Spinach chickpea and tarragon tart
I had a discussion about film this weekend with some kids at work. They mentioned Tarantino, and, of course, being the bitter old lady that I am, I launched into a diatribe about how much I despise his films. (They love me at work! I’m a bright ray of sunshine!) The kids I was talking to probably thought I was some lame older person who just didn’t get it, man. That’s the whole point of cool films like Tarantino’s, they piss off the humorless missish squares and the easily offended. Well! Obviously I couldn’t leave it at that, so I calmly explained that I’d made a few films myself, and I’d had a lot of respect and hope for the American independent film movement, when I was the same age as these kids, and that Tarantino SINGLE HANDEDLY KILLED IT DEAD!! And that although I haven’t actually seen any of his films since Pulp Fiction, I HATE THEM ALL!! And I quietly assured them that my films weren’t failures due to any flaws that they (obviously) don’t have, but that it was, in fact, ALL QUENTIN TARANTINO’S FAULT!! Well, not just his fault, there are a couple of other people I blame, too. The kids said, “Well, his films are
very violent.” And I replied serenely, “IT’S NOT THE VIOLENCE I OBJECT TO!! IT’S THE CLEVER SOULLESS INSINCERITY!! It’s the violence for no reason other than to shock. And we eat it up!” I’ve been thinking about it a lot, since, wandering through the week in the heavy fog of news of shocking violence. I keep returning to the same place, the place I always come back to. It’s so easy to shock. It’s so easy to make people sad or scared. Combine this with a little cleverness, an exploitative knowledge of some cool films other people have made and a good soundtrack, and you’ve got a hit. Obviously this doesn’t just apply to American independent film. It applies to all art, it applies to life. Acts of shocking violence get attention in a way that acts of kindness and generosity rarely do. We have odd values, here in the USA. We pay more attention to petty dramas and insipid squabbles than to anything with complicated depth of emotion. It’s not just Tarantino or independent film, it’s everything–our news, our (sur)reality shows, our politics. It’s difficult to create something that’s quiet and thoughtful and beautiful. It’s difficult to bare your soul, it’s difficult to make something sincere. It’s difficult to make a film about violence as violence actually is–messy and anguished and disjointed. Without honesty, soul, and love, a film isn’t worth watching, a song isn’t worth listening to, life isn’t worth living. This is my diatribe and I’m sticking to it!
I like a rustic galette in the springtime. It’s a nice transition between the solid, nutty, beany double-crusted pies of winter and the light vegetabley open tarts of summer. You’ve got your greens and your fresh herbs, but they’re sheltered from the cool spring breezes by a touch of crust. A light jacket of crust, a shawl, maybe. This particular crust was nice and crunchy with pecans. And I flavored the filling of spinach and chickpeas with tarragon and fenugreek, because I wanted to do something different. THey’re nice together–they both have mysterious flavors, a little sweet, a little bitter. Don’t use too much fenugreek or it will take over the flavor. A pinch will do it.
Here’s I Know it’s Over, by The Smiths. It’s so easy to laugh, It’s so easy to hate, It takes guts to be gentle and kind.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 t salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, frozen
Combine the flour and pecans in a large bowl. Grate in the frozen butter, and mix with a fork till you have a coarse and crumbly texture. Add just enough ice water to pull everything into a workable dough. Knead for about 1 minute, then wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
4 cups (+/-) baby spinach, cleaned and chopped quite fine
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and well-drained
1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 t fenugreek
1 t balsamic
1 t capers
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
salt and black pepper
In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 425
Lightly butter a pie plate or cake pan.
Roll the pecan dough to be a few inches larger than the pan on every side. It doesn’t need to be neat or even. (It’s hard to roll out dough with pecans in it!!)
Pile the filling in the center, and fold the edges up over, leaving a hole in the center. Pile a little extra cheese in this opening.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the crust starts to brown, and the cheese is golden and bubbly. Let cool and set for a minute or two before you serve.
Claire: I must say that I’m surprised by your reaction to all the Tarantino films that you’re proud not to have seen. I’d rate him as the most original and creative film maker working right now. I don’t think that it’s necessary to even ask how you feel about all the garbage that surounds his films at every cineplex in the country, we’ve chosen to time our arrivals to miss all the rubbish that’s presented as ‘coming attractions’; thank goodness that there’s someone as intelligent as Tarantino to make trips to the cinema still worthwhile. I think Pulp Fiction is one of the high points of 20th century film.
I’m sorry — that was meant to be me making fun of myself, but I guess it didn’t come across that way. I’m not proud not to have seen his films, I was just joking because obviously I shouldn’t judge something I haven’t seen. I was just kidding. I didn’t mean to talk about Tarantino, really…don’t know why I started with him! I’m sure you’re not alone in thinking he’s the most original and creative filmmaker working right now! We don’t get out to the movie theaters too much these days, and if we do it’s movies the boys can see, so I should probably stop talking about contemporary cinema!
Please, don’t stop talking about contemporary cinema!
I don’t know much about film and I’m learning so much from you and your conversations with others. Thanks to you, I just watched “La Noir de”. That is the kind of movie that draws me in.
The daisy in Diouana’s ear is an image that stays with me. Is not a daisy, in some cultures, a symbol of innocence? And, I am so moved by Diouana’s beauty and how she thoughtfully dressed and styled herself even though she was alone and isolated.
I don’t know this Tarantino guy. I vaguely remember hearing “Pulp Fiction” and a bell rang for “Quentin”. Some people don’t go to movies or watch academy awards, and I’m one. The few movies I choose to watch are ones with the least ad space.
However, I will google “Pulp Fiction” and Tarantino, just to take a peek. I probably cannot watch it, if there is violence. Your conversation has me curious now.
I did get that you were poking fun at yourself about not liking films you haven’t seen. I love your quiet playful tone, which sometimes flies over my head. Please, keep talking!
Ps: i never thought to combine tarragon and fenugreek. Wooooeeee! Now that has me curious, too!
Claire; That was me up at the top, not sure why I’m not being recognised. Re. your last comment, don’t stop thinking/talking about Tarantino/Film etc but do see Pulp Fiction, in fact see it several times. Another thought, you can’t make films about topics like the holocaust or slavery without violence. If you don’t subscribe to Netflix you should check ’em out, for $8 a month you can easily see 4-6 movies from an archive that includes everything.
Hello, Goneforeign, I thought that might be you. I’ve seen Pulp Fiction, and I don’t feel the need to ever see it again. I didn’t much like it, but perhaps I was reacting in part to the fact that I thought it was over-hyped. I think Tarantino was given credit for certain innovations that he borrowed from other directors (Kubrick, Jarmusch). I don’t think it was creative or innovative, I think it was a clever pastiche of other people’s ideas. For many kids today, their cinematic history doesn’t go back farther than Tarantino, and I think that’s a sad thing.
As I said in my post, I don’t object to violence in movies, some stories can’t be told without violence. I don’t object to stylized violence. I object to a sort of thoughtless, sniggering violence, which is what I see in Tarantino films. Just as he has a sort of thoughtless sniggering racist homophobic humor, which doesn’t appeal to me. As one critic said, ” The film’s cycle of racist and homophobic jokes might threaten to break out into a quite nasty view of the world, but this nastiness keeps being laughed off—by the mock intensity of the action, the prowling, confronting, perverse, confined, and airless nastiness of the world Tarantino creates.” I just don’t see the point of that. I think the point is that there is no point.
As for the effect it had on American Independent cinema – people used to make thoughtful, creative, risky films, they used to make films on a small budget and use their limitations to their advantage. THey used to make films to make something beautiful. Now we have a lot of little Tarantinos running around trying to make the money he’s made. ANd I think that’s a shame. “Brittish critic Jon Ronson attended the National Film School’s end-of-semester screenings and assessed the impact: “Out of the five student movies I watched, four incorporated violent shoot-outs over a soundtrack of iconoclastic 70s pop hits, two climaxed with all the main characters shooting each other at once, and one had two hitmen discussing the idiosyncrasies of The Brady Bunch before offing their victim. ”
Claire: OK, to each his own, we see what we choose or want to see in any art form, as I’m typing this I’m listening on headphones to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, I don’t perceive one iota of racism or anti semitism in it, I just hear some of the most beautiful music ever written.
Pulp Fiction; I saw it for the first time the week it came out, a week later my sister and her husband arrived from UK, neither are filmgoers, they only see whatever BBC has to offer. I told them immediately that there’s this great film I want you to see, so we promptly went to see it. Afterwards I asked my sister, ‘So what did you think?’ ‘I hated it’ she said, ‘All that foul language and all that violence’. I did point out that it dealt with gangsters in a contemporary setting and that the language seemed appropriate. Over several days we discussed it and I suggested that we should see it again and they agreed, so we did. Long story short, she totally revised her initial feelings and told me some years later that it was one of her favorite films plus she now looked forward to any Tarantino films.
As a creative person consider two scenes in PF, one, the coffee shop scene and two the visit to the nightclub, neither of which contain any violence. The coffee shop sequence with Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer is a stand alone piece of genius, it is so creatively conceived and performed and it’s originality separates it from most of what Hollywood was then offering . The night club scene with Uma Thurman and John Travolta was an absolute joy to watch, there were so many creative details all of which came from the mind and imagination of Quentin; remember this was the second film of a video store clerk [turned genius]. PF was nominated for 7 oscars, it received the Palme D’Or at Cannes and was an instantaneous popular and critical hit.
I love everything about this film, I have the DVD and have watched it many times, great music track, great script, great dialog ditto editing, ditto performances etc, in short a work of great originality and I can’t agree with you at all re. your comments that it was ‘a clever pastiche of other people’s ideas’, nor can I agree to ‘thoughtless sniggering racist homophobic humor’ You’ll have to point this out for me.
As I said at the top, To each his own’ but I think that you should reassess your reasons for your dislike of Quentin.
Goneforeign, I appreciate your thoughtful arguments. Maybe someday I’ll take a look at some of his more recent films. For the time being, though, there are millions and millions of people the world over who adore Tarantino and his films, and I’m afraid I’m just not one of them. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind!
People sure get worked up over films. In the “70’s we spent some time with the film studies crowd at our university. One night they showed the French film Lancelot du Lac by Robert Bresson. We found it to be the most disorganized, pointless, senseless, weird film we’d ever seen. Our friend Tom (is that your name Goneforeign?) defended it to the death. Bresson was a genius for his non-linear foreshadowing interpretation, blah , blah, blah. Next day the work study student who worked the projection room apologized for mixing up the reels.
I’ve never seen a Tarantino film and I don’t think the world will end if I do or don’t.
That said I am going to call you out for not cooking dried beans! I recently soaked one cup of chickpeas and had four large servings of an absolutely delicious polenta-socca type dish. If you don’t soak your own beans use beans in glass jars or cans without BPA lining.
I love your story about the Bresson! I suppose in that scenario you’re just looking at it as photography, not storytelling.
I do want to make beans from scratch, but I can never collect myself to soak the day before. I have a cupboard of dried beans and good intentions. This week! I promise!!
Reservoir Dogs was one of my favorite movies ever. Lotta heart in that film. Pulp Fiction too, although i didn’t like it as much.
If all you see is the violence of those films, you’ve completely missed the point. Look at the relationship between Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel in Dogs, that’s the centerpiece of the film.
In Pulp Fiction, look at the relationships between, for example, Uma Thurman and John Travolta, the Gimp and Zed, and every girl i know fell in love with Bruce Willis in that film.
Lotta friendship, love and heart in those films, in spite of (or maybe because of) a violent world.
To quote myself in the post…” “IT’S NOT THE VIOLENCE I OBJECT TO!! IT’S THE CLEVER SOULLESS INSINCERITY!! ” Honestly, the violence is not the only thing I noticed about the films.
Everybody I’ve ever met (except for David) has loved all of Tarantino’s films. I’ve been kicked out of parties for expressing negative opinions about him, and friends have advised me never to talk about him again. So I’m sure he won’t mind if one idiotic housewife in New Jersey isn’t a fan. His films just don’t speak to me, I’m afraid.
I guess i’m a libertarian at heart – and believe that you honor love where you find it, even if it’s in an odd or socially unacceptable sort of form. The love in those films melts my heart, and it’s my guess that’s what a lot of his low rent imitators are missing.
I feel the same way about Nan Goldin’s photography – so much love in those images. And her imitators just went for the (negative) glam, and totally missed the boat on the love.
Honesty, stories of unusual or unlikely love are my favorite kind of stories. I guess I just don’t get it!
I think you have a good point bout the imitators leaving out the subtlety and love and going for the cynical glamorous stuff. Good point! It just doesn’t work that way, does it?