Archive for March, 2013

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The Eggs and I: Comfort Food My Way

March 31, 2013

I’ve been thinking about comfort foods this past week after a family medical emergency. I guess most people think about casseroles or hearty winter soups as a source of nourishment in stressful times, but for me it’s eggs.

Eggs seem to lurk in strange places in my family’s north-eastern Italian cuisine: in Russian salads, alongside boiled meats and with radicchio (see earlier post on The Secret Radicchio Society). Sometimes I think the famous stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ film A Night at the Opera looked at this cuisine for inspiration when Groucho orders a meal from the steward – “two fried eggs; two poached eggs; two scrambled eggs; two medium boiled eggs. And “TWO HARD BOILED EGGS”.  Cracks me up every time.the eggs and i

I’m in between hospital visits, and what do I scoff down in 30 seconds flat on the run? A coddled egg squashed between a slice of bread. Not sophisticated but filling.

It’s Easter Sunday today but I haven’t quite been able to make the hand coloured hard-boiled eggs I often produce for festive picnics. So it’s caramel-filled chocolate eggs for afternoon tea instead.

And in among the surrealism of the past week are memories of another film that always makes me smile: The Egg and I (1947) with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as city slickers who buy a rundown old country farm. It’s a nice ‘fish out of water’ story (probably mackeral with egg mayonnaise in our case) and also a grammatical sticking point for those who like to argue that it should be ‘The Egg and Me’.

Psst- for those who like their trivia hokey, The Egg and I  paved the way for the nine successful Ma and Pa Kettle films in the 1940s-50s.

Here’s the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera stateroom scene egg warmup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC8PAQQIoCM

Russian Salad (Insalata Russa) recipe courtesy of Italian Language Blog

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Food on Film: A Missed Opportunity

March 11, 2013

The Weekend Australian’s film critic Evan Williams wrote an entertaining piece last year about memorable food films citing Babette’s Feast, Julie and Julia, Tampopo and La Grande Bouffe, among others, in his story Reel Delicious .

Culling my mother’s old LPs a few weeks ago, I stumbled on an album by brilliant Italian actor/comedian Walter Chiari. He played the lead role in the popular Australian film They’re a Weird Mob (1966, Michael Powell) as Nino Culotta, a sports journalist who travels to Sydney by ship following the promise of a magazine job. Cut to the comedy of errors that follows and he finds himself digging holes as a brickie’s labourer working alongside three likely lads – all good-natured Aussie blokes who soon teach him the local customs.  They're a Weird Mob DVD

What surprised me about the film was the lack of food scenes or Italian culinary references. If They’re a Weird Mob were made in today’s food-obsessed world, its plot of an educated Italian immigrant finding himself in an Anglo-Australian mid 1960s setting could have been milked by the filmmakers for all its worth. The only exception is a restaurant scene where Nino politely advises a couple of sheilas “you can’t eat spaghetti with a spoon”.

In another scene he’s at home with his workmates after a hunting expedition. All they’ve produced from the trip is a miserly rabbit, which is rejected by one of the wives and a dinner of baked beans on toast with extra tomato sauce is eaten instead. Nino looks on in amusement. But jump to 2013 and what a wonderful opportunity to have him jump up and offer to debone the rabbit and stuff it with garlic, breadcrumbs and capers. Perhaps with some grilled radicchio on the side.

Nino is such a likeable character that he happily accepts two mugfulls of milky tea (or is it instant coffee?) from a workmate after long hours sweating in the hot sun on a worksite. Today, he would have offered his workmates an espresso made from the stovetop Moka pot he’s set up in the shade of the truck.  Drinking scene in pub - They're a Weird Mob

And wine? No way. Our ‘New Australian’ tries to blend into his new lifestyle by drinking far too many beers with his mates at the local pub. Where’s the Prosecco? The Pinot Grigio? Or a Vermentino from Sardegna?

These missed opportunities are more than compensated for however with some great Australian idioms used throughout the film.

Meeting a new drinking buddy, Nino is asked “Whaddya do for a crust?”

He’s also told in no uncertain terms that he’s “not right in the scone”.

More praise for the film: http://blogafi.org/2012/11/22/why-i-adore-theyre-a-weird-mob/

Italian-Australian chef Stefano de Pieri’s stuffed rabbit recipe that Nino could have made:  http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/17413/stuffed-rabbit

Images courtesy Roadshow Entertainment

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