Here at Allegations we love us some Sandra Lee, but how has Paula Deen escaped our withering gaze for so long? Last week, I observed that, in regard to chefs “climbing in bed with corporate partners,” “if they have a viable brand, they should make the most out of it while they still can.” Well, Paula Deen, bless her heart, she sure doesn’t need my advice. Let’s check the ol’ Google News Feed and see what she’s been up to recently:
- On HGTV’s “Celebrities at Home,” tells host Nancy O’Dell “When you hear the name Paula Deen, I don’t want you to think of the word ‘butter.’ I want you to think of the word ‘hope.’”
- Launches a new line of flavored butters which, according to her press release, “let cooks bring a wonderful fresh butter taste to various dishes while just adding butter to the end of the cooking process.” Flavors include Southern Grilling Butter, Lemon Dill Butter, European Style Butter, Sweet Citrus Zest Butter and Garden Herb Butter. According to Paula, “My Sweet Citrus Zest butter is hard to practice in moderation.”
- Will soon have a museum celebrating her contributions to the world, like flavored butter and that recipe for a hamburger on a donut (or not, see below). The museum will reportedly be opened in her childhood home in Albany, GA, although the home itself will be moved, presumably to a more marketable and tourist-friendly area.
- Claimed on Leno that she had “accidentally” invented the donut hamburger, called the “Lady’s Brunch Burger,” on an episode of Paula’s Home Cooking in 2008 when she had decided on a whim to substitute donuts instead of hamburger buns.
- Thrown under the bus by her son Jamie in an interview with The Daily Meal, where he reported that:
You know what’s funny is that’s not her recipe. That was a Minor League Baseball thing, and my mom did like a spoof on it. That’s the only thing that really bothered me was they gave us credit for that recipe but it wasn’t even our recipe. The Minor League Baseball team did one of those things, you make the craziest things you can think of. So they made a cheeseburger on a donut. And it was on the national news cycle for about five minutes and somebody from our production team put it together. I have never tasted or seen my mom ever make a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger in my life.
- Released a cookbook called “The New Testament.”
- And, of course, hid her type 2 Diabetes diagnosis for three years until she had a massive endorsement deal in place for diabetes drug Victoza, all the while trading off her “Queen of Rich Food” persona/brand.
Writing about Paula Deen makes me feel kind of icky, like I need to shower afterward. Plus there is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said by a hundred other commentators. Sandra Lee is much more fun to write about. Team Sandra all the way!
As film viewers, we keep going back to the movies because we can relate at a basic level to the needs of the characters on the screen – the need for survival, acceptance, revenge, relaxation, sexual gratification, etc. But one such need that is often sorely neglected in the movies is the need for sustenance – the need to eat, and the enjoyment that comes from eating. Presumably James Bond enjoys a good meal (he obviously enjoys a good drink), but in his world, food is an afterthought – a room service order of caviar and champagne (charged to Goldfinger’s account, of course) – which he never actually eats because he’s too busy making sexytime and thwarting his nemesis’ attempts to cheat at cards.
Food is most often extraneous to a film’s storyline, except in those rare instances where the story is actually about food (for example, movies like Ratatouille or Big Night). But occasionally, food – or the act of eating – is used by filmmakers to bring out traits of the characters or themes of the film as a whole. For example, in Die Hard, John Mclaine unsuccessfully attempts to “fire down” a “1,000 year old twinkie” he finds on an empty floor of the L.A. office building in which he is trapped with murderous international thieves. He’s been running around in his bare feet dodging bullets and crashing through windows for most of the movie, but it is only then we realize the poor guy probably hasn’t eaten since he first got on the plane in New York. At that point we actually realize how exhausted, beaten up (and hungry!) he must be.
In Inglorious Basterds, Jewish heroine Shosanna Dreyfus finds herself alone at a Parisian restaurant with “the Jew Hunter,” Nazi Col. Hans Landa, who murdered the rest of her family when she was a child. She looks to get away as soon as possible, before he discovers who she is – but Landa insists she join him in a plate of apple strudel while he interrogates her, and seems to enjoy watching her squirm as she grudgingly nibbles at it.
Next up, “the lobster scene” from Annie Hall. Here, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton do battle with a pair of feisty lobsters who do not want to go gently into that good night. The scene illustrates the fun and frivolity of the early stages of Alvie and Annie’s relationship – SPOILER: there are difficult times to come. The actual eating of the lobsters is not depicted, although it probably would have been pretty amusing to watch. There is a second “lobster scene” later in the film (also included in the clip) where Alvie attempts to cook lobsters with a new, post-Annie girlfriend. Clearly, things are not the same.
The Great Outdoors
The Great Outdoors is a 1988 “escape to nature”/”annoying in-law” comedy starring the late John Candy and Dan Aykroyd (as the annoying in-law). Throughout the film, Dan Aykroyd’s character antagonizes, belittles, befuddles and causes grievous bodily harm to John Candy, but the most memorable scene is at a restaurant where he dares Candy to consume “the ol’ 96er,” a behemoth 96 oz. “Paul Bunyan” steak which will result in a free meal for both families if entirely consumed (a feat which has not occurred in the waitress’s lifetime). This scene has a little-heralded but much deserved place in the holy trinity of competitive eating scenes in the movies, which include the pie-eating contest in Stand By Me, and of course Paul Newman’s excruciating consumption of 50 hard boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke. Candy’s delirious “meat sweat” is entirely convincing (but feel free to ignore the weak romantic subplot designed to appeal to teenage viewers).
*note: This is not to be confused with the “escape to nature” comedy Funny Farm, where Chevy Chase breaks the local record by eating thirty “lamb fries,” only to find out they are in fact sheep testicles.
Goodfellas is chock-full of eligible “food” scenes, so I went with the most famous of all, the “dinner in prison” scene. As Henry Hill explains:
When you think of prison you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars. It wasn’t like that for wiseguys . . . . everyone else in the joint was doing real time, all together, living like pigs. But we lived alone. We owned the joint.
Here, Paulie famously shaves the garlic for the sauce so thin that it “liquifies in the pan.” I would not recommend this for anyone who is not incarcerated, as it is extremely time consuming and doesn’t seem to make much difference anyway.
Five Easy Pieces
Another classic “food” scene, the diner scene in Five Easy Pieces is not so much about eating food as much as ordering food, but really it is about the Jack Nicholson character’s late 60’s-era relationship to the regulated society in which he lives, and his frustration in having never really been able to “get his toast” for most of his life. Much analysis of this scene has been written better elsewhere, so I will leave it at that.
*Note: after the scene, the clip contains some bizarre remix of the scene – for those who have not seen the movie, this is not what actually happens! People on Youtube love to remix things, even 1970s-era dramatic films.
In Oldboy, Oh Dae-su is kidnapped, imprisoned for fifteen years in what looks like a shabby hotel room, and subsists entirely on a diet of fried dumplings and television. During this time he learns that his wife has been murdered, his daughter sent to live with foster parents, and he is the prime suspect. He is suddenly and inexplicably released, and soon thereafter ends up in a sushi bar, where he demands “to eat something alive.” In one of the most memorable scenes from the film, he angrily consumes a wriggling octopus whole and passes out face first on his plate.
I am aware that I have merely scratched the surface of memorable movie “food” scenes. Perhaps I will discuss more in future posts.
Mother nature ain’t got nothing on Monsanto. Monsanto, an agricultural biotech mega-corporation with seemingly insurmountable political muscle, holds a virtual stranglehold on the U.S. food supply (including 90% of the GMO – genetically modified organism/food market). The corporation is ostensibly pro-farmer, if you look at the slogans and sunny wholesome photography on its website – however, it has also waged a massive legal war on these same farmers. Monsanto is reported to have filed nearly 150 patent infringement lawsuits against farmers and settled out of court with seven hundred more. Monsanto holds patents on genetically modified seeds, which have been altered to address many of the difficulties in growing them, and it makes a tidy profit selling these seeds. The thing about seeds is, of course, that when they grow successfully, they produce more seeds, and Monsanto cannot control at least this aspect of the natural order (without making a useless product). Unable to wrest control of the natural order, they have turned to the next best thing – the U.S. judicial system.
There are (at least) three ways that unsuspecting farmers can find themselves dragged into federal court to defend a patent infringement lawsuit against Monsanto’s army of lawyers. In the words of Paulie Cicero: Plant a crop with Monsanto seed, save the seeds from the new crop and plant those next year? “Fuck you, pay me.” Monsanto seeds scattered onto your fields from a neighboring farm? “Fuck you, pay me.” Try to plant the second-hand seeds you bought from a grain elevator? “Fuck you, pay me.”
Of course, to carry out this sort of litigation strategy, one must keep a watchful eye on potential plaintiffs (farmers). Vanity Fair has reported that:
As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities.
Which brings me to the subject du jour which is not, as one might expect, a rant against Monsanto’s aggressive business practices, but rather a brief recap of recent relevant events in the legal world.
Vernon Bowman is a soybean farmer and a good customer of Monsanto. He bought Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soybean seeds to plant his primary soybean crop. “Roundup Ready” seeds have been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide/weed-killer “Roundup,” and Monsanto holds patents on them. Needing seeds for a secondary, lower-yield soybean planting, Bowman bought less-expensive “commodity” seeds from a grain elevator. These seeds were a combination of seeds from various farmers, which also contained “Roundup Ready” seeds. After Bowman planted these seeds, he was sued by Monsanto for its infringing its patents because he planted “Roundup Ready” seeds that he did not buy from Monsanto. His case wound its way through the federal court system, and ended up before the Supreme Court, which handed down its decision on May 13, 2013 (Bowman v. Monsanto Co.).
The central issue in the case concerned the doctrine of “patent exhaustion,” which generally protects an authorized purchaser from a claim of infringing a patent by using or reselling the product. If Albert holds a patent on Product X and sells it to Bob, his exclusive right to control the use or sale of the patent is exhausted upon the sale, and Bob may then legally use or resell Product X. Bowman argued that the right to “use” the seed included the right to plant the seed as well as its progeny, since that is how seeds are “used.” The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, holding essentially that a farmer may plant seeds he buys directly, but may not plant any subsequent newly grown seeds.
This result vindicates Monsanto’s legal stance and puts farmers back into the position they were in before the decision, which is to say not a great one, where they are constantly under suspicion/investigation and at risk of being hauled into federal court based on circumstances they may not even be aware of. The Court’s decision seems to result, at least in part, from its concern that if patent exhaustion applied, Monsanto would lose significant ground to the secondary seed market and lose its incentive to innovate.
A skeptic could conclude that Monsanto has adopted a business strategy of destroying (or threatening to destroy) the livelihood of many of America’s farmers to strengthen its monopoly by killing off the secondary market for its seeds. Monsanto would doubtless reply that the number of farmers affected is extremely small, and that on balance, they do a lot more good for farmers than harm. Monsanto’s lawsuits will doubtless continue. One can only hope that measures will be taken to account for situations where farmers end up with patented seeds growing on their land through no fault of their own (e.g., through contamination from nearby fields).
Quick ‘n dirty saturday night dinner report: I had spent all saturday working on “Day 1” of Mark Bittman’s cassoulet recipe as published in the New York Times a few weeks ago (available here, for you masochists and those with lots of time on their hands). Dinnertime rolled around and it was time to put away the duck carcass (broken down, fat rendered, carcass roasted and simmered as stock) and figure out what to make for dinner. On a whim, I had ordered a duo of softshell crabs from FreshDirect, never having cooked them before but determined to do so while they are in season. Now, I’ve read enough Asian cookbooks to know that it is FROWNED UPON to cook any crab that is not alive and kicking – however, it is early in the season for softshells, they are presumably coming from some place warmer (Florida?), so they are unlikely to show up in Queens still wriggling (God forbid they were shipped up here live and they began to harden en route, the first bite would be painful).
It also happened that I had a bunch of collard greens, also purchased on a whim earlier that day at the supermarket. So – here’s my quick and dirty saturday dinner recipe – perfect for whenever you’ve spent all day prepping for cassoulet and also happen to have softshell crabs and collards in the fridge:
Garlic Pepper Crabs
2 softshell crabs, cleaned (just Google how to clean them, you have to cut the eye stalks off, etc.)
2 tsp. cracked black pepper (use a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle or, failing that, a food processor)
1.5 tbsps. minced garlic
3/4 cup peanut oil
You will also need a pan that can fit both crabs, a candy thermometer, a slotted spoon or spatula, and a splatter screen or just a cover for the pan if no splatter screen
1) Put the oil in the pan, heat to 375 degrees. This will take awhile. In the meantime, open all doors and windows and turn on your ventilation fan if you have one (and I hope you do, for your sake).
2) When the oil is heated, toss in a pinch of garlic and half the pepper, stir vigorously for fifteen seconds.
3) Lower in the crabs GENTLY – put the splatter screen or cover over the pan as soon as possible. Crabs are notorious for popping and snapping in the pan, showering bystanders in 375 degree oil. Cook for 3 minutes then flip the crabs over carefully, wearing an oven mitt if possible.
*note: you should be maintaining the heat at 375 degrees as the crabs cook. The temperature will drop when you add them to the oil, so don’t be afraid to goose the heat until it climbs back up).
4) Fry the crabs on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.
5) Add the remaining garlic and pepper, stirring vigorously and flipping the crabs at least once (you could also add a pinch of hot pepper flakes if so inclined). After 30 seconds, remove the crabs onto paper towels. Scoop up the garlic and pepper bits in the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and spread them over the crabs.
6) Season crabs with some salt, serve.
If making with crabs, prepare these first as they can just sit in the pot keeping warm while you focus on the crabs.
1) Rinse the collard leaves and cut lengthwise into 1-2 inch strips. Trim any particularly fat stems with paring knife.
2) Pile all the leaves into a large saucepan and turn on medium heat.
3) At this point, you should add some fat. Traditionally, it would be some fatback, ham hock, bacon fat, etc. The healthy alternative is a teaspoon or two of olive oil, I guess, but Southerners will likely ridicule you if they witness this. Add a generous grinding of black pepper. Put the lid on and cook.
4) As the collards release water, they will steam themselves. Check them every 10 minutes or so and add a little water (or chicken stock, beef stock, whatever) if they look dry, and also be sure to stir them.
5) Keep this up for 30-45 minutes, until they are fully wilted and look like properly cooked collard greens. If you want to test them, try one of the bigger stems -if it is tender, you are in good shape. Then turn the heat to low.
6) When ready to serve, pull out the fatback or ham hock if such a thing is in there, add salt to taste and serve.
7) For a nice touch, you can drizzle a little cider vinegar over the top of each serving of greens (don’t overdo it), and/or sprinkle with some toasted walnuts. Whether or not these are traditional additions, I don’t really care.
If executed with care, and served with some white rice and your favorite wine, these will make a perfectly acceptable saturday night dinner.
One of the esteemed members of AOD will be hosting a Passover seder for the first time ever. Menu planning, food ordering/shopping and tidying up have all been part of this week’s post-work festivities. Obviously, a follow-up post documenting certain portions of said seder will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, those of you who are preparing for your own seders, Whole Foods (or at least the one recently visited in Tribeca) is giving away free lamb shank bones for roasting. Instead of having to cook up a lamb-based meal this week or otherwise scavenging for roasted lamb parts, just call ahead to your local Whole Foods and check to see if the meat department still giving out free bones. Anything to cut down the amount of work at this point has to be helpful, right?
Allegations O.D. can resist no longer and is jumping on The Hunger Games bandwagon. Consistent with its title, The Hunger Games devotes a great deal of time to discussing food. This is appropriate, since many of its characters are on the brink of starvation and feeding themselves is their highest priority. Constantly, its characters are hunting game, cooking game, foraging, baking or otherwise looking for or preparing or eating food.
*Full disclosure: I have not seen the movie, although I did read the book last weekend. You should assume further references in this post are referring to the book, as I have no idea how much of it made it into the movie.
So, we are pleased to feature a recipe excerpted from “The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook: From Lamb Stew to “Groosling.” This is recipe is the aforementioned lamb stew, known as “Katniss’s Favorite Lamb Stew With Dried Plums.” For those of you living under a rock for the last month, “Katniss” refers to Katniss Everdeen, the resourceful heroine of the story who spends her days in the downtrodden “District 12” foraging and hunting squirrels and other game to feed her family. Through a series of circumstances,Katniss ends up as a contestant in The Hunger Games, which is sort of like “Survivor” except that the contestants’ only goal is to brutally murder every other contestant, sort of a reality show boiled down to its essence. At any rate, before the games begin, the contestants are all shuttled to “The Capitol,” which is where the 1% live in luxury, safe from the 99% starving in the other districts. There, the contestants live in opulence for several days, before they are taken to the game zone and start killing each other for the entertainment of the masses. One of the first dishes that Katniss is served in the Capitol is this lamb stew with dried plums (i.e., prunes). Having lived off squirrel meat and dandelions her whole life, Katniss devours it and eats it repeatedly during her brief stay in the Capitol. The prunes have the added benefit of keeping her very regular, which may or may not be a benefit in the kill zone. The book does not dwell on such details so I leave it to the reader to decide.
Katniss’s Favorite Lamb Stew With Dried Plums
Yield 8-10 servings
- 5 pounds lamb fillet, shoulder or leg, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ½ cup water
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar
- 3 cups diced carrots
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- 1½ cups diced celery
- 2 large onions, diced
- 3 potatoes, cubed
- 5 cups dried plums
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup ginger ale
- Place lamb, salt, pepper, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Toss to coat meat evenly.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown the meat, working in batches if you have to.
- Remove lamb to a side plate. Pour off fat, leaving ¼ cup in the pan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion becomes golden. Deglaze frying pan with the ½ cup water, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up all of the tasty bits of meat and onion. Cook to reduce liquid slightly, then remove from heat.
- Place the lamb and garlic-onion mixture in a large stockpot. Add beef stock and sugar, stirring until sugars are dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours.
- Add the vegetables, dried plums, herbs, and ginger ale to the pot. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until meat and vegetables pierce easily with a fork.
At any rate, the recipe appears to be a straight forward and not overly fussy braised lamb recipe, with the added sweetness of the plums/prunes. I confess that I have not yet made it as I am involved in another large cooking project this weekend which I hope to post about later. My only notes are that you may want to add the plums/prunes earlier than the recipe says, to give them time to break down and contribute a nice texture and color to the braise. Also, I would suggest you might brown all the vegetables before you add the liquid, then add them in later if you worried about overcooking them. Finally, I am dubious about the addition of ginger ale at the end of the process, but I’m willing to try it. Also – this will make a lot of stew.
Apparently there is whole cottage industry of unofficial cookbooks based off various beloved series, e.g. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc. I don’t remember much eating or cooking in Star Wars except for this scene:
Aunt Beru represent! So perhaps there is more exploring to be done in this area.