At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, March 10, 2006


I really should clean up my apartment.

I realized this the other day when I came home, pleased as punch about a new book (whenever I'm blueish I buy reading material), and, while looking for the last tin of Sasieni Balkan Mixture, found the EXACT SAME BOOK!

The situation is this: near my chair in the tv room are several stacks containing books, magazines, printouts of news articles, and various other things. It's not that there are no bookshelves in the apartment - there are many shelves.

In the tv room there are thirty-three shelves and a stack of plastic boxes that can be used for shelving. Eight of the shelves have books placed in two rows, stacked flat, occupying the entire space between the shelf on which they are placed and the next shelf up.

Three of the shelves are Judaic material, with Japanese style tea bowls in front of the shelf containing Dutch Judaica, a set of Rashi and several tins of tobacco in front of various translations of Tanach, and more tea-bowls plus bronze lizards and a frog in front of miscellaneous Judaica (there is more Judaica in the main room on my desk, and in the shelves on top of the desk - Sforno, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, The Tur, Tanya, and much miscellaneous reading material; the translated Ramban is on the second bedside table in front of the bookshelf with files, a blue crackly glazed koro (incense burner) and the old Macintosh, as well as a statue of Zhong Kuei).

Most of the other shelves in the tv room contain Indian History, Sinitica and linguistics, and a fine collection of National Geographic magazines (every issue between 1931 and 1978 which has pictures of tropical palm trees - don't ask).
Plus Marguerite Yourcenar (pseudonym of Belgian born novelist Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour, 1903 - 1987), Vladimir Nabokov, Mary Renault (The King Must Die, The Persian Boy, Greek Funeral Games, Fire From Heaven, The Mask of Apollo, and The Praise Singer - one of her best works) and some splendid Dutch poetry by a gentleman with unfortunate procreative preferences.

There are at least three and a half shelves of Dutch East Indies material (history, anthropology and ethnography, plus literature by Indies Dutch writers), double stacked and tightly packed.

Four upper shelves of miscellaneous languages, mostly dictionaries.
But also Pānini's Astadhyayi, and some textbooks on native law (adat) written for the Dutch East Indies administration during the last half century of empire.

The top shelves all have pottery, Vladimir Nabokov, Indonesian objets d'art, and doodads.

All of Shakespeare is somewhere.

[There are more books under the chair (some South East Asian cooking, some reference), and under the table. Plus in and in front of the tv cabinet (Chinese Philosophy, miscellaneous literature, O'Henry, Romesh Gunesekera), and on the floor in front of two bookcases (reference, Chinese history, and Edward Gorey).
I think Remembrance of Things Past is also there - I never finished reading it.
Johan Fabricius (copies of almost everything he ever wrote, of which 'Scheepsjongens Van Bontekoe' and 'De Grote Geus' are probably his best known works, although 'De Heilige Paarden' ('The Sacred Horses' - about the resistance of native chiefs on the island of Sumba to Dutch colonial rule, written in 1959) is arguably his best work) and poet-playwright Gerbrand Andriaenszoon Brederode (Dutch Golden age, distant relative of the main character in Fabricius' 'De Grote Geus'; his works are available in editions from Gorcum, Martinus Nijhoff, and Tjeenk Willink, as well as second hand from a variety of other publishers) are in the bookshelves opposite my desk in the other room. Along with trashy romances, detective fiction, and oddities. Next to those shelves are other Dutch literature, Chinese literature, Mediaeval History, Tropical Diseases, and fourhundred cookbooks - more or less. I like cookbooks. ]

And, everywhere, pipe tobacco.

The reason for the tobacco is simple: California will probably double the tax on tobacco products within twelve months, that being the gist of a proposition which will be on the ballot this year.
Wherefore I'm stockpiling. I have enough pipe tobacco to last four and a half years at present rate of consumption (actually 247 weeks), and am aiming for a decade's worth.
After that I'll probably have to move to Wyoming or Arkansas - some place where they have no laws, there is no civilization, everybody has guns, and tobacco is not taxed.

So, rooting around where last I saw the Sasieni Balkan Mixture (which, in mittn drinnen, is the best substitute of The Balkan Sobranie Mixture that has been made since Balkan Sobranie went out of business over a decade ago - Sasieni has since also disappeared), I found a brand new copy of the SAME EXACT BOOK!

It was not anywhere near the Sasieni Balkan Mixture.

I ended up smoking Dunhill's London Mixture instead.

------- --- ------- --- -------

Note regarding pipe tobaccos: A dozen tins of G.L. Pease's Kensington Mixture, a dozen tins of G.L. Pease's Blackpoint Mixture, plus several tins of G.L. Pease's Abingdon, Samarra, Raven's Wing, and Charing Cross mixtures.

Altogether a score of Samuel Gawith tobaccos, mostly the 1792 Flake - and I'm not even a Virginia smoker (it's the discreet Tonquin oil casing - a very old-fashioned aroma, quite pleasing).

A dozen tins of Dunhill tobacco, mostly the London Mixture (of which I am very fond).

A dozen large tins (hundred grammes) of McClelland tobacco, mostly Bombay Extra, but also the Christmas and Anniversary blends. About two dozen other tins of McClelland tobaccos, all with the exception of two of them medium Balkan style mixtures.

Frog Morton, every type, opened tins and unopened reserves.

A score of Bill Bailey's Balkan Blend, a few tins of Gawith Hoggarth Balkan Mixture, about two dozen tins of a variety of tobaccos bought for sampling purposes (most half finished or more). Plus some odds and ends

And, somewhere, the last tin of Sasieni Balkan Mixture. Which remains missing. It was a two-hundred gramme tin.

------- --- ------- --- -------

Further note re pipe tobaccos: Next month I will place orders for ten of each: Dunhill London Mixture, Bill Bailey's Balkan Blend, and Gawith Hoggarth's Balkan Mixture.
After that, I'll probably work on increasing my supplyof McClelland tobaccos, including the Frog Morton blends, the Syrian Latakia Mixtures, and the 221B series, as well as the 'personal reserve' (Bombay Extra, inter alia).

Even further note: There are as yet no tins of tobacco in her room, but there are lots of books and book-shelves there. I am not entirely sure what she reads.

Penultimate note: Lum, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, Sci-Fi, and Thai cooking are under my bed. Plus a few volumes of Dutch poetry. And some Brederode.

Final note: The several stacks of books in, on, and around the hallway table are hers. The stacks along the wall to the bathroom are mine. I'll sort them eventually. Not now.


NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.



  • At 2:56 PM, Blogger Lipman said…

    I tried a pouch of B Sasenie once, but it's not the real thing, though certainly similar to the old BS. Went over to EMP mainly, with the occasional GL Pease. He really has a hand for mixtures.

    I still didn't finish the two 221b tins I opened years ago. First, I found them OK, but after a while, this McClelland tomato ketchup flavour was too much. Still not bad.

  • At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You haven't read TRISTRAM SHANDY lately, have you? This posting would certainly pass for an excellent parody.

  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    I tend to smoke McClelland casually. But lately I've been smoking a lot of Dunhill London mixture and Dunhill Standard mixture.

    EMP? Voss iz EMP?

  • At 11:13 AM, Blogger Lipman said…

    EMP? Voss iz EMP?

    Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe.


    This is the only book I bought twice, I think! Half twice, actually - I had bought vol 1 somewhere very cheap about 10 or fifteen years ago, thinking it's worth those $0.5, and I'd take the risk of not finding a single vol 2. Two or three years later, I erred and thought I had vol 2, so I was happy to find a "matching" vol 1, also very cheap.

    In fact, I'm not sure now if it is really vol 1 or 2 I have twice.

  • At 12:07 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    EMP? Voss iz EMP?

    Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe.

    On that recommendation, I have bought a few tins of Dunhill's EMP during my morning stroll to the tobacconist.

    The label states that it is 'a mild delicately flavoured smoking mixture' - the tin aroma suggests aged virginias. It is of course too moist (as Dunhill always packs their tobacco moist), so I'll try it this evening. It smells and looks wonderful.

    I had forgotten how enjoyable Dunhill can be. As youknow, during the early eighties they farmed out the manufacture to some corporation here in the US that bollixed up the blends. I gave up on them when nearly half of a tin turned out to be twigs and clumps.

    But they have since cleaned up their act enormously.

  • At 12:49 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Further to Dunhills Early Morning Pipe mixture:

    The aroma reminds me strongly of the old Four Square blue mixture, which after the company was purchased in 1980 or 1981 (at least, I think it was), spiralled downwards in quality and eventually disappeared.

    Before then, it was lovely blend based on aged yellow Virginia with Turkish and Latakia - not a full or medium English, more like some of the London-type mixtures, but without any Maryland leaf.

  • At 6:29 AM, Blogger Lipman said…

    Yes, it's a bit humid, but that'll go soon. (I don't smoke much, so I have the opposite problem.) As all Dunhill tobaccos, it burns down very smoothly if you aired it a little. I find it not less strong, but somewhat less tangy than their Nightcap or My Mixture 965.

    I've only gotten to know the last charge of Four Square blue, but in my recollection, it had much less Latakia than EMP.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    I've only gotten to know the last charge of Four Square blue, but in my recollection, it had much less Latakia than EMP.

    You are probably right - what I particularly remember is the aroma of well-aged Virginia tobacco. Plummy.

    When I smoked the EMP last night, it had enough Oriental leaf to keep me happy, though the sensation of a Virginia component was quite noticable. A very enjoyable smoke.

    For those readers who are somewhat baffled, a few notes of explanation:
    1) Virginia. Virginia is a large flue-cured leaf, high in natural sugars and medium on the nicotine level. It often actually refers to tobaccos from places like Rhodesia, India, and the Carolinas. Also called 'flue-cured'.
    2) Oriental. Also called Turkish, though much of it used to come from the Balkans, and some of it comes from Greece or the Crimea. A small leaf, high in resins and therefore flavourfull and aromatic, but extremely low in nicotine.
    3) Latakia. A small leaf Oriental fromm AlTaqqiya in Syria, or from Cyprus, smoke-cured till dark, which gives it an aromatic, tangy, smoky, creosote-like reek. It is the woodsmoky component in English blends. A tangy flavour.
    4) English blends. Also called Balkan blends. Many are actually made in Germany nowadays. Usually a blend or mixture containing Virginias, Orientals, and Latakia. The standard medium English or Balkan Blend is about half Latakia, with the balance split fairly equally between Virginias and Turkish.
    5) Strong, light, and simalar terms. These are used to refer to both flavour and nicotine content, and can be confusing unless the context is understood.

    Virginias are strong (nicotine and sugars), but mixtures that are mostly Virginia are called light. Latakia blends are strong, but considered lighter because they have less nicotine. Turkish is full of flavour, but does not have enough nicotine to keep an addict happy, and is a light tobacco. Burley is often described as light or medium, but has virtually no natural sugars and needs casing or sauce to taste mild. On the other hand, its choc-full of nicotine - hence American blend cigarettes, which contain some inferior Oriental style tobaccos for flavour, much Burley for nicotine, and some cheap Virginias for finish.


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