Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer Blockbusters

The weather’s been so crazy hot here (our yards look like hayfields) that I haven’t been doing much cooking. In fact, I’m freezing rather than canning our surplus tomatoes because I can’t stomach the idea of boiling anything in the kitchen. So I’ve lounged around in the air conditioning watching movies. Indulge me. They’re slightly food related: The first includes an enormous amount of pies, and the second paints a scenario that if left unchecked will leave folks with little money for luxuries like groceries.

I was traveling last week – and my flight home was only delayed by 20 minutes! One night I was meetingless and commitmentless, so picked up some Thai takeout and headed back to my hotel to tuck into a good movie. I’d heard a lot about Waitress, and was in the mood for something fun and funny, so it won out over, say, The Reaping. This is the story of a small-town waitress in a bad marriage who loves creating and making pies at the small diner where she works. She names the pies after whatever is happening in her life. I Hate My Husband Pie. Falling In Love Pie. When she finds herself very unexpectedly and unhappily pregnant (and creates the resulting Bad Baby Pie), she ultimately needs to figure out what is important to her. When I started watching, it was initially hard to separate the movie story from the back story of Adrienne Shelly, the film’s writer/director/co-star, who was brutally murdered not long after shooting wrapped up. But the characters (including Ms. Shelly’s shrinking violet, wacky co-waitress) are so much fun that I eventually just enjoyed the movie. While everyone in it was great, a big tip of the hat goes to Andy Griffith, who played Joe, the relentless and crusty diner owner.

Maxed Out

A horror film without gratuitous gore, Maxed Out is a documentary about the credit card lifestyle and industry. It’s not a secret that Americans are farther in debt than we’ve ever been historically, with savings rates in the negatives. And yes, much of that can be attributed to personal responsibility. Yet, there’s a dark underbelly in the credit card industry that this film uncovers: the predatory, bottom-feeding natures of the companies issuing credit, and what they’re allowed to get away with. For example, MBNA, not any of our representatives in government, wrote the bill that President Bush pushed through and signed that eliminates credit card forgiveness when someone claims personal bankruptcy. MBNA also–what a coincidence!–was Bush’s biggest corporate contributor in the last presidential election. I also learned that credit card companies actually target those who recently claimed bankruptcy because they won’t be able to default a second time, and they have “a taste for credit.” In fact, the companies refuse to screen those with bad credit and refuse them cards because this demographic is where the companies make all their money in late fees and interest payments. This was an incredibly scary film that indicted both individuals who jump on the easy credit wagon and buy things they don’t have money for, as well as a bottom-feeding industry that is unregulated and unrepentant in building a house of cards that can’t be sustained. On a side note, the night after I saw the film -- a night that was not atypical -- Phil and I received seven pieces of mail, and four of them were credit card offers. It's scary.
Have you seen anything good lately?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Very Exciting or Too Horrid for Words?

On an impulse, I picked up this DVD set when we were at the library checking out every Thomas the Train book they had in the district.

It's been interesting: I've learned to make croissants, a Buche de Noel, green beans the french way, stuffed mushrooms, and goose. And I've only watched about 1/3 of the episodes.

But today, I learned how to make a suckling pig. While I've heard of suckling pig, it never struck me that it's a pig who's been suckling. In more straightforward terms, a 5- to 6-week-old pig that has only feasted on his mother's milk. That alone seemed inhumane enough, but the way Julia was manhandling the pig as only she can do made me want to become a vegetarian.

Or throw a 60s party and have a suckling pig, with an apple in its mouth, flowers it its eyes, and a wreath around its tender young pig neck. (To get the apple in before serving, I learned, you need to stuff its mouth with a ball of foil during roasting.)

So a poll: Is it unthinkable? Is this something that's fallen out of favor but still would be magnificent? Or is it like some of the 50s appetizers -- like, say, the cabbage head holding a lit Sterno can and skewers of raw meat, in which tipsy guests are expected to cook their own chicken past toxidity -- that is best forgotten?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Where Has the Time Gone?

Believe you me, I had no idea I'd take the month of July off from blog-land.

The weather has just been gorgeous and we've done a bit of traveling, and the idea of sitting in our basement, where the computer is housed, seemed less and less appealing.

Not that it hasn't been an eventful break. During this time...
  • I celebrated a milestone birthday, the number of which I'd like to forget. But the day was great. My best girlfriends brought over a bowl of amazing foodstuffs from a local gourmet shop and two bottles of wine I can't wait to consume. Then we went to a local restaurant we love. After that, Phil said he was taking me to a jazz club, but actually had gotten us a hotel room and had somehow bribed his parents to take the boys all night, so I slept in until 10 the next day. Unheard of.
  • My brother and sister-in-law had a little baby girl, who joins her two big brothers. This is the first girl grandbaby my parents have seen in 17 years! We're a very testosterone-charged group, normally. She's just beautiful.
  • M registered for kindergarten. I get weepy writing that. Where did the last five years go?
  • We went to Michigan for a big family gathering on my mom's side. This is an annual event I'd never been able to make it to, but it was such fun (and the food so fantastic) that I'll be a regular. M and T slept like logs that night after running around with the other kids. M wasn't so into the water-balloon fight, but T got right in the center of the action.
So I'm back. And I'm hungry. So there'll be food writing coming up...