26 September, 2007

Saint Joan, lasagne, and... a new writing course!


















All right, it's an odd combination of subjects. Such is my diverse set of interests these days. First, the play.

I have never read "Saint Joan," by George Bernard Shaw, and it's highly unlikely that I ever will, but the play was an absolute revelation. Now, I confess that I was first drawn to see the play because it stars my crush's wife (well, one has to do what one can to feel close to one's crush). And I have loved her in Shameless and The Way We Live Now. She even had a tiny cameo at the end of Notes on a Scandal. But she, Anne-Marie Duff, was tremendous.

I feel really remiss that I saw it on the last day, so I can't send any of you to it. But honestly, over the summer when I bought the tickets from Connecticut, it was sold out every evening and I got matinee tickets only by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. I thought: three hours long, burning at the stake, maybe NOT the place to take my ten-year-old child? So we went on the last day, just the two of us. And it was shattering. From the introductory music with old-fashioned bell-ringing and a haunting vocal score by Melanie Pappenheim, through the very disturbing battle of Orleans, and Joan's eventual collapse at her trial, and the last moments of her time at the stake, Duff's performance was a tour de force of every emotion possible. She was vulnerable, passionate, flirtatious, innocent, violent soldier, religious fanatic, and finally at the end, a fragile vision in white blowing ashes over the audience. Amazing.

See her in anything she's in!

From that it was a bit of a comedown to have ordinary life resume, picking Avery up in a rainstorm at Anna's, homework supervision, dinner prep and the like. But I must tell you while I have always felt I had a good lasagne recipe, I have discovered two secrets that I will share with you: and both of them were the result of my laziness. First off, you need to start your tomato sauce in the afternoon because you won't be home until 6 and you don't want to deal with creating it that late in the day. The beauty of this is that the sauce had time to simmer off a large part of its liquid, without which step I find a lot of lasagne is watery. SO make your sauce at noon or so, and rashly leave it out on the stovetop to (you think) shrivel up and die. But NO. This waiting period is a good thing. Then you can turn the heat up under it when you're ready to assemble your lasagne and it is thick and rich and NOT watery.

Second lazy bit: I was at Marks and Spencer grocery shopping and there was no ricotta. Lasagne without ricotta! It surely cannot be. But faced with the choice of "make do with something else" and "go somewhere else," I improvised. And it turns out: half mascarpone cheese and half cottage cheese is FABULOUS. Provides a rich, creamy layer among the pasta and meaty tomato sauce, and is simply divine. Give it a try.

Well, let's see, today it was onto the new writing course. I have been quite devoted to CityLit since I've been here, taking at least four courses in writing various things and really enjoying myself. But I decided to follow the tutor from last term to Birkbeck where our course was today to begin, and I must say she was marvelous. My friend Dalia and I signed up together, and it seemed so strange to me that something planned months ago, in a farmhouse in Connecticut, should be coming to pass in a Hammersmith school building. I never really believe that the things I'm planning for will come to pass, and feel continually amazed when they do; just think, that in March, when this course ends, we'll know where Avery's going to senior school, John will doubtless have a job after our glorious year of no-job, we may even have found a house. It all seems hard to believe.

I confess to being completely whacked right now, having consumed our dinner of roast pork fillet with rosemary, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and roasted beetroot, sauteed carrot and asparagus, baked squash and mashed potato. Can you tell I was cleaning out the fridge? I simply took care of every last languishing raw ingredient and we ate, discussing Avery's short story from class today. Is there anything more sensitive than a writing project, having received a bad mark? I don't know, but the brave little soul has revised it to her teacher's content if not her own, and is tucked up with hot water bottles against the early-chill September night. Be cosy, wherever you are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear your thoughts on Saint Joan. I saw it too and I'd also describe it as shattering. Quite an experience.

The musicial score was composed by Jocelyn Pook. I'm not sure if you were confused as you said it was a score from Melanie Pappenheim (though she did sing Jocelyn's pieces)