The next day I turned the ample leftovers into big juicy burgers, which we ate on buns with tomatoes and lettuce. If I’d had an avocado, I would have sliced that to go along with it.
We’ve watched a number of films lately from Latin America that give me so much hope – engagingly human, unforgettable, and inspiring. Despite being low-budget, and not containing celebrities, each of them achieve some level of perfection of production that I find thrilling. Acting, camera work, music, writing – all carefully combine to make films that glow on the screen, and in your memory. All of the films share a quality that made them especially dear to me. They are ordinary – stories of ordinary people, of their day-to-day-life, of the food they make, their mundane jobs, but they are so beautifully presented that they become extraordinary and compelling. Like a well-made meal, the films are simple, but the ingredients are exactly as they should be, and they’re sustaining and memorable.
I’ll tell you about a few! Duck Season has become one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the first feature by director Fernando Eimbcke, and it tells the story of two boys in a high-rise in Mexico. It’s Sunday, they’re stuck in their apartment, and the power is out. It’s a really ecstatic film, and we watched it twice in two days!
From Brazil, we have The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, by director Cao Hamburger, about a boy who goes to stay with his grandfather and develops an unlikely friendship with his neighbor. A perfect example of how attention to every detail of production can make a simple film resonate.
I’ve already mentioned Adrian Biniez’ Gigante, from Uraguay, because it inspired me to make pizza with faina! A lovely movie with an underwater glow about the lighting and the pacing. And Whisky, a disarmingly dry, touching, and funny movie from Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. The same directors made 25 Watts, a day in the life of three friends that’s low key, funny, thoughtful, and that you’ll think about long after you’ve seen it.
One more! From Argentina, the tale of a housekeeper and her over-bearing employer – Live in Maid, by Jorge Gaggero. It’s a quiet film, but the small telling details, which examine the routines that shape these two women’s lives, make them alive for us. The film is a very human and immediate way of describing what’s happening in the larger world of politics and economics.
All of these films are like little gems – it’s so wonderful to discover them. They allow you to travel to another part of the world, and give you such an intimate glimpse of the people that live there, and do so with such generosity, humor, and subtlety, that you feel fortunate to spend some with them.
And your meal for today is tacos made with black beans, chickpeas, yellow squash and corn. Everything is combined in a sauce of pumpkinseeds and fresh basil – a sort of pumpkinseed pesto, but lighter. We ate it with warm tortillas, chopped tomatoes, avocado, romaine, and grated sharp cheddar. I have to admit that it’s a little funny-looking (David laughed when I brought it to the table) but look beyond that! Because it tastes very good! Sweet, savory, a little smoky, a little spicy.
I like the idea of a collection of quotes all in the same place. Quotes that have nothing to do with each other, but that might give each other new meanings from being next to each other. So I’m going to put a few (completely random) quotes here, just for kicks, baby! Ready, begin…
To get straight to the worst, what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie, and those who have seen the footage have strongly advised me against nurturing any elaborate distribution plans for it.
-JD Salinger, Franny & Zooey
… moans could be heard, subdued by suffering and broken by sobs.
Hearing those moans Prince Andrew wanted to weep. Whether because he was dying without glory, or because he was sorry to part with life, or because of those memories of a childhood that could not return, or because he was suffering and others were suffering and that man near him was groaning so piteously- he felt like weeping childlike, kindly, and almost happy tears.
The wounded man was shown his amputated leg stained with clotted blood and with the boot still on.
-Tolstoy, War and Peace
Do not let anxiety override good judgement so that the oven door is opened unneccesarily.
-Mrs Beeton on cake baking.
As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.
Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamzov
The most immediately noticeable paradox in Renoir’s style, and the one which almost always trips up the public, is his apparent casualness toward the very elements of the cinema which the public takes most seriously: the scenario and the action.
André Bazin on Jean Renoir
Such field studies are recommended rather than the amassing of large numbers of hapless captives. The animals remain little disturbed in their natural setting. Since they are marked and under study, they appeal in much the same way as one’s pets, yet do not demand care. Information obtained is more likely to be reliable that that procured under artificial conditions, and there is always the excitement of the hunt, and the anticipation of meeting an old friend.
-A field guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians (1966)
Well, that’s it for now! I think I’ll start collecting quotes for another time, because that was my ridiculous idea of fun!!
Now…this galette. It has a yeasted crust with some basil to flavor it. And inside it has grated zucchini, toasted pumpkinseeds and red beans. You can start the crust early in the day, and the filling is actually very easy to put together. I flavored this with fresh basil and fresh marjoram, which are lovely sweetish summery flavors. And I decided to add a little ginger and a touch of cinnamon, which are sweetish wintery flavors, in my mind. I liked the combination a lot! If only because it was different from the spice/herb combinations I seem to return to again and again. And the galette was actually quite pretty – white and red and green.
Or, two ways to prepare lettuce that don’t involve the word “salad.”We’re watching Blues Brothers with the boys. It’s rated R, but we can’t remember why, so we’re watching it cautiously, with the remote nearby. Is it the non-stop swearing and the incredibly destructive car chases? Pshaw, my boys are used to that! We drive recklessly through a couple of malls a day around here. Actually, it might be a little rough for them, but I think they’re well aware that they can’t say all of the words that they’re hearing and that they can’t drive cars through store windows. What a pleasure to watch them watch the dancing and the singing, and all of the wonderful, contagiously happy music. It’s such a joyful movie! And I’d forgotten how sweet it is, in parts, and how good it looks. There are a few moments that have such a lovely, quiet grace about them, in the midst of all the raucousness. And, oddly, these moments seem to involve toast. In one scene, Elwood has just toasted a piece of bread in his small room in the home for itinerant men. His brother fell asleep, and he covered him with a blanket, and then sat in the window and looked out at the trains rumbling by in a watery blue light. Beautiful! Now, I love toast. I think it’s such a comforting, restorative food. The very smell of bread toasting can make you feel better. And I happen to have made a meal last night that revolved around toast! And lettuces, lots and lots of lettuces. We got about 7 heads of red leaf lettuce from the CSA, and I’m actually very excited about it. I love salad, as I’ve said many a time, but I also like the challenge of turning lettuce into a non-salad meal. We happened to eat two in the same meal last night, but they were both very tasty, so nobody seemed to mind.
I made a soup with lettuce, hazelnuts and white beans. I seasoned it with tarragon, chervil, and lovage, and it was very flavorful. It was smooth, but not velvety, although you could certainly make it that way if you liked. I floated a small, plain toast in it, and it was delicious. The other non-salad lettuce item on the agenda was a lettuce, pumpkinseed, goatcheese pesto. It turned out very nice! Much milder in flavor than a traditional basil pesto, but it has the lovely, indefinable flavor of toasted pumpkinseeds, and a bit of creamy tang provided by goat cheese. We ate it with toast (again!) and a little bruschetta topping made from tomatoes, basil, french feta, and capers.
Here’s Shake A Tail Feather, with the Blues Brothers and Ray Charles. Doesn’t it make you happy?
And these crepes. I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to write about masa harina again for a while, a long while. I didn’t want to talk about it so much that people got tired of hearing about it. But if you cast your memory back, you might recall that I had some trouble making tortillas without a tortilla press. Well, a good cook doesn’t blame her equipment (or lack thereof!), she just reinvents the recipe.So I applied the cheater’s treatment to it – the same one I used to make socca more simple. I added a couple of eggs. It helps to hold them together and make them more flippable, and because it’s a batter rather than a dough, you don’t need to roll them out. So they’re still gluten-free, but I’m afraid they’re not vegan any more. I added some smoked paprika, because that’s another ingredient I can’t resist using, and it goes so well with the sage & pumpkinseed flavors.
We had these with my every kind of favorite meal, as Isaac would say. We had fat balsamic roasted musrhooms (with shallots); french lentils; some lightly dressed baby spinach (olive oil and balsamic); some tinsy crispy roasted potatoes with rosemary; and some grated mozzarella cheese. You take whatever you like, and use the crepes to wrap around little bundles of delicious food. Plus we ate at the picnic table outside, which makes me very happy!!