Leonard Cohen on the preparation of his Red Needle cocktail & its effect on recording sessions

I prepared a lot of Red Needles. That’s a cocktail I invented in Needles, California, in 1976. It consists of tequila and cranberry juice and Sprite and fresh cut fruit. I prepared pitchers of this cocktail for the musicians and we couldn’t stop playing; most of the takes [of Always’ by Irving Berlin] are twenty-five minutes long, and we kept this one because it’s eight minutes long. I did fall down in it, that’s where the guitar solo occurs. It was a very exuberant, passionate evening, and several musicians told me it was the happiest time they ever spent in a recording studio.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen interview by Barbara Gowdy held on November 19, 1992 published in 1994 in the book “One on One: The Imprint Interviews” (edited by Leanna Crouch and published by Somerville House Publishing)

Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne


And She Feeds You Constant Comment

And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China

Today’s post examines these two well-known lines from Leonard Cohen’s classic, Suzanne, to offer  insight into Cohen’s songwriting methodology,

Origin: In The Beginning …

Leonard Cohen’s songwriting process is an inversion of premise set forth in the opening verses of the Gospel of John.  John 1:1 begins

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There follows an elaboration of the creation of all things by God through the Word. Then, verse 14 identifies this Word:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The Cohen creation mythology, however, has the flesh becoming the Word. The content of Suzanne, like much of Cohen’s oeuvre, is grounded in the Canadian singer-songwriter’s personal experience, as Cohen himself points out in these two excerpts:

From a 1994 Leonard Cohen interview on BBC Radio:1

She [Suzanne Verdal]  had a space in a warehouse down there, and she invited me down, and I went with her, and she served me Constant Comment tea, which has little bits of oranges in it.

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  1. Transcript of BBC Radio 1 programme about Leonard Cohen, broadcast Sunday August 7, 1994, found at Speaking Cohen (no longer online)  []

If Leonard Cohen Were A Vegetable …

1024px-Vegetables_(4700705569)Note: The primary content below was originally posted Dec 13, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. Republished with some updating.

The ominous title of this post notwithstanding, today’s topic has nothing to do with Leonard Cohen becoming comatose but refers instead to the existential task every Cohenite must inevitably undertake – answering the fundamental question

Which vegetable would Leonard Cohen be if Leonard Cohen were a vegetable?

The seminal essay addressing this issue, Is Leonard Cohen a Vegetable?,1 was published November 20, 2007 post at Let the Sky Rain Potatoes, a “blog about food” written by Shelly Blake-Plock,2

The author suggests first a radish, then a Savoy cabbage. A commenter makes the case for an acorn squash. I like the rationales provided although I never had much use for radishes, cabbages, or squash of any sort. (Anjani, by the way, is on record that he would be a cabbage, but more about that later.)

Interestingly, an article in the Food and Drink section of The Telegraph3 does provide a tentative answer to the converse of the which vegetable would Leonard Cohen be query:

Celeriac is the Leonard Cohen of the vegetable world; hoary skinned, wrinkled, uncompromising – and divisive.

Celeriac_J1As for myself, I’m thinking the Leonard Cohen-vegetable would have a bit of a mysterious, sinister shading yet be tasty and comforting.  And, of course, it would possess a certain phallic quality.  The eggplant4 comes to mind.  It’s a member of the nightshade family but also related to the nourishing potato and tasty tomato. In times past, eggplant was considered poisonous and was known as the “mala insane” (raging apple) because it was believed to cause insanity. And, it is so sexually potent a symbol that Instagram banned the eggplant emoji.


Note: One must take care not to confuse the question of which vegetable Leonard Cohen would be with the fact that Leonard Cohen was a vegetarian from 1965 to 1968.5

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post is by Biswarup Ganguly (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. The celeriac photo is by Jamain (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. The eggplant photo is by Horst Frank (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. On raising this query, the blogger, who appears to share my willingness to declare the obvious to eliminate misunderstandings, immediately goes on to respond, in reference to the subjunctively stated condition of Leonard Cohen being a vegetable, “which he is not.” []
  2. His description of himself opens with “Although Shelly Blake-Plock may be better known in some circles for his music and poetry, it is as a culinary experimentalist that those among his circle of close friends best know him.” []
  3. Ugly fruit and veg: why it’s time to celebrate the celeriac by Xanthe Clay. The Telegraph: Jan 14, 2015 []
  4. Yes, I know the eggplant is a fruit (a berry, in fact); I’m going with perceptions common to all humanity, not technicalities []
  5. Hallelujah: 70 Things About Leonard Cohen At 70 by Tim De Lisle. The Guardian (UK): September 27, 2004. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles []

Video: The Lorca & Bernadette Cooking Show With Guest Critics Leonard Cohen & Anjani

Lorca Cohen and her friend, Bernadette, prepare dishes for Leonard Cohen and Anjani, offering instructions and tips on the process. Food tasting and comments follow.  Worthy of special note are the portrait of Leonard Cohen’s father, Nathan, located over the stove and Mr Cohen’s perceptive remarks on the maturity of the Parmesan cheese.

Cooking Show “Cooking Period”
Uploaded Sept 6, 2006
Video by cocofidel

Note: Originally posted Dec 13, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

What Leonard Cohen Taught Chef Nancy Hinton About Food



This Post Contains 24% Of Your Recommended Daily Allowance Of Leonard Cohen

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.

~ From Democracy by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – Restaurant Consultant

Chef Nancy Hinton1 opens her essay, What Leonard Cohen taught me about food (soupnancy: September 18, 2007), with these words:

Do not judge. Just do your thing. Try and please the person on the receiving end, the consumer of your art, whoever he or she is without any expectation of appreciation. This is what Leonard Cohen taught me about cooking.

Peeking under the silver dome to check out the entrée,2 it turns out that the key to the lesson is that “Leonard Cohen’s music made me [Ms Hinton] realize that it is still possible to be touched profoundly by something without understanding every nuance.”

She goes on to discuss the parallel situation in which she, as a chef, might feel her skills are wasted in preparing meals for yokels.3

Her point, of course, is that less refined customers may genuinely and profoundly enjoy her food without grasping each aspect of the process of preparation or the product much the same way that she is deeply moved by Cohen’s songs and words without grasping each aspect of the process of preparation or the product.

… covering Leonard Cohen songs, especially for television soundtracks,
[is] one of the few high growth industries in the current economy …

And, she is precisely correct (i.e., her view is identical to mine) about Leonard Cohen’s generosity of spirit in making his music and poetry accessible not only to a widely diverse audience but also to other musicians, who have made covering Leonard Cohen songs, especially for television soundtracks, one of the few high growth industries in the current economy; to visual artists, who use his words as inspiration; and to more profoundly creative sorts like Phillip Glass, who adapt and weave his work into their own visions.

Heck, he’s gracious to journalists, some of whom clearly lack any manners, let alone a valid perspective on his oeuvre, and who use his conversations as well as his professional work to sell cold remedies and diet colas advertised in their publications.

I admit to being a tad disappointed that the chef-author chose not to comment on Leonard Cohen’s penchant for “pair[ing] Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a 1982 Chateau La Tour,”4 his experience during his five year stay with the Zen monks on Mount Baldy as a cook (his specialties were soups and a lauded preparation of teriyaki salmon),5 or the Red Needle cocktail he concocted, according to the authoritative LeonardCohenFiles, from Tequila, Cranberry juice, Lemon (and/or exotic fruits), and ice.

Otherwise, however, Nancy Hinton’s post is not only an interesting, relevant, and thoughtful piece well worth reading but also a heartening source of encouragement for folks like me who have on occasion been treated cavalierly at one or two of your swankier beaneries. The idea of a hot-shot chef who believes in putting out her best work for every customer, regardless of his bumpkin titer, and who has a thing for Leonard Cohen has me ready to hie myself to Montreal to chow down at Ms Hinton’s establishment.

Her post can be found at What Leonard Cohen taught me about food
Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post is courtesy of my Photoshop program.

Note: Originally posted Dec 13, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Nancy Hinton describes herself on her blog:
    I’m thirty seven years old, an anglo from Quebec City, and a chef by profession. Formerly the chef de cuisine at L’Eau à la Bouche, I now cook at “la Table des Jardins Sauvages”, a woodland table specializing in wild plants and mushrooms just outside Montreal, and I consult and teach on the side. In spirit, I’m a proud Québecoise and Canadian, who loves Montreal, and the country too. I’m a fiesty, passionate, idealistic, slightly obsessive-compulsive insomniac, who loves life, and my job. I love food and cooking, and making people happy. I love to work hard and play hard. I love fire and knives; I love fresh herbs, tomatoes, almonds and cheese. I love curry, and meat broths, and everything anise flavored. I love anything from a pig, anything green, and anything pickled. I love good coffee and wine, and eating with chopsticks. I love the smell of men’s cologne, of Dad’s bagel shop, and of fresh coriander. I love making lists and checking things off. When not in the kitchen, I love newspapers, reading and rollerblading. I love CBC radio, Leonard Cohen and being in the sky.

    She sounds, in fact, delightful – if a bit exhausting. []

  2. The wordplay could have been worse – I considered using “spill the beans” []
  3. To be fair, she doesn’t call the culinary disadvantaged “yokels.” She calls us “country bumpkins on a bender,” which I’m sure is meant only in the nicest way. Shucks, within the Québecoise crowd, “country bumpkins” is probably one of those expressions that masquerade as insults but are actually used as an ironic signs of comradely, not unlike men in the Ozarks greeting each other with “Jim, you ol’ SOB, how are you?” []
  4. Quote from Anjani Thomas. See Pitchfork interview []
  5. See Rolling Stone, “The New Leonard Cohen” []

That Midnight Run Wasn’t For Leonard Cohen’s First Bag Of Cheetos

p3The photo posted earlier at Leonard Cohen Sighting: “Midnight Run For Cheetos At The Local 7/11″ – May 23, 2015 was preceded by at least one online conjunction of the Cohen-Cheetos icons.

These screenshots from Picnic in the Park with Leonard Cohen, a segment of an NFB Documentary entitled ‘This Beggar’s Description’ directed by Pierre Tétrault, which chronicles the ups and downs in the life of his brother Philip Tétrault,1 depicts Leonard Cohen giving a bag of the crunchy cheese flavored snacks to his friend. The front of the package is not clearly seen, but the distinctive cheese curl can be unmistakably identified in Philip Tétrault’s hand in the final photo.




  1. This video will soon be featured in a separate post. []