Monthly Archives: August 2018

Good Eatin’ – Rowan Jelly On Toasts

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 706/751Food item: Rowan Jelly

Aside from near misses in speciality stores, the future of this food list will be relying on trips abroad and internet orders. Today’s list food comes from a place called Uncle Roy’s and is a jar of speciality jelly made from rowan berries. I would have spread this on something a bit more interesting than these little melba toasts, but I’m back on the weight loss kick. Hopefully this time

Whilst this is, by all definitions, a jelly rather than a jam – the first taste really made me think of a smooth marmalade. There is a bitterness to this, which is tempered by the use of apple, that makes this very different to other sweet spreads derived from berries. The likeness to marmalade also comes through from the bright orange colour, which shines like a beacon when next to the light in the fridge.

There is an almost savoury sweetness to this sticky spread that also helps to set this rowan jelly apart and, probably, led to its inclusion on the food list. It’s definitely better on a cracker than the cloudberry jam I had a year ago… may not need to resort to mixing this with Pepsi Max in order to get rid of it.

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🎻♫♪ – The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 30/501Title: The Carnival of the Animals
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Nationality: French
Year:
 1886

I needed this album. All the music that I have listened to for this classical list is so serious or pious that it is easy to forget that there were composers out there who were having a bit of fun with the art form. This is why I was so keen on listening to The Carnival of the Animals – a series of short pieces that take cues from different animals. Seriously, this is the antidote to yet another choral piece.

When listening to The Carnival of the Animals it helps to have the track list to hand to find out which animal you are meant to be listening to. Some of the pieces, such as the ‘Kangaroos’ and the ‘Aviary’, are pretty obvious whilst others, like the ‘Elephant’ and the ‘Fossils’, need a bit of helpful clarification.

Speaking of ‘Fossils’, it’s criminal that Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre doesn’t feature on the list. Therefore the small rendition of this piece within ‘Fossils’, which happens just before a short rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, is as close as I’ll get to that on this list.

Getting slightly back on track, it always makes me happy when, for this list, I am able to find a context to classical pieces I know from osmosis. Within The Carnival of the Animals there are two of these which now have homes in my internal Rolodex. The first is ‘Swan’, which I am not sure how I know it but there was a glimmer of recognition when I heard it; the other is ‘Aquarium’ whose beautiful cascades have brought me joy on many occasions and I am thrilled to know its origins.

I know that I am going to have to go back to something a bit more serious for the next classical piece (and probably all the others to follow), but it was nice to take a bit of a sojourn amongst the animals of the carnival.

 

XL Popcorn – Tampopo

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 672/1007
Title: Tampopo
Directors: Juzo Itami
Year: 1985
Country: Japan

When I concluded my post for Manhunter I thought I would be leaving the 1980s after three consecutive eighties films. Then came Tampopo, a film that I only picked because it had a fun sounding name, which continues my streak. It’s always a bit of a toss up to go for a film based just on an interesting name… but I had never expected to be watching food porn.

From it’s very meta beginning, which depicts a lavish dinner in the front row of a movie theatre, Tampopo does not let up on how much gorgeous food it displays on the screen. As a public service announcement, I would recommend that you need to be either eating dinner or have just finished eating dinner – otherwise you will be climbing the walls with hunger.

So aside from it’s graphic depiction of food (and sometimes I mean really graphic), what does this film have to offer? Well, it’s very much a comedy in the style of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie with there being a main story thread – around the renovation of a ramen restaurant – which is broken up with a number of smaller comedic (some very darkly comedic) asides which all revolve around food in some way.

There are times where the asides are a bit too dark (the dying wife cooking her family one last meal comes to mind), but as a whole I really enjoyed what Juzo Itami was doing to mix things up with Tampopo. It’s hard to say that I have seen a comedic film like this before which can be so culturally specific to Japan in some places and yet, in others, be incredibly universal. It also shows just how much care and attention goes into ramen making, which may explain the near religious experience I had in Kyoto… man I want to go back to Japan so much.

I have to say that Tampopo was such an amazing surprise that I am eager to see some of the other comedies that Juzo Itami ended up producing – especially The Funeral and A Taxing Woman which both won a number of awards in Japan.

🎻♫♪ – Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 29/501Title: Lamentations of Jeremiah
Composer: Thomas Tallis
Nationality: English
Year:
 1565

It’s been a while since the last classical piece. With the exception of the songs list, this may be the list with the longest gaps between posts. Most of this is because the sheer breadth of classical music in the book (and my lack of accompanying knowledge) makes choosing the next piece incredibly hard. The other part is because the default position of going chronologically which, for the moment, means more choral music.

With Lamentations of Jeremiah I think that I have finally found something a bit different in this early choral music. Linguistically this is a very interesting piece as the lines come from the original Hebrew, which makes for a nice change from the Latin pieces that I have heard so hard.

Also, the tone of the piece is completely different. Where the other early choral pieces pretty much had their tonal dial set to ‘praise God’, Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah is religious music that’s actually melancholic. Similarly, this piece is done with a single singer taking on the line while the others act as back up – this works remarkably well with the melancholic tone as it helps to give that degree of isolation.

This was one of the shorter pieces that I have so far done for the classical list, which probably helped with my actually enjoying this. After all how Lamentations of Jeremiah outstay its welcome when it’s over in less than 15 minutes?

Good Eatin’ – Doubanjiang Noodles

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 705/751Food item: Doubanjiang

Romanizations have really made things a bit difficult when tracking down certain foods from the list. I cannot count the amount of times that I must have passed the jars of  Doubanjiang paste before I looked into alternative spellings. My bad I guess. I’m still yet to find the Shanxi Extra Aged Vinegar for the list… so any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Doubanjiang feels like a bit of an oddity compared to a lot of the other East Asian sauces and pastes from that I have done for this list. It’s pretty standard for soya beans of chilli to form the base, but I don’t know how many I’ve tried that actually combine the two. The end result is a mellow and slightly salty paste with a warm/spicy finish. Basically this seems to be to Szechuan cooking what Gochujang is to Korean food (which I bought years ago thinking I had gotten the correct spice paste… seriously this has been a long time coming.)

On it’s own, I could already tell that this is going to be one of those pastes that I am going to want to cook with a bunch of things, but for today I thought why not use it with some sweet potato noodles that I picked up at the same time.

It would appear that I essentially made a mash-up of Chinese mapo doufu and Korean japchae. I might have added a bit too much of the Doubanjiang for my husband’s sensibilities, but for me it just made this dish all the more moreish. I actually now understand part of the appeal of the mapo doufu from the most recent series of Food Wars I could have very easily ate a second bowl of this… so will probably end up remaking this in the near future.

Graphic Content – Nana

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
42/501Title: Nana
Creator: Ai Yazawa
Years: 2000-2009
Country: Japan

Whilst Nana hasn’t officially ended, after being on hiatus for nearly a decade it is probably time to call time of death on this one. To be able to run a manga series for 9 years is no mean feat in and of itself, it’s just that how would you come back to this after so long?

Anyway, I’m straying from the point which is that I really enjoyed reading Nana. As with most things there came a point where I had to stop binge reading it and take a break, which for me was Volume 17, so I am not able to comment on how Ai Yazawa left it before she put the manga on hiatus. Still, I think this leaves me in a decent enough position to comment.

At the beginning, Nana is a manga about the relationship between two young woman who move to Tokyo and share the name Nana. It’s one of those ‘odd couple’ style storylines where one of them is punky and outwardly more self-assured, whilst the other likes cute things and is fairly needy. There were times where I found myself laughing out loud and so really began to fall for the characrers… then the manga began to change.

I get that a long-running manga needs to change things around to keep things fresh, but I began to tire a bit at the end when the character roster got so large that you didn’t have a lot of time with the original Nanas. Similarly, you could go volumes of issues without the two Nanas interacting with each other, which is what sold me on this manga in the first place. The move also between a comedy drama about friends to a more dramatic manga about the trials and tribulations of being a band, whilst a refreshing change to begin with, just made me feel like Nana had been written into a corner that it couldn’t find its way out of.

This will not be my last time with Nana as the anime adaptation currently features on another one of my lists. I am actually looking forward to watching this as the cut-off point will be way before the time I stopped reading – meaning that the vast majority will be the comedy-drama that I came to love.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 36/100Title: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2
Episodes Aired: 25
Year(s): 2008

So here we are one year after watching the first series of Code Geass and I’ve finally gotten around to watching the second season. There is a third series in the works, which means that it was imperative that I got round to the second season so that I could be up to date once the third one drops.

Having watched the second season, I do question why this is the higher season in the MyAnimeList rankings. My guess? If you didn’t like the first one you won’t try the second, which inflates the score. I mean, this has to be the reason why so many sequel series are above the original on this list (sometimes it’s well deserved, but not always).

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 – it’s just that this kept tripping up over it’s own tropes that, at times, it was willingly confusing and, at others, coddling. For example, starting the series off with Lelouch having amnesia in order to explain the whole world again to newcomers… which is fine for the newcomers, but it means that it takes the show a few episodes to really get going.

Then there’s the character of Rolo who, despite how much they tried to save, always felt more like a cousin Oliver than a meaningful character. Another issue was the lack of a real shocking moment int he same vein of Princess Euphemia in the first series. They tried in this season, but the emotional connection to Marianne and her story wasn’t great enough to warrant any sort of shock.

That’s really the issue I had with this entire second season – everything was done better in the first one. This was actually a little bit disappointing after how much I had enjoyed the previous one. Still, I’m very much interested in how they’re going to continue the story into a third season.

XL Popcorn – Manhunter

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 671/1007
Title: Manhunter
Directors: Michael Mann
Year: 1986
Country: USA

Time can be incredibly kind to movies. In the case of Manhunter, which pretty much bombed upon release, time has been exceptionally loving. After all this film, based on the novel that gifted the world Hannibal Lecter, has helped to inspire any number of films and TV shows where crimes are solves with forensic science. It’s hard to believe that a flop could have such a wide-ranging impact.

Watching this in 2018 it is hard for this film not to be subject to the incredible shadow cast upon it by The Silence of the Lambs. Then again, the character of Hannibal Lecter aside, these are incredibly different films. Sure, both of them are crime thrillers with forensic elements but the atmospheres are incredibly different thanks to the directors.

Where Demme cast The Silence of the Lambs in a dark and sometimes claustrophobic world to help highlight the darkness of Buffalo Bill, Michael Mann instead plays with a lot of contrasts and juxtapositions. This isn’t just in the visual colour pallates, but also in the editing and, at points, shooting speed of scenes.

After all the lead character, a criminal profiler called Will Graham played by future CSI star William Petersen, succeeds in his job by trying to put himself in the mindset of the killer. So, the further we get into the movie the more out of touch he becomes, which is something that the film begins to reflect.

It’s also worth making a mention of Tom Noonan in his role as the serial killer known as ‘The Tooth Fairy’. He is able to make someone who is mostly mild mannered (until he, you know, sets you on fire) feel utterly intimidating just by standing there at his naturally tall height. Reminded me a lot of Cameron Britton in Mindhunters in how someone’s presence can just bring the tension.

I honestly went into this expecting a generic, but still decent, thriller. Having watched Manhunter I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Still,  I think this might be the end of my weird run of 1980s movies for now. Whilst this didn’t reach the heights of Come and See at least it was head and shoulders above Stranger Than Paradise. Maybe I’ll finish off the Michael Mann entries and watch Heat this weekend… I mean I really should see what the fuss is all about with the Pacino/De Niro scene.

XL Popcorn – Stranger Than Paradise

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 670/1007
Title: Stranger Than Paradise
Directors: Jim Jarmusch
Year: 1984
Country: USA

I really enjoyed Dead Man when I saw it two years ago whilst cradling my crippled wrist. There was something about this deadpan almost mumblecore take on a western that endeared me and made me chuckle. I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that he had two other entries on this list, otherwise I would have probably started on them sooner.

And then I would have been disappointed.

Seriously, I think I am one of the very few people out there who actually disliked this film and just found it to be tedious. Sure, there is joy to be found in rough edges, that’s one of the reason that Crumb is such an interesting watch, but in Stranger Than Paradise there was way more roughness than was necessary.

What’s a real pity is that I was actually enjoying this film in the first act. The film starts with a girl called Eva coming to New York from Hungary and staying with her disinterested cousin. The entire act takes place over 10 days and Jarmusch is able to mine some weird comedy beats out of their interactions, which culminates in one hell of an ugly dress.

I really wish, therefore, that this film had ended with Eva moving to Cleveland. It would have been a short film, but it would have been well formed and a weird little deadpan oddity. Instead it just repeats the same beats numerous times and you get more and more aware at just how awful an actor John Lurie is.

Still, at least I’ll always have this scene that made me laugh out loud for some reason:

Good Eatin’ – Hare and Goat’s Cheese Salad

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 704/751Food item: Hare

Today I am breaking out the second of the meats that I received in a my beautiful box of frozen game meats. Since I am still chickening out of cooking the woodcock that still has its head attached (which I will hopefully build up enough confidence to cook soon) today I am tackling a haunch of hare.

As part of the second food list (that I later stopped following) I have already tried eating rabbit. Considering how similar these animals look on the outside I expected the same to be said of the inside. As you can tell from the picture, I was very wrong. Where rabbit meat is white meat, hare is very much dark meat.

Since I didn’t want to learn how to jug hare, I instead opted to make this recipe from Wild Meat for a hare and goat cheese salad. The recipe called for a boneless cut of hare… which made more sense as it is fairly difficult to carve hare meat off of the haunch. Still, it was worth it for the ability to taste hare in the various stages of doneness.

On its own, the hare is incredibly lean and tastes like a lighter version of venison or an unholy fusion of a venison steak and a pork chop. Either way, I liked this a lot. What was even better was how this hare paired extraordinarily well with goat’s cheese and balsamic vinegar (and port, as my husband was able to find out for me).

I need to try hare again in a few more iterations (which will take a while as hare hunting season is over) because this may end up becoming one of the best new animals that I have eaten for the sake of this list alongside the black scabbardfish and guinea fowl.