Friday, February 20, 2015

Food notes after 2 months in North Carolina

I would have said the South, but the South is big. And Alabama is very different. See- I am assimilating- I am taking on the disdain of a native North Carolinian for her less advanced neighbours.

Here are some assorted notes on the food from here (not comprehensive in the least). Some of it is delicious. Some of it is inscrutable. Most of it is very bad for you. All of it will make you miss a good hit of sour like in a good kadhi, or sambar. It is very much like Punjab here- a purely butter based civilisation. The predominance of vinegar in meat preparations does not count, it leaves an anaemic tang in the mouth that is far from satisfactory.

i) I have been introduced to pork ribs. We ate them dry rubbed St Louis style (which apparently means something specific because every city has a style and they all compete with each other about how much sugar to put in their food- St Louis mercifully puts very little) and they were fantastic. I am now a convert, even though I approach most barbeque with suspicion. I do not think people should get points just because things have been cooked over charcoal. I am from India. This lack of modern equipment does not impress me much.

ii) I have eaten fried chicken. Chickens here have breasts bigger than many humans do- and you have to worry about this, but it is all the same after a good frying. And fried chicken is very good.

iii) When Southerners say sausage what they mean is spiced pork made into a patty of any shape, called a sausage just to cause confusion as there is never any casing to be seen. They eat these frequently, often on a biscuit- also called so to cause confusion with a native English speaker (ha! see what I did there?). Here a biscuit is not a crisp thing to pick up and dip into tea but a fluffy mound of cornmeal, butter and cheese that disappears easily in the mouth, only to appear almost instantly on your electrocardiogram.

iv) Pecan pie. Now as a woman in a bar in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia told me- it is not pe-can like pee-can which is a thing that sits under your bed, but pay-Kahn like the Dominique Strauss. How ever you say it pecan pie is wonderful. Red velvet cake, key lime pie, pound cake, brownies and blondies, something with funfetti because the stuff is everywhere, will also often show up on the same dessert table, but the pecan pie is best.

Now a small note about pound cakes. This is not a sponge cake. It is a plain cake, with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. I have not understood why this cake is so beloved.  My husband and his parents think it to be the height of culinary achievement, and they are not alone in this. Nothing in which you put equal parts sugar, butter and flour can fail if you ask me. Most American baking has so much butter and sugar that it must be very hard to make it taste bad. To me pound cake seems the most boring thing. It is not sublime in texture, it is not a showcase for excellent vanilla like an ice cream can be, it is not a particular test of skill, but it often inspires a devotion that is difficult to comprehend for those of us coming to this food in our adulthood. It will send grown men into raptures, and is more mystery than food.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Things I have watched in the last 2 weeks

The One I Love
I have liked Mark Duplass since I watched Your Sister's Sister some years ago. He's some some great little bits on The Mindy Project. Lovely as he is this movie was a bit annoying. I think they could have taken the main plot device a bit further. This is a quiet film about a dysfunctional marriage between two completely normal, and slightly annoying people- which made me both like it, and be bugged by it.

The Obvious Child
Jenny Slate is fantastic. She shows up every so often on Parks and Recreation, and this film made me want to hug her. I imagine that for many of us the twenty-something broke girl figuring out life in New York thing can get a bit old but this movie was very sweet. As a bonus it also has that guy who showed up in the last few seasons of the Office. And there's an abortion which gets treated completely normally. Which is really nice. 

This movie had one scene where the American hero is doing an Indian voice to the Indian heroine, and she's being Texan back at him, which is, unfortunately, what conversations with my American husband sometimes devolve into. It is unavoidable. He cannot get over the headshaking, and I cannot get over the ridiculous English. This movie had some really funny bits, without anything terribly special to recommend it.

Shuddh Desi Romance
This was so much fun. Parineeti Chopra is one to watch, and all four characters here were perfect. This was the second movie in as many weeks that talked about abortion without making it seem like some terribly tragedy, and I liked that a lot. Also this movie got so many little details right about living alone as a girl in a barsaati. The washing of clothes in plastic buckets, and the importance of cupboard space. I look forward to watching this again.

Not enough food. Terrible songs. Wonderful t shirts, and moustaches. 

The Fall
I hope there is a third season. I binge-watched this over a weekend when sick, and was terribly sad when it finished. Jamie Dornan is so much better than this 50 Shades nonsense will make him appear to be. Gillian Anderson is luminous, and so so good in this series about a detective and a serial killer.

This year SeaWorld declared bankruptcy and I have been wanting to see this documentary, about their mistreatment of killer whales, for a while. It was terribly written. The script seemed to be more interested in letting former SeaWorld employees apologise for their negligence. They explained over and over how they had not known that this might be a difficult environment for these massive whales. J and I watched it in parts, and were depressed after every segment.
So this one SeaWorld employee was killed by a whale and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sounds very much like a union to me, got involved in the investigation, eventually leading to trainers being banned from working, as well as a bill in California against the use of orcas in parks. I saw the situation, and the documentary as being about a victory for union action, which gets a lot of crap in the US. I am tired of hearing about how unions destroy things instead of protect people. It was good to see a documentary that essentially said if these people hadn't gone to court no one, including apparently handlers who worked with these animals all day every day, would have known how terrible working conditions for people, and living conditions for the orcas were. It was terribly written, but I am glad to have watched it. 

Mean Girls
I liked this. Hadn't seen this before. How lovely Lindsay Lohan was. How lovely Lizzy Caplan is, and how eagerly I await the next season of Masters of Sex. I'm not sure I'm on the Tina Fey bandwagon but I was so happy to see Amy Poehler. Please follow the link for only the best version of We Didn't Start the Fire.