Christine Muhlke

Christine Muhlke is the editor at large at Bon Appétit and the founder of Bureau X food consultancy. She has written cookbooks with Eric Ripert, David Kinch, and Hartwood Tulum.

website / instagram

01    Nature

While looking for mushrooms on a mountain near my house upstate, I got dizzy and sat down on a rock. After awhile, I slowed down and noticed things on the springy, mossy ground – tiny orange lichen “flowers,” a desiccated mushroom, and coyote poop. The three cylinders were perfectly formed swirls of deer (fawn?) fur. They reminded me of Meret Oppenheim’s “Fur Breakfast.”

02    Object (old)

My parents are cleaning out their basement, so they’ve been sending me packages of photos and letters that they’ve come across. The last batch was a doozy, including six years of camp cabin photos, in which I could see myself go from a ponytailed fifth grader to a permed sophomore, and letters I’d never seen: One a list of things that my mother loved about me, another a letter from my father to my mother thanking her and my stepfather for doing such a good job raising me. Both were such emotional shocks that I still haven’t reread them. And then there was a letter that my grandmother, whom we called The General, had written to my school to deconstruct their fundraising brochure.

03    Surprise

While taking a curve onto the West Side Highway from the George Washington Bridge, I made eye contact with a man who was climbing over the guardrail and was, I can only imagine, planning to cross the highway.

04    Encounter

I went to Weston, West Virginia, to pick up an old car that I’d had restored, thanks to a connection made by a friend whose 83-year-old father, Jim “Chick” Bandy, deals in vintage cars out of an old garage downtown. I was expecting depressed Appalachia, but the town was tidy and proud. Jim, who greeted me in French, was wearing a safari shirt, silk ascot, pressed khakis, and vintage French paratrooper sneakers. The garage was filled with framed French posters and rare Citroens, Porsches, Lancias, and cars I’d never even heard of. Vivaldi was playing on an old record player. Jim asked if I’d like Champagne and directed me to a 1960’s Maserati seat that had been turned into a chair by a local miner. When I asked to use the bathroom, I was sent to Jim’s apartment upstairs, which was such a fully realized vision of collecting and obsession that I’m pitching it to World of Interiors as soon as I finish writing this. The next morning, I met the mechanic, a British man named Robert Darling who visited his war-bride aunt in West Virginia decades ago and stayed. As we whizzed through breathtaking, empty backroads to test out my car, he wanted to talk about the Iggy Pop CD I’d left in the stereo, which turned into a discussion of Gram Parsons, Nick Lowe, the recording of Exile on Main Street and record collecting in the U.K. in the 70s. It was another universe—one to which I would happily return.

05    Time alone

Afterward, I spent 10 hours driving back to New York in my old car, speeding through the mountains of West Virginia, the farms of Pennsylvania, the pretty part of New Jersey, and on into upstate New York. The car has no AC, so I kept the windows down, inhaling the farmland, the flowering trees, the occasional garbage truck. Because of the wind noise, I didn’t listen to music. And because the car is almost 40 years old, there are none of the distractions of a modern dashboard. I just thought. And thought, turning things over, pushing through blocks, sorting through work and my divorce, and experiencing tremendous gratitude for my friendships and the relationship I now have. Clear heart, clear mind.

06    Time with a friend

My friend Luise and I have a long history around tea and snacking. In recent years, I’ve gotten her hooked on matcha. She emailed me one night to ask if I could to a matcha class with her the next day at Kajitsu, one of my favorite restaurants, which happens to have an outpost of the Japanese tea company Ippodo. Through a translator, a woman from Kyoto helped us hone our whisking technique, and we got to try different grades of matcha and eat delicious/strange sweets and snacks she’d brought from Japan. It was so fun—pretty and a little screwball, like so many of my experiences with Luise. I was happy that she asked me to share. Now I want to go to Japan with her!

07    TV/Book/movie

At a book swap that my friend Charlotte organized, I grabbed her copy of Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot.” It’s so smart and funny that I sometimes worried that I’d wake up my son with my laughter. Batuman captures that combination of entitlement and misdirected drama that is freshman year of college—the friendships, romance, and classes, the door from girlhood to womanhood through which we pass, sometimes comically slowly and unaware. My son and I watched “The Red Balloon,” and it’s still a delight. It’s incredible to see Paris in its post-war state – soot-stained buildings and piles of rubble.

08    creative act

I wrote a song for Luise’s husband’s 50th birthday to the tune of “Suffragette City.”

 

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Meret Oppenheim, "Fur Breakfast"

Meret Oppenheim, "Fur Breakfast"

Christine's camp cabin photo

Christine's camp cabin photo

Picking up a new/old car, via Instagram

Picking up a new/old car, via Instagram

"A history of tea and snacking"

"A history of tea and snacking"

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