Watch Orson Welles’ Intoxicating Wine Commercials That Became an 80s Cultural Phenomenon

“We will sell no wine before its time”: some Americans respond to this phrase with a chuckle of recognition, others by asking who’ll sell what wine before when. The difference must be generational, since those alive to watch television in the late 1970s and early 80s can’t have avoided hearing those words intoned on a regular basis — and in no less powerful a voice than Orson Welles’. Coming up on forty years after Citizen Kane, the former boy-wonder auteur had fallen on hard times. Struggling to complete his feature The Other Side of the Wind (little knowing that Netflix would eventually do it for him), he relied on acting work to raise professional and personal funds. He’d done it before, but now the productions offering him the most lucrative roles happened to be commercials for cheap wine.

Despite having been cast into the wilderness by Hollywood, if to some degree willingly, Welles still had cultural cachet — exactly what the higher-ups at the mass-market California wine producer Paul Masson thought their brand needed. Making use of Welles’ late-period public image as a Falstaffian gourmand, Paul Masson commissioned a series of television commercials and print advertisements in which he personally endorses a range of their varietals.

In comparing Paul Masson’s “Emerald Dry” to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Gone With the Wind, two works of art known for their prolonged gestation periods, Welles also implicitly acknowledged his own artistic reputation for making films of genius, if films of genius few and far between.

Though Welles balked at the effrontery of a script comparing Paul Masson wine to a Stradivarius violin, he wasn’t without genuine appreciation for the product. “Orson liked Paul Masson’s cabernet,” said John Annarino, the adman at DDB Needham who handled the Paul Masson account. “He often called the ad agency and instructed, ‘Send more red.'” He also happened to be a highly experienced booze salesman: “As early as 1945 he had done a radio spot for Cresta Blanca Wines,” writes Inside Hook’s Aaron Goldfarb. “By 1972 he was doing print work with Jim Beam bourbon. By 1975 he was hawking Carlsberg Lager. That same year, he pitched Domecq Sherry, Sandeman port (in which he portrayed their ‘Sandeman Don’ character) and Nikka Japanese Whiskey, which were a huge hit overseas.”

The campaign got Paul Masson a substantial bump in sales, but it stuck DDB Needham with a somewhat difficult star. This is evidenced not just by anecdotes from the set but surviving footage that shows Welles, far from disdainful of the wine at hand, seemingly too satisfied by it to deliver his lines properly. Much like the string of increasingly bitter complaints captured during the voiceover recording of a Findus frozen peas commercial, Welles’ seemingly drunken takes for Paul Masson — and even the finished spots — have gone viral in the internet age. Racking up millions upon millions of views on Youtube, these videos have begun to bring “We will sell no wine before its time,” a catchphrase much-referenced in the 80s, back into the zeitgeist. But then, don’t some things only improve with age?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Anthony Bourdain Talks About the Big Break That Changed His Life–at Age 44

In 1999, Anthony Bourdain’s career seemed to have stalled. While his “principal vocation remained his position as executive chef” at New York’s Les Halles, restless intelligence and wanderlust kept him looking for other opportunities. “He was 43 years old, rode hard and put up wet,” writes Elizabeth Nelson at The Ringer, “a recovering addict with a number of debts and a penchant for finding trouble in failing restaurants across the city.” He had fought for and won an undeniable measure of success, but he hardly seemed on the threshold of the major celebrity chefdom he would maintain until his death twenty years later in 2018.

Then, “in the spring of 2000, his sublimated literary ambitions suddenly caught up with and then quickly surpassed his cooking.” Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential “became an immediate sensation,” introducing his iconoclasm, acerbic wit, and outrageous confessional style to millions of readers, who would soon become viewers of his try-anything travelogue series, A Cook’s Tour, No ReservationsThe Layover, and Parts Unknown, as well as loyal readers of his subsequent books, and even fiction like as Gone Bamboo, a crime novel soon to become a TV series.

How did Bourdain first get his winning personality before the masses? It all started with a 1999 New Yorker article called “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” the predecessor to Kitchen Confidential and an essay that begins with what we might now recognize as a prototypically Bourdainian sentence: “Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay.” In the interview clip above, from Bourdain’s final, 2017 interview with Fast Company, he talks about how the story led to his “huge break” just a couple days after it ran, when a Bloomsbury editor called with an offer of “the staggeringly high price of fifty thousand dollars to write a book.”

Everyone who loves Bourdain’s writing—and who loved his generous, ecumenical culinary spirit—knows why Kitchen Confidential changed his life overnight, as he says. Yes, “food is pain,” as he writes in the book’s “First Course,” but also, “food is sex”—”the delights of Portuguese squid stew, of Wellfleet oysters on the halfshell, New England clam chowder, of greasy, wonderful, fire-red chorizo sausages, kale soup, and a night when the striped bass jumped right out of the water and onto Cape Cod’s dinner tables.” Bourdain’s prose lingers over every delight, preparing us for the escapades to come.

In Kitchen Confidential, the exhaustion, “sheer weirdness,” and constant “threat of disaster,” that attend New York kitchen life (and life “inside the CIA”—the Culinary Institute of America, that is), becomes fleshed out with scenes of culinary decadence the likes of which most readers had never seen, smelled, or tasted. Fans craved more and more from the chef who wrote, in 1999, just before he would become a bestselling household name, “my career has taken an eerily appropriate turn: these days, I’m the chef de cuisine of a much loved, old-school French brasserie/bistro where… every part of the animal—hooves, snout, cheeks, skin, and organs—is avidly and appreciatively prepared and consumed.”

Read Bourdain’s New Yorker essay here and see his full 2017 interview with Fast Company just above.

via @Yoh31

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Life & Death of an Espresso Shot in Super Slow Motion

Some YouTuber posted online a pretty nice clip of an espresso shot being pulled from a La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine at 120 frames per second. They recommend muting the sound, then putting on your own music. I gave it a quick shot with the famous soundtrack for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I’ll be damned, it syncs up pretty well. Have a better soundtrack to recommend? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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Watch a Korean Master Craftsman Make a Kimchi Pot by Hand, All According to Ancient Tradition

The South Korean capital of Seoul, where I live, has in the 21st century astonished visiting Westerners with its technology, its infrastructure, and its sheer urban vitality. It strikes many of those Westerners (and I include myself among them) as considerably more developed than anywhere in the countries they came from. But however much Seoul may feel like the future, nowhere in Korea has the past wholly vanished. Take the bulbous earthenware jars still visible on more than a few of the country’s terraces and rooftops, meant to hold condiments like soybean and red pepper paste as well as that world-famous symbol of not just Korean cuisine but Korean culture itself, the fermented cabbage known as kimchi.

Commonly called hangari, or more traditionally onggi, these jars essential to the fermentation of kimchi and other Korean foods are today produced in large numbers with industrial methods. But there are also Korean potters who’ve stuck to the old ways — and in a select few cases, the very old ways indeed. Take Jin-Gyu, the subject of the video above, a short documentary from Eater’s “Handmade” series.

“I’m the youngest of the intangible cultural assets in Korea,” he says, referring to the official list of Important Intangible Cultural Properties introduced to protect long-standing traditions in music, dance, and craft just as the country began its unprecedented surge into modernity. The making of onggi itself, a process Jin-Gyu demonstrates from start to finish in the video, is Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 96.

After pounding his clay into shape while describing how its soil first flows down from the mountains, Jin-gyu places it onto his wheel and gives it the distinctive shape recognizable from all those terraces and rooftops. This requires constant use of his hands, occasional use of his feet, and even the application of traditional tools that he also made himself. The contrast with traditional Japanese pottery, its emphasis on small-scale elegance and near-existentialist attitude toward the final product, is instructive: the Korean variety, as Jin-gyu practices it, has a different energy, more of an emotional and physical rusticity. “This makes me so happy,” he says after removing finished jar from the kiln originally built by his onggi-potter father. “After 300 years, it’ll return to the soil.” But there are plenty of hearty meals to be had in the meantime, none of them without kimchi.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The First American Cookbook: Sample Recipes from American Cookery (1796)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

On the off chance Lin-Manuel Miranda is casting around for source material for his next American history-based blockbuster musical, may we suggest American Cookery by “poor solitary orphan” Amelia Simmons?

First published in 1796, at 47 pages (nearly three of them are dedicated to dressing a turtle), it’s a far quicker read than the fateful Ron Chernow Hamilton biography Miranda impulsively selected for a vacation beach read.

Slender as it is, there’s no shortage of meaty material:

Calves Head dressed Turtle Fashion

Soup of Lamb’s Head and Pluck

Fowl Smothered in Oysters

Tongue Pie

Foot Pie

Modern chefs may find some of the first American cookbook’s methods and measurements take some getting used to.

We like to cook, but we’re not sure we possess the wherewithal to tackle a Crookneck or Winter Squash Pudding.

We’ve never been called upon to “perfume” our “whipt cream” with “musk or amber gum tied in a rag.”

And we wouldn’t know a whortleberry if it bit us in the whitpot.

The book’s full title is an indication of its mysterious author’s ambitions for the new country’s culinary future:

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.

As Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald write in an essay for What It Means to Be an American, a “national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Arizona State University,” American Cookery managed to straddle the refined tastes of Federalist elites and the Jeffersonians who believed “rustic simplicity would inoculate their fledgling country against the corrupting influence of the luxury to which Britain had succumbed”:

The recipe for “Queen’s Cake” was pure social aspiration, in the British mode, with its butter whipped to a cream, pound of sugar, pound and a quarter of flour, 10 eggs, glass of wine, half-teacup of delicate-flavored rosewater, and spices. And “Plumb Cake” offered the striving housewife a huge 21-egg showstopper, full of expensive dried and candied fruit, nuts, spices, wine, and cream.

Then—mere pages away—sat johnnycake, federal pan cake, buckwheat cake, and Indian slapjack, made of familiar ingredients like cornmeal, flour, milk, water, and a bit of fat, and prepared “before the fire” or on a hot griddle. They symbolized the plain, but well-run and bountiful, American home. A dialogue on how to balance the sumptuous with the simple in American life had begun.

(Hamilton fans will please note that the cake for the 1780 Schuyler-Hamilton wedding leaned more toward the former than anything in the johnnycake / slapjack vein…)

American Cookery is one of nine 18th-century titles to make the Library of Congress’ list of 100 Books That Shaped America:

This cornerstone in American cookery is the first cookbook of American authorship to be printed in the United States. Numerous recipes adapting traditional dishes by substituting native American ingredients, such as corn, squash and pumpkin, are printed here for the first time. Simmons’ “Pompkin Pudding,” baked in a crust, is the basis for the classic American pumpkin pie. Recipes for cake-like gingerbread are the first known to recommend the use of pearl ash, the forerunner of baking powder.

Students of Women’s History will find much to chew on in the second edition of American Cookery as well, though they may find a few spoonfuls of pearl ash dissolved in water necessary to settle upset stomachs after reading Simmons’ introduction.

Stavely and Fitzgerald observe how “she thanks the fashionable ladies,” or “respectable characters,” as she calls them, who have patronized her work, before returning to her main theme: the “egregious blunders” of the first edition, “which were occasioned either by the ignorance, or evil intention of the transcriber for the press.”

Ultimately, all of her problems stem from her unfortunate condition; she is without “an education sufficient to prepare the work for the press.” In an attempt to sidestep any criticism that the second edition might come in for, she writes: “remember, that it is the performance of, and effected under all those disadvantages, which usually attend, an Orphan.”

Read the second edition of American Cookery here. (If the archaic font troubles your eyes, a plainer version is here.) A facsimile edition of American Cookery can be purchased online.

Listen to a LibriVox audio recording of American Cookery here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Life Cycle of a Cup of Coffee: The Journey from Coffee Bean, to Coffee Cup

Do you think you would recognize a coffee plant if you came across one in the wild? Not that it’s likely outside the so-called “coffee belt,” the region of the world most rich in soil, shade, mild temperatures, and copious rainfall. Farmed coffee plants “are pruned short to conserve their energy,” the National Coffee Association notes, but they “can grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) high. Each tree is covered with green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs. Coffee cherries grow along the branches. Because it grows in a continuous cycle, it’s not unusual to see [white] flowers, green fruit and ripe [red] fruit simultaneously on a single tree.”

That’s a festive image to call to mind when you brew—or a barista brews—your coffee beverage of choice. After watching the TED-Ed video above, you’ll also have a sense of the “globe-spanning process” between the coffee plant and that first cup of the morning. “How many people does it take to make a cup of coffee?” the lesson asks. Far more than the one it takes to push the brew button…. The journey begins in Colombia: forests are clear-cut for neat rows of shrub-like coffee trees. These were first domesticated in Ethiopia and are still grown across sub-Saharan Africa as well as South America and Southeast Asia, where low-wage workers harvest the coffee cherries by hand.

The cherries are then processed by machine, sorted, and fermented. The resulting coffee beans require more human labor, at least in the example above, to fully dry them over a period of three weeks. Further machine sorting and processing takes place before the beans reach a panel of experts who determine their quality and give them a grade. More hands load the coffee beans onto container ships, unload them, transport them around the country (the U.S. imports more coffee than any other nation in the world), and so on and so forth. “All in all, it takes hundreds of people to get coffee to its intended destination, and that’s not counting the people maintaining the infrastructure that makes the journey possible.”

Many of the people in that vast supply chain are paid very little, the video points out. Some are paid nothing at all. The history of coffee, like the histories of other addictive commodities like sugar and tobacco, is filled with stories of exploitation and social and political upheaval. And like the supply chains of every other contemporary staple, the story of how coffee gets to us, from plant to cup, involves the stories of hundreds of thousands of people connected by a global chain of commerce, and by our constant need for more caffeine.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Cocktails with a Curator: The Frick Pairs Weekly Art History Lectures with Cocktail Recipes

Once upon a time, not so long ago, First Fridays at the Frick were a gracious way for New Yorkers to kick off the weekend. Admission was waived, participants could take part in open sketching sessions or enjoy live performance, and curators were on hand to give mini lectures on the significance and historical context of certain prized paintings in the collection.

Rather than pull the plug entirely when the museum closed due to the pandemic, the Frick sought to preserve the spirit of this longstanding tradition with weekly episodes of Cocktails with a Curator, matching each selection with recipes for make-at-home themed drinks, with or without alcohol.

Much as we miss these communal live events, there’s something to be said for enjoying these wildly entertaining, educational mini-lectures from the comfort of one’s own couch, drink in hand, no need to crane past other visitors for a view, or worry that one might keel over from locking one’s knees too long.

Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon makes for an especially engaging host. His coverage of James McNeill Whistler’s Symphony in Flesh Color and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland, above, touches on the artist’s affinity for butterflies, music, Japanese themes and building his own frames.

But the greatest delight is Salomon’s talent for imbuing 19th-century art world gossip with a sense of immediacy.

Sip a sake highball (or a virgin sangria-style refresher of plum juice and mint) and chew on the true nature of the artist’s relationship with his shipping magnate patron’s wife.

Sake Highball
sake (of your choice)
club soda (as much/little as needed)
lots of ice

Alternative Mocktail
plum juice

cut orange, lemon and apple (sangria style)
mint leaves
sugar (as needed)

Salomon returns to consider one of the Frick’s most iconic holdings, François Boucher’s rococo Four Seasons.

Commissioned in 1755 to serve as over-door decorations for King Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour, they now reside in the Frick’s ornate Boucher Room.

Salomon draws comparisons to another swooning Frick favorite, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s series Progress of Love. While the romantic nature of these works is hardly a secret, Salomon is able to speak to the erotic significance of dolphins, grapes, and tiny 18th-century shepherdess bonnets.

Those who are respecting COVID protocols by courting outdoors this winter will welcome Salomon’s thoughts on Winter’s central figure, a coquette riding in a sleigh driven by a well-bundled man in Tartar dress:

Her hands may be warmed by a muff, but her upper body is completely exposed. It’s a combination of luxury and seduction typical of Boucher, all treated in a fanciful, even humorous manner.

Also, is it just us, or is Curator Salomon taking the opportunity to enjoy his Proust-inspired Time Regained cocktail in a kimono? (A perk of the virtual office…)

Time Regained
2 oz. Scotch whisky
0.75 oz. Dry vermouth
0.5 oz. Pisco
0.25 oz. Jasmine tea syrup (equal parts of jasmine tea and sugar)

Alternative Mocktail
Cold jasmine tea
One spoonful of golden syrup
Top with tonic water

Salomon hands hosting duties to colleague Aimee Ng for Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid, one of three works by the Dutch Master in the Frick’s collection.

Here the drama is less explicitly informed by the boudoir, though there’s a big reveal around the 10 minute mark, thanks to recent advances in infrared reflectography and some well-coordinated art sleuthing.

As to the contents of the message the maid proffers her ermine trimmed mistress, we’ll never know, although those of us with ready access to the Dutch spirit genever can have fun speculating over a glass of Genever Brûlée.

Genever Brûlée
2 oz genever
1 teaspoon brown sugar
A few dashes of classic bitters
A dash of orange bitters
A splash of sparkling water
Garnished with a caramelized orange slice

Alternative Mocktail

Juice of half an orange
2 dashes orange blossom water
A splash of sparkling water
Garnished with a caramelized orange slice

To explore a playlist of every Cocktails with a Curator episode, covering such notable works as Velázquez’s King Philip IV of SpainClaude Monet’s Vétheuil in Winter, and Hans Holbein’s Sir Thomas More, click here.

To read more in-depth coverage of each episode’s featured artwork, along with its cocktail and mocktail recipes, click here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Anti-Gluttony Door in Portugal’s Alcobaça Monastery Shamed Plump Monks to Start Fasting

Consider that you eat the sins of the people

—inscription carved above the entrance to the Monastery of Alcobaça‘s refectory

Apparently, the Monastery of Alcobaça‘s resident monks were eating plenty of other things, too.

Eventually their reputation for excessive plumpness became problematic.

A hefty physique may have signified prosperity and health in 1178 when construction began on the UNESCO World Heritage site, but by the 18th-century, those extra rolls of flesh were considered at odds with the Cistercian monks’ vows of obedience, poverty and chastity.

Its larders were well stocked, thanks in part to the rich farmland surrounding the monastery.

18th-century traveler William Beckford described the kitchen in Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha:

On one side, loads of game and venison were heaped up; on the other, vegetables and fruit in endless variety. Beyond a long line of stoves extended a row of ovens, and close to them hillocks of wheaten flour whiter than snow, rocks of sugar, jars of the purest oil, and pastry in vast abundance, which a numerous tribe of lay brothers and their attendants were rolling out and puffing up into a hundred different shapes, singing all the while as blithely as larks in a corn-field.

Later he has the opportunity to sample some of the dishes issuing from that kitchen:

The banquet itself consisted of not only the most excellent usual fare, but rarities and delicacies of past seasons and distant countries; exquisite sausages, potted lampreys, strange messes from the Brazils, and others still stranger from China (edible birds’ nests and sharks’ fins), dressed after the latest mode of Macao by a Chinese lay brother. Confectionery and fruits were out of the question here; they awaited us in an adjoining still more spacious and sumptuous apartment, to which we retired from the effluvia of viands and sauces.

Later in his travels, he is taken to meet a Spanish princess, who inquires, “How did you leave the fat waddling monks of Alcobaça? I hope you did not run races with them.”

Perhaps such tattle is what convinced the brass that something must be done.

The remedy took the form of a porta pega-gordo (or “fat catcher door”), 6′ 6″ high, but only 12.5” wide.

Keep in mind that David Bowie, at his most slender, had a 26” waist.

Allegedly, each monk was required to pass through it from the refectory to the kitchen to fetch his own meal. Those who couldn’t squeeze through were out of luck.

Did they have to sit in the refectory with their faces to the walls, silently eating the sins of the people (respicite quia peccata populi comeditis) while their slimmer brethren filled their bellies, also silently, face-to-the-wall, as a reader read religious texts aloud from a pulpit?

History is a bit unclear on this point, though Beckford’s enthusiasm waned when he got to the refectory:

…a square of seventy or eighty feet, begloomed by dark-coloured painted windows, and disgraced by tables covered with not the cleanest or least unctuous linen in the world.

According to a German Wikipedia entry, the monks passed through the porta pega-gordo monthly, rather than daily, a more manageable mortification of the flesh for those with healthy appetites.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

If you are assembling a bucket list of destinations for when we can travel freely again, consider adding this beautiful Gothic monastery (and the celebrated pastry shop across the street). Your choice whether or not to suck it in for a photo in front of the porta pega-gordo.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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