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Category Archives: Food

Weekly Mishmash: November 15-21

Fifteen years ago tonight, Christopher and I first met at a theatrical performance of the Gershwin musical Crazy for You. He was there to review the show for our local afternoon paper, and I was the stray person who took his extra comp ticket. I can’t say that we totally clicked that night, but we were friendly enough to arrange a date later that week — and we’ve been talking every day since then. The newspaper he worked for in 1994 is long gone, but the two of us are still together. You could even say that “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Happy 15th, and here’s hoping we’re together for several more anniversaries!
The American President (1994). You know this one: Michael Douglas as the president of the United States, and Annette Bening as the lobbyist who captures his heart. I was attracted to this for Aaron Sorkin’s script, since it came out in between A Few Good Men (which I haven’t seen) and the TV cult favorite Sports Night. Sorkin’s stylized dialogue isn’t in any way realistic to the way people really talk, but it never fails to be spot-on and funny. This was no exception, but the film itself tends toward the formulaic and Bening’s overacting is insufferable (akin to the more recent film where she played a stage actress and inexplicably got an Oscar nomination). Minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed it. Many of the points that Sorkin brings up here were remarkably prescient in light of the Clinton/Lewinsky fracas and the relentless stupidity of the Bush II era.
Old Man Rhythm (1935). A silly RKO musical broadcast during Turner Class Movies’ salute to songwriter Johnny Mercer. This college-set fluff served as a vehicle for long in the tooth silent star Charles “Buddy” Rogers, but it’s now better known for having Mercer in a rare acting role and a young (and incredibly cute) Betty Grable in support. The film’s many songs are actually quite clever, if deficient in the memory retention department. Mostly I recall the fat guy doing an athletic dance during one number. This film is also notable for having not one but two of the great “sissy” character actors in Eric Blore and Donald Meek. People like those two make even the worst time-waster bearable.
Tim Tam chocolate biscuits. A package of these delectable Australian cookies came as a special surprise from Kris, along with the scarf she knitted for me. Chocolate covered wafers of bliss, they are.
album_lovetrainVarious – Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia. I originally didn’t intend to have this four disc, 71-track monument to the ’70s peak of Philly Soul. But… emusic.com lured me back with 75 bonus songs and this box set seemed to murmur “download me, baby” in Barry White-esque tones. It’s an excellent and classy set, mostly dealing with the unprecedented string of hits legendary songwriting/production team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff shepherded with Philadelphia International Records. A few side trips with producer Thom Bell and The Spinners epitomize the breezy and upbeat sound that characterized the genre (really, I dare you to hear “I’ll Be Around” or “Then Came You” and not smile). It’s interesting to hear the first pulses of disco in the swinging rhythm of “The Love I Lost” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, then having it culminate in the joyful noise of M.F.S.B.’s Soul Train anthem “T.S.O.P.” Along the way are plenty of dazzling numbers from both lesser lights and the likes of Teddy Pendergrass and The O’Jays. Although the set has its share of draggy ballads and overlong album cuts, it’s amazing the way it documents the rise and fall of a style of music. From the ’67 golden oldie “Expressway to Your Heart” to Patti LaBelle’s polished R&B hit “If Only You Knew” — Gamble and Huff’s last hurrah from 1983 — one can only be wowed.

Sugar in the Morning, Sugar in the Evening

Having just polished off a package of delicious vanilla Zingers, I wanted to share a couple of swell Dolley Madison commercials featuring the Peanuts gang from the early ’80s. Notice that the Zingers in these ads have a swirl of white icing on top, a la Hostess Cup Cakes. I don’t remember that detail at all.

Meat That Can’t Be Beat

Ground Meat - CoverLet’s talk ground meat. Especially the myriad ways ground meat could be prepared for that idea-strapped ’50s housewife. Exciting, eh?

Then again, maybe not. Let’s instead focus our energies on the chapter heading artwork from The Ground Meat Cookbook, forgotten bits of ephemeral cuteness which count among the latest additions to my Cool Vintage Illustration flickr set (note: this isn’t the first time I’ve been enamored of a Culinary Institute cookbook, nor will it likely be the last). Drawn by a lady by the name of Selma Quateman, these illustrations have a clunky charm that brings to mind some of Warhol’s pre-Pop Art stuff. It’s always funny to me how these old meat-based cookbooks never fail to sport drawings of adorable cows, horses, lambs, etc. The one of farm animals sniffing out a succulent meal is particularly sick. Have a looksee:

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Ground Meat - Illustration

Weekly Mishmash: May 10-16

Factory Girl (2006). Showtime recording. Remembering the mixed reviews that this Edie Sedgwick bio got, this one got avoided until Christopher put it on the TiFaux recently. Sedgwick’s life, as a ’60s socialite turned habitué of Andy Warhol’s Factory turned burnt out druggie, certainly has the makings for a good film. Too bad this superficial thing isn’t all that. Going by the dim memory of reading Jean Stein’s terrific oral biography Edie: American Girl in high school, I could tell the filmmakers took many liberties with facts, hiding behind it with music video-like flash and dazzle. No doubt about it, this is Edie for Dummies. Not that everything here is awful; I thought Sienna Miller did an admirably good job as Sedgwick, and Guy Pierce did the best of any actor in capturing Warhol’s creepy narcissism. 1996’s I Shot Andy Warhol was an infinitely more rewarding and realistic portrait of that scene. For those who are curious about Edie, the only thing I have to say is — read the book.
Full Moon High (1980). Flix recording. While we’ve been enjoying the free premium cable, I’ve been checking out plenty on the unwanted stepchild in the Showtime family — Flix. This must be the place where all the weird little old movies that nobody really asked for on DVD go, including this genial werewolf spoof from z-budget movie auteur Larry Cohen. A youthfully cute Adam Arkin stars as a ’50s teen who ventures to Romania with his wingnut dad (Ed MacMahon), only to be bitten in the wrong place at the wrong time. As parody, this movie is an unfunny failure. Its cheesiness and “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” humor reminded me, in a bad way, of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Mostly I enjoyed it for the oddball cast: Kenneth Mars, Bill Kirchenbauer, Roz Kelly, Elizabeth Hartman, Demond Wilson, Pat Morita, Bob Saget, Jm J. Bullock. Adam’s dad, Alan Arkin, even shows up as a straight-shooting doctor. You would never see that constellation of actors together on anything, outside of a Love Boat repeat.
The Lookout (2007). Excellent indie suspenser with Joseph Gordon Levitt as a former high school hockey star who is left brain damaged after a terrible auto accident. Falling in with a manipulative young man (Matthew Good, unrecognizable from Match Point), he becomes coerced into participating in a heist at the bank where he works. Although some of the characters seemed a bit cut-and-dried, this was a dynamite story with a nicely desolate small-town atmosphere. Levitt was outstandingly good; that Third Rock from the Sun kid has really matured into a good actor.
There Will Be Blood (2007). Showtime recording. Also excellent, although I think we missed a lot of the gorgeous photography in this regrettably panned-and-scanned showing. Daniel Day Lewis definitely earned his Oscar here. Compelling story, long but richly rewarding. Both of us could tell that he used John Huston as his vocal inspiration, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thomas Kemper Black Cherry Soda

Thomas Kemper Black Cherry SodaThomas Kemper Black Cherry Soda. Yep, it’s been several months and I’m still making my way through the specialty bottled sodas I bought last Fall. Truthfully, I need to be in a special mood for a full-on serving of sweetened soda. Whenever I want something sweet, it’s more than anything else likely that I’d do a mixture at a restaurant soda fountain (try four parts Diet Pepsi to one part Manzanita Sol Apple; it’s delicious). Bottle-wise, my next victim was the honey-sweetened black cherry flavor from Portland-based Thomas Kemper. This was really good, fizzy in texture with a subtle woodsiness to the cherry flavor. The sweetness didn’t hit me over the head, which is just the way it should be. The root beer is Thomas Kemper’s signature flavor; now I want to try that.

Eating Doritos and Writing About Them

Yesterday, during one of my periodic jaunts to the corner convenience store, I spied a new snackfood on the shelves. In an apparent bid to catch the Pineapple Express audience, Doritos has introduced two flavors going by the names Late Night Tacos at Midnight and Last Call Jalapeño Poppers. I snatched up a bag of the taco chips. Pathetically, I intend to write about them here.

A little background: I savored the original Taco flavored Doritos as they existed in the ’80s, especially when one would find the odd chip with a crust of excess taco powder. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about that stuff. After a long dry spell without my precious Taco Doritos, the company reintroduced them into the market a few years back. Unfortunately, the new taco chips can only be bought as part of their Collisions line, sharing bag space with blah chipotle ranch chips. They also taste subtly different from the old formula — but, hey, I’ll take ’em any way they make ’em.

This bag of Late Night Tacos at Midnight made for a subversive afternoon snack. Immediately I wondered if the formula on these is different from the Collisions chips. They are. For one, they smell exactly like a real taco — with tomato and lettuce, even! My hat is off to the nameless Frito Lay test kitchen employee who came up with a way to make a tortilla chip smell as if it contains lettuce. Luckily, the leafy green scent doesn’t translate to the taste. Actually, they taste somewhat wimpy and unappealing. Guess you have to be a pothead with the munchies to truly enjoy these.

p.s. I haven’t tried the Last Call Jalapeño Poppers Doritos. A tweet from my pal Bob calls them “disgusting.” Think I’ll pass.

Turning Trix

So cool: General Mills is rolling out a series of retro cereal boxes in certain stores. Look at the side-by-side comparison of the ’60s-era Trix box with a new one; those old boxes are so much simpler and more appealing. We looked for these in our local Safeway and couldn’t find them. Guess I’ll have to check out Target next. TheDieline.com is a weblog devoted to package design and re-designs (thanks to Eric for pointing me there).