The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Review

100footFood has the power to evoke memories and emotions. One bite or an elusive whiff can take you back to a certain place and time, to a feeling that resonates in your heart and gut. It can make you nostalgic. Biscuits do that for me. My MaMaw made the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted; big, perfectly round, a light golden brown with a texture so soft it melted on your tongue. They were perfection and I was mad about them. I’ve never had a biscuit that even came close to MaMaw’s. Now, they are only a memory but a powerful one that brings back Sunday dinner at her house with aunts and uncles and family friends eating around her bountiful table and visiting into the late afternoon. I miss it.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about food. The physical act of preparing and cooking it, the camaraderie and competition and the love that goes into it. It’s about family and tradition and the  mix of cultures, the teaching and learning and the sharing of those cultures. It’s about how food can grab a hold on your heart (as well as your belly!) and never let go.

Emilie and I attended a pre-release viewing of this film courtesy of The Commanders Family of Restaurants with Chef Tory at The Theatres at Canal Place. I already knew I wanted to see it so I was excited to be invited. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. The cinematography was fantastic from the vibrant colors and textures of India to the sweeping pastoral views of the French countryside to the tantalizing food itself. The food is so integral to this movie it almost eclipses the story of the people who cook it. My mouth watered at the Beef Bourguinon a la Hassan to the Tandoori Chicken (those recipes and more below!) and all the other delectable dishes in between. It made me crave Indian food. It made me want to go to India and France. I’m not a Foodie so I can’t speak to the technical aspects of the food preparation and presentation but as just someone who likes to eat, it was all five star to me! I especially enjoyed the vegetable chopping scene – it was fun to watch.

I felt all the characters were cast perfectly. Helen Mirren (one of my favorite actors) plays an impeccable French matron (to this American). Not only was her accent convincing, her persona exuded French, to me. Her manner of speaking, how she held her body, her fashion style and even her hair all convinced me she was French. The other actors, too, were so convincing I imagined they were exactly who they portrayed.

I’m not going into the particulars of the story since I’m sure most everyone has seen the trailer. (Here it is, if you haven’t.) What I will say is that it was so refreshing to watch a genuinely enjoyable movie with a sweet story that didn’t have a high speed car chase, things exploding, super-heroes or dysfunctional families. It was just a good, solid story that made you laugh, cry, and forget the outside world for a while. That’s something that’s getting more rare every day. The film opens today. Go see it!

Visit the official website for more about the storyline, the characters, and photos.

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F.E.D. —> Blueberry Crumb Bars

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Fast. Easy. Delicious. That’s what I look for in a recipe. I admire adventurous cooks and the love they put into recipes with a lengthy list of ingredients but that’s just not me. When I get the itch to bake I love it when I have all the ingredients on hand in my pantry and I don’t have to spend dollars on (and time looking for)  items I’ve never heard of and will likely never use again. I’ve been going crazy on blueberries this summer and it seems there’s an abundance of them in the supermarket looking plump and juicy and tempting me on every trip there. Most of the time I eat them raw in plain yogurt or in vanilla ice cream but when I saw this recipe I decided it was time to get out the flour and sugar and bake it up. This recipe fits the requirements of Fast. Easy. Delicious. It’s yummy either warm or cold, eaten as is or under a creamy topping of vanilla ice cream. Perfect for picnics and backyard barbeques, it’s not too sweet allowing the fresh taste of the blueberries to dominate. It’s a keeper.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I always use self-rising flour because I always have it on hand. Just skip the baking power and salt.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch. Stir in lemon juice. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and cold butter, using your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Spread 2/3 of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Spread blueberry mixture evenly over the bottom layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 of the batter and turbinado sugar.
  • Place into oven and bake until lightly browned, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into bars.

Enjoy!
Recipe via Damn Delicious

Early Summer Is a Woman Who Craves Strawberry Pie

Tomorrow is the first day of summer, so the calendar says, but it’s been summer in New Orleans for a couple of weeks already. Admittedly, we enjoyed a longer-than-usual period of cool Spring weather but Ms Summer has arrived in all her blazing glory abuzz with the drone of cicadas during the day and the croaky choir of frogs at night. These early summer days are still somewhat benign. We can walk the streets pretty much comfortably with a light breeze cooling our skin, passing under shade trees and store-front awnings. We can eat outdoors in the courtyards of our exceptional restaurants. We can walk to the snowball stand for nectar cream snowballs with  condensed milk, slurping our way back home again. (Later, we’ll drive.) We can work in the garden in the middle of the day without worrying about needing a hat or a jug of water nearby. We still feel fresh, still feel the ghost of winter’s bitter cold that makes us luxuriate in early summer’s warm air.  But the high summer days of humid, hot, weary bedragglement are just waiting around the corner.

For now, it’s still nice to sit out on the patio in the afternoons with a good book and a slice of something creamy and cool to eat like strawberry pie. Back in April I was up in Mississippi visiting my dad and sisters and my sister Vicki made a fresh strawberry  pie that she promised tasted just like Shoney’s. That’s all I had to hear. When I was a kid, a trip to Shoney’s was a treat and the strawberry pie (or fudge cake) was to die for. Her pie didn’t disappoint and the first bite made my photomouth pop and my eyes close in ecstasy! I’ve been craving it ever since so when I saw some juicy red strawberries at the grocery, I bought two pints and made the pie. Trust me, you won’t find an easier recipe or a more delicious one.

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 cup sugar
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin mix
1 cup water
1 pint strawberries, halved
1 pie crust

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and dry gelatin and stir well. Add water and cook on medium-high heat until thick and clear, stirring constantly. (Clear as in no longer a cloudy red, not no-color clear.) Set aside and let cool.
Arrange strawberries over the pie crust. After the filling cools, pour over the strawberries and chill.
Serve with whipped cream. Do not spray whipped cream directly into mouth before topping the pie.
Nevermind. Do it.

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A few years back on a hot August morning I was feeling particularly prickly with the never-ending summer heat and wrote this little piece. It was subsequently published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I expect I’ll be in the same old moody mess come this August.

But not yet.

Chimera
(A Wild and Unrealistic Dream or Notion)

All I want on a Sunday morning is to luxuriate
in my laziness. I want to watch old movies
with the volume turned up loud,
the newspaper crackling as I shift
my supine body on the couch, the words
of duplicitous politicians and photos
of narcissistic socialites mashed under my ass.
I want to gaze out my window where heat rises
on the street like steam from a gumbo pot
while I lie, cool as a nectar cream snowball,
in my Maggie The Cat slip, painting my toenails
a color called Bad Influence.
I would sip Southern Wedding Cake coffee
from the chipped china cup I knocked off
the bedside table in a moment of passion
and savor a fresh chocolate croissant,
tender flakiness that melts on the tongue
like vampires melt in the sunlight.
As the sun climbs the sky, I’d meander into the afternoon
with the expectation of an early summer storm when
we would go upstairs and slip between our cool,
white sheets and not be heard from again
until Monday morning.

Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

PSA for NOLA Women: Free Wellness Program

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“This Tuesday’s Women’s Wellness Program session is our monthly cooking class, held down the street at Algiers United Methodist Church on Opelousas. All women are welcome! This month we’re focusing on healthy snacks.” ~Via Common Ground’s FaceBook Page