Clarence in Berlin: Brunch

There has suddenly been a ton of Google searches concerning Salò arriving at this here blarg.  B conjectured that this was because it was Sunday, and Acattone screens Salò on Sunday nights, so maybe people were just looking for the showtime?   I feel like I really haven’t written nearly enough about Salò to warrant this interest, though I wish I had.  Dearest reader who is interested in Salò, have you read any Leo Bersani?  I think his “Merde Alors,” published in October in the summer of 1980, is the best thing anybody has ever written about Salò. Like, ever.  I’d link to it on Jstor, but you might not be a terminal student like myself with an academic subscription.  If you e-mail me, however, I’ll be happy to send you a PDF.

Here’s a teaser:

Narrativity sustains the glamour of historical violence.  Narratives create violence as an isolated, identifiable topic or subject.  We have all been trained to locate violence historically—that is, as a certain type of eruption against a background of generally nonviolent human experience.  From this perspective, violence can be accounted for through historical accounts of the circumstances in which it occurs.  Violence is thus reduced to the level of plot; it can be isolated, understood, perhaps mastered and eliminated.  Having been conditioned to think of violence within narrative frameworks, we expect this mastery to take place as a result of the pacifying power of such narrative conventions as beginnings, explanatory middles, and climatic endings, and we are therefore suspicious of works of art which reject those conventions.  In short, we tend to sequester violence; we immobilize and centralize both historical acts of violence and their aesthetic representations.  A major trouble with this is that the immobilization of a violent event invites a pleasurable identification with its enactment.  A coherent narrative depends on stabilized image; stabilized images stimulate the mimetic impulse.  Centrality, the privileged foreground, and the suspenseful expectation of climaxes all contribute to a fascination with violent events on the part of readers and spectators.  As Sade spectacularly illustrates, the privileging of the subject of violence encourages a mimetic excitement focuses on the very scene of violence.  All critiques of violence, to the extent that they conceive of it in terms of scenes which can be privileged, may therefore promote the very explosions which they are designed to expose or forestall. (28-9)

B just pointed out that I’m probably soliciting contact from a really fucked-up person.  But there are just so few of us out there, yanno?

You know how Jim Gaffigan does that thing where he mimics the interior monologue of his audience members?  I suspect that my reader’s interior monologue sounds something like this right now:

Oh my god, stop talking about that stupid movie.  Nobody cares about Pasolini!  We didn’t sign up for some academic blog!  We want to hear about brunch in Berlin!

Oh, all right, twist my arm.

* * *

I feel like waxing on about how much I love brunch will probably topple this blarg into such unabashedly bourgeois bohemian territory that the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste will never accept my application.  To be fair, my primary interest in being a member of the NPA stems from their most excellent graphic design, so my motives are already highly suspect as far as they are concerned.  But anyway, here we go: I love brunch.  You kinda knew that already, didn’t you?  Any activity that involves sleeping in, boozing during the day, sitting outside in the sunshine, talking shit with my friends, and eating things doused in Hollandaise was likely to be my bag.  And I’ll make a controversial argument here and now:  Berlin is the best city in the world for brunching.  Now I know all you New Yorkers are getting your underwear in a wad right now, but hear me out.  I’ll concede that New Yorkers understand brunch and have institutionalized brunch in a way that I totally love.  Los Angelenos don’t understand brunch.  It involves too much laziness and not enough striving-to-be-famous.  Everybody at brunch in LA is always just stopping through on their way to an audition or Bikram yoga class.  Steve Martin got it right, brunch in LA is always something like this:

So New York beats LA on this one, hands down, but New York brunches are expensive, or at least compared to Berlin.  Now Paris brunches make New York brunches look like Denny’s.  My neighborhood is full of 28 euro brunch buffets, and that doesn’t include coffee.  I think that is about eighty-seven dollars at current conversion rates.  I don’t care what you say, it’s still funny, even if the euro is tanking under a huge cloud of volcanic ash.

Berlin brunches are on Sunday are cheap, lazily paced, and often are an all-you-can-eat buffet.  My two favorite buffet brunches in Berlin are at Bellaluna (Kollwitzstraße 66, U-Bahn Senefelderplatz) in Prenzlauer Berg and Café do Brasil (Mehringdamm 72, U-Bahn Mehringdamm) in Kreuzberg. At both you can eat yourself stupid on delicious things for less than 10 euro (at Café do Brasil, this includes all the coffee you can drink).  And don’t you dare think that this is some kind of Country Buffet operation.  We’re talking beautiful spreads of pastries, fruit, cheese, charcuterie, and smoked fish.  At Belluna—which also makes killer pizza the rest of the week—you can also expect to see a variety of pasta dishes.  One day there was a cold seafood salad of calamari, shrimp, clams, and mussels in pesto.  I almost died.  If you are sick to death of European food, Café do Brasil adds amazing Brazilian-style meats to the standard mix.  The best advice I can give you for any delicious Berlin brunch locale is to arrive early and to be prepared to wait.  This city takes brunch seriously.

My trip to Berlin didn’t involve a Sunday brunch, much to my chagrin.  My amazing hostess D made it up to me, however, by suggesting on our first day that we stroll around darling, bobo Prenzlauer Berg and have brunch at my ever-after favorite, Anna Blume (Kollwitzstraße 83, U-Bahn Eberswalder Straße).  Named for one of my favorite Dada poems by Kurt Schwitters, Anna Blume is a combination cake bakery, flower shop, and heavenly restaurant.  They have rosemary honey ice cream here, people.  There are fleece blankets on their abundant outdoor seating, so if it’s chilly you can wrap yourself up.  And the breakfast towers, oh, the breakfast towers!  Three tiers of cheese, charcuterie, scrambled eggs, homemade gravlax, roasted vegetables, fresh fruit, seasonal preserves, pastries, and baskets of fresh bread.  I suspect I’d even feel warm and friendly breaking bread with Glenn Beck if there was an Anna Blume breakfast tower between us.  If you don’t go for a breakfast tower, can I just recommend that you try the Anemone plate?  The aforementioned gravlax-of-pure-unadulterated-bliss is paired with a heap of sweet, tiny shrimp in a cream sauce, pickled onions and gherkins, some kind of whipped creamy cheese concoction, warm slices of dark pumpernickel bread, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, salad, and strawberry preserves.  Or you can try the Oleander plate, with it’s heaps of Italian charcuterie, bufala mozzerella, and roasted vegetables.  Or perhaps you are like my friend D, who is seven months pregnant with a iron-hungry little carnivore.  She looked positively rapturous over her meat-laden Alpenrose plate, which boasts some tiroler schinken worthy of your unborn child. Whichever way you go, it will be perfect and under 8 euros.  You’ll have to go to Berlin and get one yourself.  I’ll be in Paris, hemorrhaging cash and dreaming of that smoked salmon.

Tomorrow, Clarence will let you in on his favorite French, Vietnamese, Indian, and (gasp!) Mexican eats in Berlin.  Suspend your disbelief!

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