulaic, color-by-numbers travesty of linguistic creativity that is the Mad Libs word game, as if it’s a cheap thrill at the expense of the English language. My words, not his. Not that I actually hold that opinion (I refrain from deciding today), but Koch may have viewed things in similar terms.

Here are five lines from the middle of the poem “Permanently” by Kenneth Koch:

Each Sentence says one thing--for example, "Although it was a dark
     rainy day when the Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure
     and sweet expression on her face until the day I perish from the
     green effective earth."
Or, "Will you please close the window, Andrew?"

Satire, whether in art or writing, uses the tools of parody, irony, randomness, nonsense, odd juxtapositions, and other devices to create absurdities that mock and criticize, as a way of dethroning the powerful, rooting out hypocrites, and exposing the flaws of its targets.

Note the irony of the statement before the excerpt’s first example, given the complexity of that example. Also ironically, the poem has no obvious adverbs, though its title is one.

What other satirical tools do you see at work in the sample?

The poem has a more serious ending, turning to love, and the whole is well worth the read.

Among those collections that house the full poem “Permanently,” Permanently, Tiber Press, 1960, must surely be one. However, Amazon.com lists the book as currently out of print with limited availability.

Fear not! Kenneth Koch’s books are also available from Amazon.com and other booksellers. To find a free print copy of the book Permanently, borrow one from a library near you, perhaps using WorldCat. According to their About page, it’s “the world’s largest network of library content and services.”

To learn more about Kenneth Koch and other New York School poets, visit these dedicated poetry resources.

Poets.org / The Academy of American Poets’ Kenneth Koch profile page

The slightly longer bio at The Poetry Foundation page on Kenneth Koch

Note: Koch’s Wikipedia page is annotated as flawed, and I often find sites like Poemhunter, Poetrysoup, and other unofficial databases to be half baked and unreliable. I never direct my students to these less reputable resources, though I’ll use them in a pinch to get a gist.


Final thought: Check out the pictures from his later years; Kenneth Koch looks remarkably similar to Bernie Sanders, don’t you think? Very different New York “schools” . . . . Koch would have had a field day with today’s presidential candidates.

My Kind of Vehicular Idiot

Of all the things to miss about visiting Chicago, I can’t deny that driving in the city might seem like a strange, even ludicrous, choice. Drivers found around the Chicago metro area are infamous speeders, arguably reckless. Sometimes a change of “pace” or scenery brings particular delight. Sometimes a new challenge is just what you need.

The typical, experienced downtown driver in a large American city is my kind of idiot: alert, quick, and decisive. The road is one of those few places where I feel that way about myself, as I’m otherwise often hampered by too much contemplation, or “analysis paralysis.”

A greater portion of Ohio drivers in my experience threaten more danger in their tentativeness than through any deliberate recklessness. Along with the sensory impaired, I set aside drunk or high morons and the assumption that any genuine violent intent is less frequent in them than in sober maniacs.

It’s true that all the ways out there are dangerous, and I have a healthy fear of car travel, though I suspect I’m somewhat more asphalt experienced than many peers my age. I’ve driven in larger, powerful, often unreliable used cars since I started driving, and I’ve worn deep ruts over long distances in various settings from college to job commuting to cross-country road trips.

I’m comfortable with highways. You can be hurt or killed just as easily on a street going 25 mph as on the larger arteries going 70. But I’m more comfortable with large urban city streets than more suburban or rural, or even small-city, ones.

My main point is that when it comes to operating a car, it’s advantageous to have a little fender bender experience to learn from (guilty), a lot of mileage experience to draw from (check), and a healthy fear of the road through which to balance offensive and defensive driving (working on it). Extremes in driving, as in anything, tend to get you into trouble. That includes excess caution.

Personally, if I’m going to encounter, or be, a vehicular idiot, I’d rather it be on purpose with someone who knows the vehicle, knows how to evade traffic, and won’t panic in the heat of the moment. I’d rather ride with champion F1 racer Lewis Hamilton (not just because he’s cute) than with any nervous teen, soccer parent, middle-aged bookworm, or elderly citizen at the wheel. While otherwise not the greatest specimen of film making, the plot of the ’80s movie License to Drive, starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, clearly illustrates that treacherous driving experience tends to make one a better driver.

(Note that I’m not advocating reckless driving behavior or deliberately creating dangerous situations for the sake of skill development.)

Assuming existing skill, confidence in any venture is far more useful and likely to lead to success than is habitual hesitation. I’m a big believer in the “fake it till you make it” motto: If you don’t feel ready despite due preparation and a teacher’s, coach’s or mentor’s belief in you, pretend you are, play the part (that I can do), don’t over-think it (this I’ve got to work on), and charge ahead until you feel the confidence you instill, even if you never do.

The next time I’m feeling uncertain about my ability in something, I’ll make a point of recalling how thoroughly I enjoyed my drive through downtown Chicago last October. I successfully navigated with some helpful and some not-so-helpful GPS and passenger assistance, kept it clean and crisp among zippy cabs and other aggressive drivers, and avoided causing an accident (as far as I know–you can’t discount possible indirect chains of events far behind you). By luck or grace of God or fate or whatever combination of factors, we avoided becoming victims of a car accident as well.

Even knowing an accident or road rage can happen anywhere at any time, I was less scared of the traffic in that environment than I am of slow highway mergers, hesitating turners, and paralyzed watchers at multi-way stops back home. Such tentative behavior tends to create more danger, not least by spreading fear, than it prevents or avoids.

I prefer to avoid the kind of fear that makes one a stupid driver. I guess I see it as my responsibility as a citizen at the helm of a complex, high-mass, and fallible piece of heavy machinery. Anxiety, phobia, and poor coping in a crisis tend not to mix well with dangerous equipment. Still, more often than not, I’m content to stay at home . . . . Easy civic duty.

Updated: Wild Verses: Bits of Nature Poetry, 2 of 10

The first few stanzas of a poem I wrote while spending a college semester in France.

untitled, 5/17/98

It is quite perilous to be 
in Avignon
a salamander
crawling free.

With legs too small and smiles too wide,
along the street,
a salamander 
tries to hide.

He scampers, streaking over stone
in gardens dry;
a salamander 
licks the fly;
he’s not alone.

copyright C. L. Tangenberg

P.S. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are salamanders in the dry habitat provided by the courtyard garden of an urban Avignon house. I stayed in one of these for the semester. The common wall lizard is a more likely species to have observed (I did see something in that space!), but “salamander” has a much better cadence.

a common wall lizard, Avignon, France.  Image credit: ReptileRevolution.com

A common wall lizard, Avignon, France.
Image credit: ReptileRevolution.com