Wife: What do we have to eat?
Me: I can make you pork chops, poached or roasted chicken breasts, chicken fingers, roast beef, ham, broccoli, fanook, green beans, peas, corn, baked zucchini, ravioli, manicotti or tortellini if you want stuffed pasta, linguine, farfalle, angel hair or penne with either marinara, putanesca, wine and lemon or butter and cheese sauce. Mac and cheese, rice pilaf, some of that awful instant stuffing you like, we have pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and mozz, fresh mozz, mozzarella sticks. Cheddar, American, Swiss or goat cheeses. I can make you a grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peanut butter crackers. We have hard pretzels, soft pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips and salsa. I can make you a hamburger or a hot dog, a bowl of cereal, pancakes or waffles.
Wife: So we have nothing I want to eat.
We hosted the family’s annual Mother’s Day Brunch for the first time this year. I was pretty jacked up to do it. I spent the better part of my adult life being a no-accout scoundrel and enjoying every decadent moment. It’s so nice to be a man now and have a place where we can, and want to, entertain. I got a little obsessive about it this week. Bought my fresh meats, cheeses and veggies at the markets on Arthur Avenue, but I also hit Fairway, Whole Foods and Stew Leonard’s. You’d be hard pressed to procure higher quality ingredients than what I got and obsessing any more over a menu could get you committed.
The in-laws are Italian-American. There are a lot of strong women in my wife’s family, which explains why she can be so tough. It’s cool, because that’s the woman I needed. We had her mom, grandmother, aunt, cousin who is like an aunt, and uncle’s wife who is very close. These are modern women in many ways; Grandma excepted they all hold jobs and are well capable of supporting themselves. And Grandma is 93 and still a total ass-kicker. That being said, they don’t want to see a man in the kitchen. There are certain traditions they have a hard time leaving behind. That first year when I walked into Grandma’s kitchen and asked her if she needed a hand with anything, well…have you ever heard a Sicilian woman curse your soul to eternal damnation? I have. You wouldn’t like it.
One of the cousins married a Tunisian fellow who was raised in Marseilles. Stefan is a chef of some renown and also a really cool guy. Chances are you’ve seen him on television. He runs a successful bistro on City Island now but made his bones at Del Posto and a few Parisian restaurants whose names I have forgotten. He opened the door for men cooking in the family and I was the beneficiary of his labors when I was allowed to prepare the brunch today. I felt like Larry Doby, the second man into the fray. It was so important to me that everyone was well-fed. Also, with so many assertive women there were a lot of very specific demands and restrictions on the menu.
Long story short, I crushed it. Absolutely nailed the bitch and got high fives when I took the victory lap. The quiche was a huge hit, the only critique being a desire for more veggies. No problem there, I held back for fear of overpowering them with the fresh green tastes of spring. Salads were very tasty, fruits were fresh and juicy, olives and pickles salty and crisp. The beef and turkey breast were roast to a medium rare, moist perfection. My Father-in-law brought over his meat slicer so we could shave them and the Smithfield ham razor thin. Yes, my Father-in-law has a high powered meat slicer. Heh.
I was so very proud that my cooking was that well received. It meant the world to me. Still, in retrospect that was the least part of today. My Father-in-law and Brother-in-law put together the crib and Baby H’s dresser. The dresser was Ikea so there were a few hundred pieces involved. If it were left to me I would have completed that dresser as a college graduation present for Baby H. They also cut some plexiglass to size, drilled holes and lashed it to the railings on the terrace to make it safe for Moe and Baby H. The women arrived burdened with bags of clothes, blankets, diapers, shoes and everything else for the baby. They also brought food and booze. And love. Nothing but love. There is no greater blessing than to spend time with an extended, close family. My God am I a lucky man. Luckier than I deserve to be. This is so nice.
We are hosting the in-laws for the first time this year. I have agonized over the menu for a week now. Here’s what I’m doing:
Quiche with spring garlic and chives
Fritatta with slab bacon
Lamb sausage poached in butter and white wine
roast turkey breast
(all sliced thin for sandwiches)
bowtie pasta, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil salad
cucumber and red onion salad w rice wine vinegar
Strawberry icebox pie with fresh whipped cream
— My Wife says the sweetest things.
Whoa, wait, what? You’re telling me that the Great Gatsby is a shitty movie? The great Baz Luhrman’s version of the Great Gatsby? B-b-but he’s a genius…
No, he’s not.
Romeo + Juliet was sort of an interesting idea, but ultimately a pretty awful film. You liked it because YOUNG LEO! CLAIRE DANES! You liked it because there was a hip soundtrack, and violence. It let you feel a little smug and superior for enjoying Shakespeare. Well go back and take another look. The symbolism was cheap and obvious, as was everything else about the picture. Take away the smoke and mirrors and you have a pretty crappy extended music video. If you want a well-made, interesting modern take on Shakespeare watch Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet with Ethan Hawke.
Moulin Rouge came close. Baz took all of the tricks he had tried out in R + J to the extreme. Garish sets, more music, louder music. Ultraviolence. Over the top acting. Saturated colors. He turned the nob to 11, pushing every individual element as far as possible and he damned near pulled it off. I at least respect him for trying, have to give him that, but ultimately it just didn’t work for me. He took his best shot and missed.
Australia is a huge steaming pile of crap. A terrible, awful, putrid movie. It’s quite telling in it’s failings. This is his “personal” film. It’s his true measure as a filmmaker. Utilizing his biggest budget and cast he tried to tell a story that he had direct connection to. It’s the first time he didn’t use his gimmickry to con you into buying his snake oil. No music video glitter, no stylized violence, hypersaturated photography or sophomoric symbolism. The result is a mess of different styles, uneven acting and laughably poor direction. When he pulled the race card in an effort to lend the work gravitas I didn’t know whether to be angry or just pity him. Deplorable.
So here we are. How does he rebound from the humiliating mess that Australia was? Lurhman goes back to the well, falling back on all the same cheap tricks that people fell for in his earlier work. It’s sad, really, the filmic version of Tommy Tutone playing “Jenny (867-5309)” at a county fair in Oklahoma. Little is more pathetic than seeing an artist go back to the well like this. Even worse, it gives occasion to re-examine the earlier work and note all the flaws we had overlooked initially. Sorry, Baz, but the gig is up.