Of Brothers, Bauhaus, and Broccoli

A year ago August I wrote about the novelist and chef Nancy Weber of "Between Books She Cooks. Her memoir Life Swap, precursor to the current trendy reality shows, was my first introduction to her brother Nicholas whom I then was longing to meet in person. The opportunity finally presented itself at, perhaps the least opportune time for me--in the midst of my new book promotion. But Nicholas (to whom Nancy refers fondly as Nicky) does not live full time in the US and he happened to be in town doing a 'reading' of his newly published book The Bauhaus Group at a small independently owned bookstore in Chelsea called 92 Books (which is the address not the number of books they house or should I say haus?!). This provided a double temptation. My great uncle Nat, as an industrial designer, was a great advocate of the Bauhaus school. His design for the Movado Museum Watch exemplified the Bauhaus mantra "form follows function," by eliminating what he perceived as unnecessary numbers or markings, gracing the dial simply with a large gold dot to represent the sun at noon or the moon at midnight. Uncle Nat was always teaching and challenging people to more purity and directness of thinking. As a child, there was nothing more stimulating or thought provoking than visits to or from Uncle Nat. There are some people one is lucky enough to encounter who make one look at the world in a different way. Nancy Weber is also such a person. She once voiced a desire to "slip under the door unencumbered by material possessions or physical limitations." This is the perfect metaphor for her free spirit and rare capacity to be fully present in the moment. Nancy invited me to lunch at the Player's Club--a literary club housed in a beautifully restored historic home at Grammercy Park South. As we are both writers our conversation always includes our love of words. I mentioned that the words we use most often tend to become limited to the context. The example I gave was revision. As a writer I have come to think of it as a rewrite or change-usually laborious in nature. But one day it suddenly occurred to me to see it as the literal word it actually can be. Re and vision--to see things in a new way. Little did I realize that the very next night I would hear Nick employ that concept as the essence of the Bauhaus belief? When I arrived at the book store where Nicholas's 'reading' was to take place, I recognized him immediately because he looked just like a male version of Nancy--not just a physical resemblance but also a luminescence that radiated around him. Rather than reading from his new book, Nick spoke eloquently and comfortably to a spellbound audience, telling entertaining stories about members of the Bauhaus. I loved the story about Anni Albers trying to teach English to her German speaking husband Josef when she herself was not entirely fluent. He asked what was the meaning of pasture and she answered (certainly with certainty): "the opposite of future." He also told a story of a unique delivery of birthday presents to artist Klee. Members of the group decided that the delivery of the presents should be as unique as his art and came up with the idea to drop off the presents by plane through the roof of his house. Two of the Bauhaus women rented a plane with an open cockpit. When the pilot decided to give them a ride for their money and went into several aerial spins, instead of their becoming horrified with fear they were, in typical Bauhaus fashion, fascinated to be able to see the world in a new way: up-side-down. Coincidentally, this proved to be the week that I turned my "revision" to food. In each of three meals I found one element to be undesirable but fixable. The short ribs that were part of a delicious mixed grill dinner at the Argentinean restaurant Buenos Aires were grilled medium-rare and, therefore, tough as shoe leather. Short ribs need long slow moist cooking so I revised them by braising for 3 hours. (They were excellent--maybe the thing to do is always to grill them before braising.) I reduced the liquid to serve as a sauce au nature. Short%20Ribs.jpg The fried chicken from Jane Street Café was crispy, moist, and flavorful but too much to finish and greasy to boot. I wrapped the breasts in three layers of paper towels to absorb most of the fat and then set them on a rack and reheated them in the oven. And finally, the salmon at the Player's Club was perfectly cooked but the broccoli vastly undercooked. I revised that by adding a spray of water and microwaving it for 3 minutes. So the double moral of the story: Take doggie bags and be Bauhausian. For more fascinating stories about the Bauhaus read Nick's book and for more about him and the book read the description of his appearance below: Nicholas Fox Weber
(Knopf 2009) Thursday October 29, 7PM Nicholas Fox Weber, head of the Albers Foundation for three decades, was a longtime friend of Anni and Josef Albers. The Albers' told him their stories and described life at the Bauhaus with their fellow artists and teachers, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as well these figure's lesser known wives and girlfriends. In this extraordinary group biography, Weber brilliantly brings to life the Bauhaus geniuses and the community of the pioneering art school in Germany's Weimar and Dessau in the 1920s and early 1930s.