Here’s Charlie Haden with Silence. Beautiful.
The films are also called “Angry Young Man” films, because many of them concern themselves with just such a character, but I find that my favorites are more complicated than this, they’re not always about men, and the central character is not simply angry, but has a conflicted attitude to their home and the humdrum life they find themselves stuck in. One such man is Billy Liar, played with pathos and comic genius by Tom Courtney. This film has an extraordinary balance of darkness and light. Billy works in a funeral parlor, and he woos one of his many girlfriends in a cemetery. His parents needle him to grow up and take responsibility. He dreams of someday escaping to London, preferably in the company of Julie Christie. But the truth is that Billy escapes his dreary reality every day: he has a world in his head, a country called Ambrosia, where he is a hero, or several heroes. Billy’s goal in life is to be a script writer, and through his fantasies, he writes a script for himself, for his life, that helps him to transcend the weighty worries of his real-life. When he’s offered a chance at a actual grand gesture, a genuine adventure, he decides not to take it, and the ending of the film is suffused with a melancholy sense of failure, but once again Billy’s imagination saves him. Billy Liar is a comedy, but it’s a complex one, with layer upon layer of questions about life and society buried deep in each scene. Billy’s world is far from perfect, but seen through his eyes, it’s beautiful and funny and touching. The ending is bittersweet and complicated, just like life. I think Billy has made happiness for himself, and to me that means he’s not a failure at all.
Stay tune for further installments of Claire’s favorite Kitchen Sink films at an Ordinary near you!It’s been too hot to cook, so we’re having lots of salad. But when a salad is your meal, you want it to be hearty, you want it to have nuts and cheese and then you want to try to use up all of your vegetables from the farm, so you add roasted beets and carrots, and then you treated yourself to some special hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some special hard sheep’s cheese from the Basque region, and you want to shave some of that on there as well. And you end up with this big beautiful tangle of greens and everything but the kitchen sink!
And I’d like to live in a world where the most fun toy is not a gun but a pastry tube set. Holy smoke, I got my first set yesterday, and I’m so excited! It’s so much fun, so seussically nonsensical, so full of possibilities. And yet practical as well, because you get to eat whatever you make! These little butternut choux nests are among my favorite meals that I’ve made in some time. I used a fairly basic choux recipe, and added some roasted garlic and roasted butternut squash puree and some fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, smoked paprika and nutmeg. Then I piped this dough into lovely nests, about 4 inches across, and before I baked them I piled in some baby spinach, toasted pecans and smoked gouda. They turned out puffed and crispy on the outside, nice with the crunchy pecans. And soft and flavorful and comforting inside. Even the boys liked them! If you don’t have a pastry tube, you can easily make these by dropping little mounds of dough and pushing the center down with your hands or a spoon. It won’t be as pretty, but it will still taste as good.
Here’s When the Gun Draws by Pharoahe Monch It’s sweary, but he’s angry.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog! Our little Ordinary is growing up. I’ve rambled on from week to week, with no apparent purpose or direction. Sometime over the summer, on a warm, golden, unplanned day, the kind it hurts to think about now that it’s getting cold and every moment is scheduled, I sat beside a creek watching my boys catch water bugs. I thought about The Ordinary, and I realized that it has a pattern and a purpose. I’ve been struggling to define it in my head, but I think I do actually have a hidden agenda, and it all stems from the idea of ordinariness. I’d like to celbrate the ordinary, and the day-to-day, and to say that ordinary things, well-done and well-observed, take on beauty and value. When I realized this, in the summer, I got very excited like a little kid, and thought about writing a manifesto (which is something I would have done as a child). And then, like a little kid, I got distracted, and other concerns took over. But on this, the auspicious occasion of our one-year anniversary, I’d like to attempt to collect my addled thoughts in…
THE ORDINARY MANIFESTO
* We believe, as the Specials say, that nobody is special, which means that everybody is. Everybody is strange and surprising and capable of remarkable things.
* We believe that there’s great value in just being alive, staying alive, and keeping the ones you love alive, if you notice everything and question everything as you move through life.
* I joke a lot about championing mediocrity and lack of ambition, but I’m speaking of those things as they relate to our current definition of success. We believe that the way we define success, and the achievements that we value and reward in our society are skewed. Compassion, kindness and imagination deserve more recognition than wealth, fame, or salesmanship, and are worth passionately pursuing.
* We believe that there’s value in all jobs, if they’re done with love and care, and …
* … We believe that this includes the job of caring for a home and raising children. It’s a cliché to say that this is the hardest or most important job, but there is some truth to that old chestnut. Nobody should be criticized for maintaining a career outside the home while they raise children, but nobody should be deemed a failure if they decide to put that career on hold. We realize that it can seem like the most ordinary job at times, in its relentless everyday-ness, so it is important to notice everything, and to approach it with creativity.
* We believe that creativity is valuable – for each person and for all people in a society. This is true on a large scale – in the creation of books and films and music, (and the reception of those things), but it is true on the small scale of the ordinary as well. Day-to-day life can be elevated by the application of imagination and observation. Preparing meals, for instance, which seems like a tedious chore to many, can become a source of joy as well as sustenance. In all creative endeavors, as in life, soul, grace, and honesty are more important than cleverness or talent.
* We believe there’s great beauty in simple things, if they’re well-seasoned. This is true in art and food and life.
* We believe there’s beauty in economy – in using every part of something – in having what you need and using what you have.
* We believe there’s beauty in the every day – in things that you do every day. There’s beauty in the rhythm and the pattern and the expected, and in the times that the pattern changes, even for a moment, which can make you step outside of your expectations and seem very perfect.
* We believe that there’s beauty in art that celebrates the ordinary, and in ordinary life lived as art. When something is captured and observed, when it is noticed, it can become important.
* We believe it’s important to find balance in your life – to find a way that you’re comfortable taking things from the world and giving them back to the world.
So that’s it, for now! These observations are subject to change and open to discussion!!
Collards, tomatoes, olives and pecans might seem like a simple dish with which to celebrate The Ordinary’s birthday, but I think it’s perfect. It’s made of fairly humble foods, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made in some time. It uses vegetables we’ve gotten from the farm, it’s very simply seasoned, but it turned out to have such a nice combination of flavors and textures. Sweet, spicy, salty, acidic, and soft and crunchy, all at the same time. It was a very delightful surprise.
Here’s a short list of ONE songs, to mark the occasion.
Remember the Chekhov play The Three Sisters, in which one of the sisters longs to go to Moscow? It’s a theme! Well, here at The Ordinary, for the past few days, our Moscow has been the secret path that leads to the secret path on the other other side of the towpath. If you think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s because I have, and that’s because IT’S ALL I’VE HEARD ABOUT FOR DAYS NOW!! When will we go? Why can’t we go? Why shouldn’t we go just because a storm is raging around our house? On the very first day of summer vacation, way back in the glowing, hopeful, anticipatory month of June, Malcolm and I happened upon a small winding path that branched away from the towpath. He was ecstatic! We ran through it, leaping fallen logs, stooping under trees, racing through light and shadow. He’s wanted to return ever since, but with one thing and another, we’ve never made it back. Lately his yearning has reached a fever pitch, so today we braved spiders, ticks, stinging nettles, poison ivy, mosquitos and impending thunderstorms, and set out on our journey. (Who is an anxious mom? Who is?) It’s quite a long journey, as the Isaac walks, but it was worth it to see how happy the boys were. After a night of rain the ground was muddy, the leaves sodden and fragrant, the creeks fast-flowing. In June all the green things were small and pale and bright, but today they’re lush and dark and overtaking all the paths.
Funnily enough, we’d eaten this beet carpaccio the night before, and I’d remarked that prepared this way, beets didn’t taste like dirt. Huh? Asked Isaac (he’s a small boy, dirt is his medium). I’d replied that beets grow in dirt, so they taste like dirt, but in a pleasant way. In this carpaccio, however, they were juicy and sweet. This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s very delicious. The boys loved it!! I love goat cheese with beets – sweet and juicy meets a bit of creamy tartness. The pecans added crunch, and the sage added depth.
A while back we promised to try to make grillable burgers with roasted mushrooms. Yesterday, we did just that! They were super-tasty! We wanted to roast the mushrooms first, but we didn’t want to turn on the stove, the temperature being what it was. So we plugged the toaster oven into an outdoor socket and roasted them outside. Pretty clever, sis. Aside from roasted shallots and mushrooms, the burgers have white beans, pecans, and smoked gouda. They’re seasoned with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika, and a bit of tamari and marmite. They were slightly softer than the beet burgers, but they grilled up nice and brown on the outsides, and were very plump and juicy.
As you are no doubt aware, I am the esteemed authoress of a wildly popular series of books about the marked similarities to be found in the writings of Tolstoy and the rappings of many rappers. Weighty volumes. I am, of course, also the producer of the soon-to-be-a-smash hip hopera version of War and Peace (would you look at the date on that? I’m making very…slow…progress on this novel!) Okay, I’m prepared to admit that none of that is true. However, ever since I spoke of Dostoyevsky and Talib Kweli yesterday, I’ve had a yen to chat about these same similarities. Which I will do after the jump. You’ve been warned!
This meal involves wrapping a version of choux pastry around a savory concoction, and then baking it till it gets a little puffy. It’s a little bit less eggy than regular choux pastry, so it doesn’t get quite so puffy, but it is lovely and tasty and tender. Wrapping anything in raw choux batter is fun but a little messy. It’s not like you can roll it out and keep it tidy. It’s a sticky sort of batter, but if you keep your fingers cool and damp, the batter won’t stick to them too much, and you should be able to make a relatively even coating. The filling we used was roasted mushrooms, toasted pecans, steamed chard, fresh sage and smoked paprika. Even Isaac liked it!
The other day, when I was telling you about all my clever ways to use a medley of herbs and greens from the garden (in this tart, for instance), I mentioned that they were also good with potatoes. Well, I bought a few new herbs and greens yesterday to plant in the garden, so I thought I’d show them off by mixing them with some boiled chopped red potatoes. I mixed in salad burnet, chervil, lovage, several kinds of basil, summer savory, thyme and bulls blood baby beet leaves. I always boil my potatoes just a little too much, because I’m easily distracted, but I like them that way – almost smashed. The mildness of the potatoes is a nice background for the spicy herbs.
That moment of tension, the feeling of things changing, is what makes spring and fall so exciting – why they make you feel alive. And now, you’re wondering, how is she going to make this about potato salad? Well, friends, this potato salad is like an edible little mix of contradicting factors that work well together. Roasted potatoes are such a cool weather food, arugula salads so warm weather. The warmth of the potatoes contrasts with the coolness of the arugula, and even wilts it slightly. The potatoes are pleasantly soft, the pecans and roasted lentils delightfully crispy. And the mellow sweetness of roasted honey and balsamic plays against the peppery sharpness of arugula and water cress. Ta da!!
Here’s Cymande with Changes. A remarkable song!