I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I think is cool and why. Or maybe, more accurately, I have been thinking more about what is not cool.
I regularly get sent catalogs from Flamingo Estate, a company in Los Angeles that insists it is selling a “natural” hedonistic lifestyle, but actually feels like a 1990’s shopping mall Crabtree & Evelyn (with a dose of Colonialism). Flamingo estate, which is…a farm? a house? an ad agency?…a brand! sells Instagram-ready vegetables and other household products to rich people who believe in vibes, pseudo-science, and “clean” ingredients. The catalogs are highly (read: expensively!) produced, inexplicably full of aesthetically ideal bodies (mostly unclothed) and $180 jars of honey. I wonder where I went wrong to end up on their mailing list. It all feels like it was created by some sort of horrible advertising algorithm made sentient. Somehow humanless and absolutely humorless. And also strangely untrustworthy—there is no way this relatively small organization can be producing the number of products they are producing to the quality they claim. But it is the humorless part that really kills me. Even when they do ridiculous things, like sell a bag of animal shit for $75 (I’m not joking), they somehow make it no fun. Maybe stuff that is only for rich people will never be very cool. The whole thing feels, as the kids would say, a little cringe.
On the other hand, Laila Gohar, along with her sister Nadia, recently launched a houseware company, Gohar World, that sells bonnets for fruit, black silk bags festooned with bows and ribbons to carry your baguettes in, and adult bibs made out of linen, lace, and silk ribbon. Gohar, who straddles the line between chef and artist (leaning art), is regularly profiled in the NYTimes and Vogue and it is hard for the term It Girl (groan) to not cross your mind when observing her role in our culture. But the thing is, Gohar is cool, despite it all. And the stuff she is selling is all ridiculously wonderful. A friend recently assumed I would not like Gohar and lumped her together with Flamingo Estate. I argued. The two could not be more different. Gohar’s work feels earnest and fun and understands the parts of itself that are ridiculous. It makes all the difference! And while most people won’t spend hundreds of dollars on a silk bag for their baguette, the buying of things seems beside the point. Anyone can make jello centerpiece, or find some doilies at a thrift store. We could all get weirder. Her relationship to art and food doesn’t feel exclusive, it feels inspiring. If coolness requires humor, Gohar’s got it.
“When you put my work into these spaces, it’s sort of like an equalizer,” Laila, 33, says. “Everyone is equally confused.” (quote from The Cut)
Some other stuff I’m into:
We went on an epic Southern road trip in April. We spent half the time stopping at civil rights sights in places like Memphis, Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham, and half the time lounging by the pool at a luxury resort in New Orleans—an odd mix, for sure. I put together a list of the places we visited and liked. I’m obviously no expert, but for what it is worth. The Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans in might be my new favorite hotel in the world, if you feel like a splurge. New Orleans is the most special and incredible city. The highlight of the trip (and the reason we drove) was the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, created by the Equal Justice Initiative. It is stunning, important, and unforgettable.
Thanks to our friend Kathryn, we stopped in Columbus, Indiana on our road trip. A small town in Indiana with a remarkable collection of modernist architecture. It is worth visiting, and we hope to return soon. But everyone should watch Koganda’s beautiful film inspired by the town and filmed there. It’s incredibly beautiful.
My friend Shane who used to design clothes (as half of Creatures of the Wind) now is making some of the best ceramics going. Great shapes, great colors. Very rad.
Many years ago I worked with Anna Stockwell when I was writing for Saveur’s website. She recently had her first cookbook published, and it is a real triumph. It is about hosting people for dinner and very confidently proposes a series of essentially 2-dish menus. I say confident, because I think a lot of us hide behind lots of complicated menus with the fear that any one dish might not be good enough. Anna is confident and serves mostly a meat and a veg. And I want to cook every single menu in the book. She also offers genuinely simple ideas for snack and desserts to start and end meals, should you wish. The book feels like an instant classic. And the styling and photography are great.
This series, aimed at teens, will warm anyone’s heart. Truly a perfect thing.
I am a Bronwen Wyatt superfan and this recipe she recently shared via Cherry Bombe is out of control. I made it for a party this weekend to rave reviews, and it will enter regular rotation. The prune and raspberry filling is so good and I can’t wait to use it in everything. Photo below.
Imagine having Ali Smith’s brain?! The UK writer continues to stun me with her words and style, and this most recent book is as beautifully weird and real as ever.