Dancing with Food and Juggling the Myths

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths. Unfortunately we give our mythic side scant attention these days. As a result, a great deal escapes us and we no longer understand our own actions. So it remains important and salutary to speak not only of the rational and easily understood, but also of enigmatic things: the irrational and the ambiguous. To speak both privately and publicly.”

–Mary Zimmermann, Metamorphoses

In October, my husband and I saw Metamorphoses, Mary Zimmermann’s play, based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We were immersed in ancient Greek myths, which still have such relevance today. It seems we tell and retell stories, hoping that somehow we will learn. Sometimes there are happy endings, but often there are not.

Over the weekend, we watched the final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay, Part 2, which we missed when it was in theaters. Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy, originally came up with the idea of her book from the story of the Minotaur. In the legend, King Minos of Crete required Athens to send as tribute seven young men and seven young women to Crete to be devoured by the ferocious Minotaur, a half man, half bull, who lived in a maze called the Labyrinth. This maze was designed by that champion-designer, Daedalus. (Daedulus was locked up in tower so that he could not share his knowledge of the labyrinth’s layout. To escape, he fashioned wings coated in wax so that he and his son Icarus could fly and escape. Icarus flew too high, and the hot sun melted his wings, causing him to fall into the sea and drown.) When the third sacrifice time approached, Theseus volunteered to go to slay the beast. Mino’s daughter, Ariadne, fell in love with Theseus, and in most versions of the story, she gave him a ball of thread. With that thread he was able to retrace his steps and find the way out of the labyrinth. (Play away with all the symbolism here, all the threads, so to speak. Also, apparently, the Minotaur was the child of Mino’s wife and a bull, so he was Ariadne’s half brother. Lots of subtext here.)

Collins also took aspects of the Roman coliseums and games, present day reality TV shows, and the war in Iraq to come up with her YA novels that involve a society sometime in the future in which every year young men and women from each of twelve poor districts of Panem (roughly what is now the US) are chosen by lottery to compete in the Hunger Games. They compete in lavish, televised games for the amusement of the wealthy, capital until only one tribute remains alive. My younger daughter and I have read the three books, and had seen all the movies, except for this final one. My husband has seen the movies, and my son-in-law has seen some of the movies. In truth, Mockingjay, Part 2, was not a great movie, but it was enjoyable, and it was a perfect excuse to get together. Jennifer Lawrence embodies Katniss Everdeen, brave, fierce, and stubborn. Donald Sutherland is perfect as evil President Snow. (Here is the New York Times’s review of the movie.)

So if my daughter and her husband were going to come over to watch the movie, then we have to have food, right?  So it went something like this.

What a wonderful idea, we thought,

a Hunger Games party to view the final movie.

We’ll cook together, and sip wine.

E-mails flew back and forth–

“I think I need to make pita bread,” I said,

(One of the characters is named Peeta.)

“And should we have something flaming?”

“Oh yesss!!!” she said.

“I’m excited now—and ready for this week to be over.”

“I’m excited, too!” I replied.

She decided to make hot wings “for the men.”

We discussed timing, and who should make what.

“I have two ovens, we should be able to work things, out.

Besides, we’re both good at improvising.”

And so we did.

Dancing in the kitchen to Zumba music,

while cooking and sipping wine,

our husbands worked on math in the dining room. We are nerds. Truth.

One cat oversaw the kitchen work, while the other one slept upstairs.

We decided on one large goat cheese-apple tart because I have a tart pan that needed to be used.

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Baked brie with blackberries marinated in wine.

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Prepared while the men’s wings cooked in one oven.

I made the pita bread and the roasted red pepper dip in advance.

So mother-daughter team made enough food for forty rather than four—

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you’ll understand if you know us.

But we enjoyed every bite.

After the movie, we made a flambé, a tribute to “the girl who was on fire”: bananas cooked in brown sugar, butter, and flamed with rum. Soundtrack: “Fireball.”

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We served it over homemade pineapple curd and vanilla ice cream, and sat at the kitchen table and talked of the past, present, and future. Mother and daughter danced in our seats to “Fireball.” This is how family myths are created—epic stories to retell of love and food shared. We love each other. Real or not real? Real.

Recipes:

Roasted Red Pepper/Walnut Dip

Goat Cheese and Apple Tarts

Pita Bread

Caribbean Bananas Flambé with Pineapple Curd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Books, Harper Lee, and Coincidence

By now most readers have probably heard that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, will be publishing a sequel to the beloved novel. This sequel will be out this coming July. The new book is set in the 1950s, twenty years later than To Kill a Mockingbird, and it focuses on a now-grown Scout and her father, Atticus Finch. Lee, however, wrote this sequel before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, which she wrote at the suggestion of her editor who wanted to see a novel told in the voice of a young Scout.

A few days ago, I was thinking about favorite books and what I read as a child and young adult. My younger daughter and I were discussing how much we both love the novel Jane Eyre. My niece mentioned that if she sees a movie version of a book, then she never reads the book, and if she reads a book, then she doesn’t want to see the movie version. I think movies and books are different forms of media and storytelling, and should be enjoyed on their own terms. (We were discussing The Hunger Games trilogy.) While we were talking, I thought of To Kill a Mockingbird, and how much I love both the book and the movie. I’m fairly certain I saw the movie first on network TV when I was a child, and then at some point, I found the book in my house, and recognizing the title, I decided to read it. Perhaps I was about 11? I’m certain I did not understand it all that first time, but I understood I was reading something wonderful. I’ve re-read the book several times (and I do picture Atticus looking exactly like Gregory Peck, not a bad thing). I don’t think I ever read the book as a school assignment, but I did re-read it when it was assigned to one of my daughters.

I’m sure I would have read To Kill a Mockingbird at some point in my life. After all, I did borrow it from the library when I was older, but I would not have read it that first time, if it hadn’t been in my house. I thought of all the books I read when I was young—simply because they were there. My mom took me to the library, I borrowed books from the school library, and I also bought Scholastic Books (including the copy of Wuthering Heights that I’ve mentioned in previous posts), but our house was always filled with books. I think that having so many books in the house–including the books of older siblings that I “borrowed”– influenced what and when I read. I wonder if mainly having books on e-readers and tablets limits that broader type of browsing? This is not a Luddite rant. I love my Kindle, but if I had a young child at home, he or she would probably not be reading the books on it. The fact that my girls grew up seeing my books on sex in history lying about the house is an entirely different conversation!

Education and reading are important themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout would have been a very different character if Atticus had not read to her and taught her to read at an early age. How does coincidence and what we read affect what we do and what we think? There must be some connection. Things to ponder.

A friend said to me recently that she had read several novels set during WWII, but that it was a coincidence. I’ve had the same thing happen. Once many years ago, I read a novel set during WWII, then another one that had an important WWII back story that I didn’t know about until I started reading the book. While I was reading one of these books, my family and I watched an episode of Star Trek Voyager in which the some crew members were caught in WWII holodeck program. Isn’t coincidence strange?

My husband and I watched the second episode of the British TV show Grantchester last night, now airing on PBS. (And now that I think about it, the story is set in post-WWII England and the main character, the young Anglican vicar, has flashbacks to WWII battles. Hmmmm.) Coincidentally, as I was thinking about coincidence, the vicar and his inspector friend discussed coincidence. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” says our vicar, as he looks at the body of a woman who had been murdered. “That’s funny, I don’t believe in God,” says the inspector. They return to the idea of coincidence and belief later in the episode.

So did you think you’d read one of my posts that does not mention food? Let me reassure you that the To Kill a Mockingbird scene in which Walter Cunningham pours molasses all over his food is one that made a big impression on me, and that there are many food references in the book. In watching the episode of Grantchester last night, I noticed that a dinner party and fruitcake are important plot elements. Coincidence that I would remember these things? I think not.

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”

-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

December Grays

December is gray and dreary. It creeps in trailing vestiges of crisp autumn days and lingering aromas of Thanksgiving turkeys. It is dark here before 5 PM, and the sun does not reappear—when it does–until 7 AM. Thank goodness for central heat and electric lights! I understand the desire in previous centuries to conquer December’s gloom with Yule logs and candles. I understand the impulse to brighten the grays and browns of December with fragrant greens of fir and pine and the bright red of holly berries. I understand the requests for cinnamon and nutmeg scented treats, savory stews, and belly-warming drinks. I understand the wish for miracles to light the darkness of body and soul.

December is also the anniversary of my birth—yesterday. Some people with December birthdays feel that they do not receive a full birthday celebration in the midst of holiday celebrating. I look upon it as having extra days of celebration, and my birthday is simply one part of it. On Saturday, my husband and I went on a wine trolley tour of four South Jersey wineries. (We did this last year, too, and you can read about it here.  This year, my younger daughter and her boyfriend joined us, and we visited some wineries we had not been to before. It was a fun day, and I’m glad my husband and I got to share it with our daughter and her boyfriend. We laughed at the totally obnoxious group of women who drank vodka on the trolley and other drinks at our late lunch/dinner. (They sat at the bar; we sat at a table with a view of the lake.) Thank goodness, though they stumbled, dropped things, and yelled, they did not spill anything on any of us or vomit on the trolley. I can appreciate even small holiday miracles.

Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards

Enjoying My Wine at Heritage Vineyards

Yesterday, on my actual birthday, I spent the afternoon relaxing. In true crazy cat woman fashion, I sat in my bathrobe, ate the double chocolate cake my daughter had baked for me, and re-watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as cats alternated cuddling and prowling about the living room. Then my husband and I went to see the next Hunger Games movie, followed by the now-traditional birthday meal at our favorite Indian restaurant. It was low-key, but fun.

As I get older, I realize it’s not presents that I desire so much (although they’re nice, of course). It’s the love of husband, family, and good friends that I cherish the most. It’s the desire to continue to be strong in mind and body, and to have warmth and cheer in the dismal grays of December.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. My husband and I will light the candles, and I will think of miracles. One is that I am connected to everyone who reads this post. Time and space have been manipulated in ways our ancestors could never imagine. Peace on earth; goodwill to all.

And don’t forget to eat latkes. They’re a culinary miracle.

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For information about the Wine Tours see Vintage South Jersey.