20 March, 2007

another great British actor

Have you seen "Becoming Jane"? Well, it's worth seeing, I think, especially if you are a chick looking for a flick for yourself and for your 10-year-old daughter. Taking a jet-lagged male along with you is asking for trouble, because really not enough happens in it to keep a man's attention (aside from looking at the delectable Anne Hathaway) even if he were fully awake, which mine wasn't. Avery said, "But, Daddy, there was good real estate," which was sweet of her, but really, they were just country houses. At least in "Miss Potter" the real estate was in Bedford Square, where we were actually looking at a house.

But that's not the point. The point is, James McAvoy is, while not an actual current crush, definitely crush-worthy and may be called upon by me at a later date if one of my other candidates is unable to fulfill his duties. He played the faun in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," and as the message boards say (yes, I've looked him up), for a man with hooves, he's very nice-looking. A similar type to, dare I say it, Matthew Macfadyen (although slight instead of beefy) and Edward Norton, really versatile and intelligent. "Becoming Jane" is like a fluffier "Pride and Prejudice," partly I think because Anne Hathaway brings a lot of plucky humor to whatever role she plays (although I did not see "Brokeback Mountain," in which I cannot imagine plucky anything played much of a role). And whether or not all these romantic interludes actually did happen to Jane Austen or not, it is fun to compare the things they claim happened to her with the various events portrayed in her novels.

Well, seeing movies aside, the last few days have remarkably unproductive for me. I decided that I needed to branch out from cooking the same old things I always cook, and for three nights running have been an absolute (or almost absolute) washout. Branching out reminds me why I usually cook the same old things I always cook: because they're good. But I had to learn this the hard way. On the advice of nearly everyone I know, I recently acquired the River Cafe Cookbook. I have never eaten there, because I almost never eat anywhere, but everyone raves, and it's paperback, so I thought, why not? Well, maybe it's just me, but...

The recipes don't work! That's actually not fair, since I messed with both the recipes I tried. I just can't seem to leave a recipe alone, so I know it's my fault. But first I tried a pasta dish that was meant to be with crabmeat but it was so ruinously expensive at Selfridges (36 pounds a kilo! sorry, no) that I substituted tiger prawns, and probably they did not provide the juice that would have helped the dish. The sauce was meant to be just olive oil, chopped parsley and garlic, and red chilies, and obviously with seafood, no cheese. Well, it was just plain BORING. Too much spaghetti for the amount of sauce, and too oily, and just plain dull. Then last night, I tried a veal chop recipe, only all the veal chops in London seemed to have run back to the country in fear, so I subsituted pork chops, which should have been fine. I was meant to rub them with a paste made of prosciutto fat, lemon peel, garlic, fresh sage and salt. Which smelled divine. Only I was also meant to grill them, but I don't have a &^%$ grill, so I decided it could not hurt to pan saute them. Only it did hurt, because they simply stuck to the pan and all the paste burned. It still tasted relatively all right because all the ingredients were so good, and John and Avery manfully downed them, but what a bummer.

Set in between these two unsuccessful and demoralising dinners was another total disappointment: I tried to recreate the delicious chopped beef-in-lettuce that I had with my friend Julia at E&O last week. Only why do I do this? Try to recreate things I've had in restaurants where, say, an actual CHEF is in charge? It was totally labor intensive to chop the beef, and alongside I had sliced mushrooms and pears, red radishes and a chili dipping sauce, AND homemade fried rice, and can I tell you how boring it was? It was edible, but everything tasted like I had been put on a diet where no flavor was allowed.

Grr. Through it all, Avery and John have bravely sat at the kitchen table, eating these dull and failed dinners, accompanied by untasty side dishes, and offered their suggestions. But my friend Becky this morning offered the most sane advice of all: go back to the basics. So I think tonight will be... meatloaf and mashed potatoes. No new innovations, no weird uncharted vegetable on the side, maybe I'll even be radical and have NO vegetable on the side. And if anyone says, "But we have this all the time," I'll... well, let's not think about that.

In the meantime, I'm off to meet up with a lady I have met only on the computer screen! Through a message board! How exciting. A new friend, and maybe a snowstorm. Who could ask for more, on a Tuesday in March in London.

Kristen's Pretentious Meatloaf
(serves six easily, with leftovers)

1/3 pound each: minced beef and minced lamb
1/3 pound pork sausage
4 slices wholemeal bread, without crusts, torn into shreds
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium onion, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
1 handful curly parsley leaves, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
six slices streaky bacon

It couldn't be any simpler: mix everything together, except for the bacon, which you drape over the loaf once it's shaped in a glass dish that you've sprayed with nonstick spray, or lined with aluminium (note the darling extra "i" there) foil. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour.

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