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Up at Fair Food Fight Films this week is Soylent Green, everyone's favorite pretend-you-saw-it sci-fi potboiler.

Here's the thing: Soylent Green gets a reputation (rightly) as being one of Charlton Heston's most insufferable performances in a SEA of insufferable. And the last few minutes, with him bellowing "Soylent Green is made from people," is one of the top movie twists of all time, delivered so badly that it's become a punchline for unappetizing foods or movie "surprises" we all saw coming.

I remember seeing this movie as a kid and thinking it was TERRIFYING, but whenever I thought about why I couldn't really place it, because Sol's death scene and the final five minutes, which were the parts people kept suggesting to me as the scary ones, didn't bother me in the slightest.

Sol was treated with more dignity than most people today can hope for, and I thought listening to your favorite music while you die painlessly after a long life was the best possible way to go. And the Soylent thing seemed like a great idea to me. You have limited resources but an abundant source of meat; why the hell wouldn't you package the nutritious parts? It's not like people are inedible, or that life in that city is precious. I mean, be real.

On the rewatch, I realized why it was so terrifying - it's basically a documentary about the future, and even as a kid I must have recognized how easy it was for women to be stripped of their rights (again), for the planet to finally collapse under the weight of overpopulation, for the food supply to just suddenly stop forever.

So yeah, this movie is terrifying, and it's worth your time despite Charlton Heston being in it. There are so many little things about it that are chilling to see, because it looks straight-up like today's news. And that's good social commentary, and it's fantastic sci-fi.

Check out the full rundown here.
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Generally, my movie-watching habits throughout life have been about 70% things I want to see, 30% things I saw under some social obligation. This has no bearing on their quality (obviously - I mean, look at me); it's just a baseline measurement. And weirdly, it doesn't change much even after I look at when I started to review movies for real. Sure, I would take back the two hours of my life I spent watching Repo Men (and Legion), but in most movies there is a nice moment, or a grain of truth, or some extra who is clearly overjoyed to be there, and even if not, I love movies enough to sit through a few hundred duds in my lifetime.

However, in the last two weeks or so, I have seen a disproportionate number of movies that are really, truly awful. Some were my fault. One was the fault of the person who won a review in the Carl Brandon auction, and made me watch one of the most unbelievable things ever, which you will hear about next week.

And one of them was No Reservations, which I watched for Fair Food Fight. It was awful, but the worst part is probably this, at a key moment in the third act:

Kate: [indicating kitchen] This is who I am.

Nick: No, it's not.


I handle this in the review (complete with killshot!), but I had to mention it here, just because I hate it so, so much.

I mean, pretty much any way you parse it, that is a loaded little conversation. (Keep in mind this guy is currently in a brand-new relationship with her, one in which he has addressed the problem of workplace authority by saying almost verbatim, "Well, you'll tell me what to do and I'll do what I want, just like always," and it is never discussed again and things actually play out that way. Plus, as I recall, they are having this conversation because he has just been offered her job and is treating her like a ridiculous harpy for being angry at this news.)

But beyond that (and as also discussed in the review), it's probably more than a little disingenuous to pretend that "chef" is the sort of job you try to rise above, rather than an actual Personage you hope to become, and that for a chef to say that about the kitchen is actually a statement of fact and career accomplishment, not some sort of romantic hangup to be overcome by some coworker you barely know who shows up on your doorstep late at night demanding you eat this unknown substance he made...while you're blindfolded.

Needless to say, my plan for this weekend will be heavy on movies I actually WANT to see. (Suspect Awesome British Actor Camp will feature heavily.)
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So, today's Fair Food Fight Film is Chocolat!

This one seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it movie: either you love it for being gentle and comforting, or you hate it for being predictable and treacly. I don't have a dog in this fight whatsoever, mainly because this movie is so useful for Supporting Actor Bingo that I'm just pleased it got made because now I can get from Nina Foch to Miranda Richardson like THAT.

I will, however, put up a fight that Chocolat is a great food movie, because food plays such a main role that it's hardly even a metaphor any more; without any of the conflict in which chocolate plays a part, you'd still have a perfectly good short film about a lady in a snappy cloak who comes to town and makes awesome goodies in a big gorgeous montage of mole sauce and hot chocolate and almond cake, and the village loves everything and parties forever, the end.

Plus, I'm just a sucker for a nice mise-en-scene every once in a while.

Johannes Vermeer, Juliette Binoche with Milk Pitcher, 1658

Just saying.

FFF Films.

Mar. 9th, 2010 05:17 pm
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I don't know if you've noticed, but I really like talking about movies. Fair Food Fight also noticed, and asked me if I would be interested in starting a blog series there, reporting (and snarking) on food in film. Don't have to ask me twice!

Welcome to Fair Food Fight Films, awesomely abbreviated FFFFilms, which sounds like you're about to cuss if you say it out loud, so that's not recommended unless you say all the words. It will cover food in movies, from those which are entirely about food (like Big Night) to those that simply use food in world-building (Chicken goooood).

For the initial offering, the clear front-runner was Babette's Feast. It's about food, it's about food as metaphor, and more than anything, it's about a village full of the most emotionally constipated, ungrateful folk you'll ever find.

I mention this more over at Fair Food Fight, but it bugged me so much I'm laying it down here, too; there's a huge "art doesn't require gratitude" theme in this movie hammered home by poor Babette slaving away in the kitchen and never hearing word one about how delicious it was. I completely understand, cinematically, why it was there. But I was also raised that you thank the person who cooked the meal, even if you can't bear the idea of gnawing the head off the guinea fowl up there and end up eating nothing but puff pastry and gravy with one eye closed. It's just manners, metaphorically-saturated village people, damn!
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Wow. These peach cupcakes that look exactly like peaches are AMAZING. EXACTLY LIKE PEACHES.

I am in awe of anyone who puts this kind of effort into making beautiful food. Hats off! (I am currently eating leftover pad thai straight from the fridge because warming it up would take two whole minutes, and it would make a dish dirty, and it's just a lot of work, okay?!)
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Last night after a totally-packed KGB, we descended upon the Dessert Truck. Everything I've ever had there has been awesome, so I decided to order their seasonal offering, caramelized pears with anise panna cotta.

What it should have tasted like:

What it actually tasted like:

It tasted like canned peach pieces from an old school lunch, poured on top of rancid vanilla pudding. I don't even think it was the anise flavor, because I love licorice; I even love the crazy Danish licorice with that sour salt on the outside that burns the roof of your mouth off! Strong anise - not a problem. But this anise panna cotta crap has GOT to STOP. And the PEARS, UGH. I got home and scrambled for my mouthwash, just to get the taste out of my mouth. It was spectacularly bad.

I plan to go back soon and get something else, one of the many desserts they have that does not taste like some unholy poison, but word to the wise: don't order the pears.
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Because it gives you a recipe for salted water:

When salting water for cooking, use 1 tablespoon of salt for every 4 quarts of water.

And the eight hundred reviews of the recipe.

* As a Canadian, I am on the metric system and have no idea what a quart is. Furthermore, I had to substitute beavers for the salt, and beer for water. The boiling process caused my igloo to melt, leaving me homeless. Two forks.

* I used iodized sea salt and added an extra 1/8 tsp. Definitely upped the ante. My guests were begging me for the recipe.

* I have been making something similar to this since it first appeared in Gourmet magazine in 1992. But I misplaced the recipe years ago and have had to improvise since, with out much luck. Thank you Epicurious for reacquainting me with this oldie but goody!

My own review: this website gave me my review for lemon icing. Proceed with caution.
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It's just as well that I never go into my kitchen. I have some kind of entropic field.

An old friend of mine came into town, and as part of the evening's festivities we baked gingerbread, because that's how we roll. And by "we baked," I mean that I stood in the kitchen and handed her things, and she baked. It came out nicely! It smelled like a molasses factory, in a good way. It looked like normal gingerbread should look:

Disclaimer: this picture of gingerbread is a representative example, and not our actual gingerbread.

See, I asked for lemon icing, which sounded appropriately delicious. We banged around in the refrigerator for lemons, and pulled out sugar, and followed the recipe exactly. I stood and watched, helpfully, and imagined the gingerbread coming out with that slightly rum-soaked glaze that happens all the time in the food shows, where women pour things contentedly over cakes and the camera pushes in like it's porn.

When the "lemon glaze" was finished, we poured it over the gingerbread in a very prosaic and you-missed-a-spot way that gives me new respect for anyone who can cook on camera, and let it cool.

Something went horribly wrong at some point (entropic fieeeeeld), and now the gingerbread looks like this:

Good news: if you can peel the lemon off, it's delicious.

* Band name!
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There's a 7-11 in my neighborhood! I could hardly contain myself when I found out. I immediately bought a Coke Slurpee and a roll of Shock Tarts, now apparently called Shockers. It was my breakfast almost every day in high school. School started at 7:20, and I had to be there at 6:30 to get a space, so we're talking a Slurpee and the world's sourest candies at 6:15am five days a week for years.

(Yeah, think about that and try not to get sick. How I lived this long, I'll never know.)

We're going to pretend that having them for dinner is not so bad, though, because they make a delicious dinner. And time warp. Let me show you my execrable two-person play! Also, later I'm going out with my friends to the Apoptygma Berserk show and finishing up my European History essay.
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I have spent this entire weekend mired in word count or trying to be chill around the family, who are lovely people but who, let's face it, are not adding to my word count.

I do sort of love that they are not food people, and we grabbed Whole Foods salad bar stuff two nights in a row because everyone wanted something different and nobody wanted to spend over 9 bucks. I come by it honestly, you guys. (I had the Event Planner Special, which was what I used to get from the salad bar on my 10-minute lunch break - tofu with guacamole on top, and quinoa with tomatoes and artichoke hearts. I accidentally ordered three hundred yards of organza in the middle of the meal, it brought me back that much.)

Next week should be better, since I'll have more time to myself to get some things done. And watch Legend again; haters to the left, that's a great movie. If he hadn't cast Tom Cruise I think the movie would hold up 143% better - mistake, Ridley. Seriously.
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Last night's KGB was great! Several short pieces were presented, a format I loved - it really showcased the range of things Weird Tales has been publishing recently. (ETA: Man, it's nice when you can say that and it means "any time in the last decade", since they've been around since, you know, 1780.)

The bar, however, was PACKED. I stood in my usual clautrophobic-friendly position in the vestibule, and then the VESTIBULE got packed. I ended up sitting on the stairs and trying to ignore the theatre people on the 3rd floor, who were practicing True Blood levels of Southern accents. Good luck relahin' on the kaahndness of strayungurs, ladies!

A quick dinner, and then it was off to the Dessert Truck, a tradition Liz Gorinsky started by pointing out how awesome the Dessert Truck is. To this I say, "Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou."

They've brought out their seasonal autumn desserts, namely their pumpkin custard and their baked apples and puff pastry. Those both had fruit in them, though, which means they were not a dessert, but rather nutrition in disguise. I AM ON TO YOU, DESSERT TRUCK.

I made a beeline for the molten chocolate cake.

Photo by Eugenio Garcia-Palacios

They are not joking about the molten part, you guys. It was halfway between a cake and a pudding, and between the olive oil and the dark chocolate, it wasn't even sweet. It was like being punched in the face with a box of Dutch cocoa powder. Twice.

The cake also had salted pistachios on the top, which means that as soon as you finish the cake (and by "finish" I mean "desperately hand it over to someone when you feel your arteries turning into a molten-chocolate transportation device") you are desperately thirsty. Unfortunately the chocolate in your veins is already hardening! You can't move! Oh, cruel world!


Sep. 18th, 2008 03:23 pm
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Last night's KGB was a ton of fun; so many people came that KGB overflowed, and I spent the reading in the vestibule. They were filming a movie upstairs, and a hipster PA sat on the steps to the third floor glaring at us for the duration. I'm not sure why; the film crew made twice the noise we made. People kept charging down the stairs and into the tiny hallway near the girls' room to shove their arms in an economy-sized bag of Halloween candy and root around loudly for two minutes. Having gotten what they came for (invariably a Reese's cup), they would charge back up the stairs - or, in one case, clunk open the hall window, climb onto the first floor overhanging roof, and smoke a joint as they talked loudly about the meaning of life. For half an hour. Seriously, just kill me.

Plus, if a Reese's cup isn't the meaning of life, then nothing is, you know? )
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Dinner was a success! Except the dessert plates, which were a foot in diameter with a 3" dip in the middle for your two molecules of dessert. They were also served on 14" platters, just in case you worried that the weight of your dessert was going to cause your 12" plate to crack and spill half an ounce of sauce all over.

On the way home at 11pm, I ran across an antiques store still open (of course!) with books on the table out front. I picked up a book for two dollars, though that guy shouldn't have bargained so much, because it turns out this book? Is priceless.

"The Successful Secretary's Handbook," 1971 edition, includes chapters on the layout of your desk, how to be a good personal assistant to your boss, when it's best to use the mimeograph over the "photocopier machine", and how to greet guests.

It addresses women alternately as idiots and serial killers and is, I believe, the only secretary's handbook to include both a warning not to leave your drawers open (in case people trip on them) and a glossary definition of "ballistic missile."

Needless to say, you'll be hearing about this puppy in future.
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Tomorrow night I am going out for dinner with old family friends. As in, they knew me when I was a zygote. Their son and I are good friends now; I got him into tango, and he tells me things about polymers. (The guy actually works with polymers. Like, I always thought that was a cover phrase for government operatives, but no joke, polymers.)

Fact: My favorite Indian food in the city comes from a place with flourescent lights where your food is slapped into a Styrofoam tray in an assembly line.

Fact: They can taste what kind of truffle oil you dip your bread in.

Fact: When they said, "Pick an Indian place for us, we'll go wherever you like!", I figured that was not exactly the case.

It was, I hasten to add, a good-faith request and not a trap. I'm the daughter of gourmands who are constantly shamed and appalled by my palate. My friends have every belief in my ability to taste quality food. They're wrong, but it's very sweet!

Dear Indian restaurant,

I noticed that when I made the reservation you demanded a credit card number. I hope that is an indicator that your food is delicious. Otherwise I will be mocking you on the internet.



Apr. 28th, 2008 10:10 pm
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So, capitalism is alive and well, whatever, *cough* sometimes I want a wireless cafe without having to go into the city so I hit the new Panera *cough*.

Just a public service announcement for anyone who might ever go there: their chai latte tastes like the butt of a clove cigarette. It is FOUL. It's like rotten licorice and old smoke. It was so awful I made everyone at my table try some too, and then kept taking sips because I repeatedly convinced myself that it couldn't possibly be THAT bad.


(It's also a good thing evolution didn't take totally legitimate revenge on me and poison me for continuing to drink something I could clearly identify as liquid evil.)

More than a day later, I still cannot fully rid myself of the taste. (BUTT OF A CLOVE CIGARETTE.)

So what I'm saying is, next time you find yourself in a Panera, order the chai, and suffer as I have suffered!
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1. Spam title of the year: "A true godspeed to your little soldier of love." Thanks, Louisa May Alcott!

2. Also, a true godspeed to that story I overwrote this morning in a moment of great haste! (As soon as I have some leisure I plan to repent.) An additional thanks to the draft I emailed myself last night, which means I lost 300 words and not the other four thousand.

3. Last night, I watched one of the Food Network challenges where the dessert teams compete in the World Championships. This is my last one; I get sucked in by the underdog stories (Team Mexico had to interrupt their training when they were run out of town by a hurricane) and the crazypants stories (Team France brought a private chef with them so they could train without taking time off to prepare meals or go out to eat).

Then something inevitably comes crashing down and the gasp goes up and the people involved burst into tears, and my blood pressure goes up to 615,000/40. Totally avoidable.

Who wants to look at some crazy sugar sculptures? )


Apr. 2nd, 2008 01:07 pm
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I used to think I had the same amount of food hangups as anyone else. Apparently, I have far, far more food hangups than anyone else, ever. Apparently, in the March Madness of food-pickiness (a rare sports metaphor!), I would be in the Final Four. It would be me, two other people I don't know, and the girl I used to babysit who ate artichoke-heart white pizza and NOTHING ELSE.*

* Note: Robert from third grade was allergic to peanuts, gluten, wheat, and raw fruit. He's not in the running, since allergies are a really good reason to stay away from certain foods; I just wanted to point out how much it must suck to be in third grade and have to explain your lunch to the other kids, who are sitting around and making disgusted faces.

Now, I have two allergies: green peppers and eggplant. Neither is severe, but I also avoid them, because who wants their mouths to itch uncotrollably for the next few hours (or, in the case of eggplant, have their tongue swell up)? Those don't count. I'm an ovo-lacto vegetarian, so that limits me. But then, THE LIST.

I might occasionally eat these, especially if I ended up somehow paying for the privilege, but I don't like:

Soft tofu; red or yellow bell peppers; white beans; pinto beans; yogurt from the bottom of the container; any milk other than skim; anything in a cream sauce; zucchini; squash other than pumpkin; honeydew melon; blueberries; cucumbers or their evil cousin Stealthcumbers; celery; lettuce other than romaine; most cheese (cheddar, maybe feta, maybe Parmesan, but that's IT); peaches; garlic; cumin; broccoli; rice; crispy cookies; potatoes; hummus except Sabra brand; walnuts; pecans; squishy tomatoes; lentils; raisins; granola; milk chocolate; caramel; bulgur; kalamata olives; carrots; soft bananas; soft pears; any produce that is not rock-hard. ETA: cottage cheese, jam/jelly, whipped cream in a can, green grapes, coconut flavoring.

Did I mention I don't cook? Let's face it, it's a miracle I'm not dead of malnutrition.

The point is; please assure me I'm not alone. Is there some food about which you get insanely, fiercely nitty? (I have a friend who will not eat cheese unless it's off a wooden board and exactly room temperature; she says cold Brie is like a slap in the face.)
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My Significant Other said, mid-errands, "Let's go to dinner!"

"Sounds great!" I said, because any dinner that I do not have to help prepare is a good dinner.


THe restaurant was Buddha Bodai, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant downtown, convenient to the grocery shopping (come on, it's not really grocery shopping until you buy a can of something you can't identify). The menu was extensive, the manager polite, and the food prompt.

I am telling you guys as a public service: that was the worst food I have put in my mouth in a long time. For the first four bites I questioned, "What does this aftertaste remind me of?"

When I realized the answer was "vomit", I stopped eating.

My SO, nicknamed "The Human Garbage Disposal" by my family, stopped eating four bites after I did. We asked for the check less than twenty minutes after walking in, and my SO refused the offer to wrap up the leftovers. (This is someone who routinely says, "Well, it's only a week expired" just before eating something.)

We did consider saying something to the manager, but in the end, since we lacked the ability to even convey the disgust over our meal, we figured the full plates said more than we could.

Now, off to find something that doesn't taste like death.
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...a year in review that is mostly about today.

January through July - not so hot.

August through December - much better!

Key moments of today:

Lipton boxes of teabags suggest you "Live better everyday!" Clearly there are no copyeditors left in the world.

Also, sometime in 2007 I crossed over the line from "I just don't get cucumbers, I guess" to "Cucumbers are disgusting to the point of inducing vomiting." They join the ranks of their compatriots zucchini, squash soup, and risotto.

I work near enough to Times Square that my walk to work at 8:45 this morning involved stepping over people who were ALREADY WAITING for New Year's.

My lunch today is cereal, because when you put rotten cucumbers in my salad and expect me to eat it you have another thing coming, Lunch Delivery Place! Ha! Showed you!


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Genevieve Valentine

September 2010

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