Monday, March 10, 2014


A friend mentioned me in a post about garlic and dill, asafoetida, and haemorrhoids. Which duly flatters me. Apparently his breath has recently stunk, and he didn't go to a housewarming party in Jaffa. If you knew him, you would understand the connection.
But feel free to speculate if you don't.

Personally, I've always thought of housewarming parties as a giant pain in the sphincter. There you are, surrounded by the newness of it all, in the company of several people you do not know, trying to make happy in a relatively quiet way so that the landlord will not have a pretext to kick out the new tenant.

"Dammit, your friends wrecked the stairwell, and the smell won't go away. So you will have to. You have until Tuesday."

And on Tuesday, his brutish cousin Grunter comes over to beat up the recalcitrant party thrower, who has not left yet. But, impressed by the damage to the stairwell, Grunter stays for an impromptu festivity.
Which involves booze, illicit substances, and strippers. And a disco ball. At eleven o'clock in the morning, in the stairwell. Which you wrecked during the housewarming party. With your unbelievable smells. If you were quieter, and a much more civilized person, this would NOT have happened; it's all your fault.

It's a horrible responsibility.

Years ago, someone I knew threw a housewarming party after he moved into the loft above the bakery. I was not invited, and for several weeks afterwards I resented the implied unfamiliarity. Especially because someone else kept boasting about the fun, the good cheer, the warm embrace of comradeship, and all the other good stuff.

I had heard the noise and seen the flashing lights of the disco ball on my way home that evening, so I knew that a rousing good time had taken place.

I very much wished the baker had not retired and let out his loft.

I've never liked housewarming parties.

Or disco.

[I'm fairly okay with extra potent garlic and dill cream cheese, though. Especially with lots of mashed fresh garlic. Bagel day sounds like a giant opportunity.]

Now, decades later, I realize that disco balls have become cool again, because they're retro. At any moment, bellbottoms, beads, and tie-dye will come back into fashion too. Along with illicit substances, which were very popular then. And patchouli.
I'm rather glad my landlords haven't rented to any of the young google or twitter yuppies filling the city. I don't want the sound of the horny hordes stampeding up and down the stairs at all hours of the night. Or screams, hoots, and excessive gaiety elsewhere in the building.
The quietness is nice, there are no wild parties.
No flashing lights, no loud disco music.
No garlic and dill cream cheese.
Nor even asafoetida.



On a somewhat related note, I should inform you that I did not experience sex until after I left the Netherlands, and I avoid illicit substances and people who use such things.
I mention these matters because when I returned to the States, most people assumed that I had spent my years over there either madly rutting in a drug-induced haze, or sucking giant spleeve in Amsterdam bordellos.
No such thing; I lived a relatively normal life.
Like most teenagers at that time.

According to Wikipædia:
"Asafoetida, انگدان, آنغوزه or asafetida (Ferula assa-foetida)  / æsəˈfɛtɨdə /, is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, a perennial herb that grows 1 to 1.5 m tall. The species is native to the deserts of Iran, mountains of Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in nearby India. As its name suggests, asafoetida has a fetid smell (see etymology below) but in cooked dishes it delivers a smooth flavor reminiscent of leeks. It is also known as asant, food of the gods, giant fennel, jowani badian, stinking gum, Devil's dung, hing, kayam and ting."

And, fascinatingly:
"It was familiar in the early Mediterranean, having come by land across Iran. Though it is generally forgotten now in Europe, it is still widely used in India. It emerged into Europe from a conquering expedition of Alexander the Great, who, after returning from a trip to northeastern Persia, thought they had found a plant almost identical to the famed silphium of Cyrene in North Africa—though less tasty. Dioscorides, in the first century, wrote, "the Cyrenaic kind, even if one just tastes it, at once arouses a humour throughout the body and has a very healthy aroma, so that it is not noticed on the breath, or only a little; but the Median [Iranian] is weaker in power and has a nastier smell." Nevertheless, it could be substituted for silphium in cooking, which was fortunate, because a few decades after Dioscorides's time, the true silphium of Cyrene became extinct, and asafoetida became more popular amongst physicians, as well as cooks."

It's connection to haemorrhoids and housewarming parties in Jaffa must remain one of the mysteries of life. Though I suspect that like drugs and sex in Holland, there is less there than meets the eye.

In all honesty, I wouldn't mind a discreet bit of excessive gaiety.

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