Saturday, August 29, 2009

How Gay is Jill and Kevin's Wedding?

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body - Martha Graham

I would believe only in a god who knows how to dance - Nietzsche

Well, since I’m totally hooked I might as well try to figure the thing out. I’ve watched the Jill & Kevin Wedding video way too many times; woke my sweetie the morning I found it on Twitter - where insanities like this blossom - with coffee and the wireless announcing this was the only way I would ever consider marriage. I’ve thrilled to it almost daily now (it's an unfailingly intoxicating wake-up). So how does its addictive enchantment work?

The video is both utterly homemade and a perfectly wrought tiny film. A few opening seconds catch all the mise-en-scène of a small traditional wedding: the presider's instructive, sleep-inducing "voice over"; the milling corsaged guys officiating at the back of the church in ill-fitting, desert-hued suits; the eerie green sparkle dust of stain-glass filtered light; the restless hum of midwesternly modest pew dwellers.


The first hint that sedition's in the air comes in the three nasal synthesized blasts (from Chris Brown's Forever) that replace somber organ lines. And for a second the chunky guys who begin throwing programs and prancing could be a tired white-guys-do-hip-hop riff, yet instantly becomes something more interesting and wonderful. The poker-faced John Goodman stiffly hustling down the isle has joyous treason in his awkward limbs, can’t keep the mischief from his slow-swirling body. Cheeky day-glow bridesmaids swing sabers of boldly florescent mums in tight time into glorious vanishing shimmies. Even the earnest minister can't finally keep herself from swaying. And so it goes. Everybody "walks" the isle, each voguing change in their own fashion.

And it becomes instantly clear why dance is so tightly regulated within the church: for the irrepressible carnal joy of it, for its potential pentecostal subversiveness. Even relatively newfangled "Praise Dance" is suspect. Because the body doesn’t lie. It is a helpless conductor of other realities, other possibilities. And this danced wedding exudes pure transformation and joy. The mood is ultra gay, and indeed gayness itself is everywhere in this straight union... who can ignore that thromping beat, those hot pink gerbers, the Bob Fosse arm flourishes, those aviator glasses? The celebration gets its dazzling life (23 million YouTube hits and counting) from rubbing against those church walls, from pushing their boundaries. It wouldn't have nearly the same spark were it simply held on a beach.

And is there just something thrillingly transgressive about movement and music in unlikely places? The Belgium Train Station flash mob video is also compulsively watchable and euphoric. These performances offer different potential visions for previously controlled space; a new choreography for what has always been so tightly choreographed (whether for religious propriety or the sake of timetables). They are all about liberation. Just look at the people watching them. They can't stop grinning, can't keep their jumpy bodies still.

So is it too crazy to imagine, in the early days of a new forward-thinking leader, when states are beginning to fall domino-style to the side of marriage equality, that this one small renegade wedding speaks to the sudden very tangible possibility that what has been convention might in fact be pliant enough to contain all of our wild mysteries, all of our sacred loves?

Or have I, reader, skipped straight into a very deep end here? Do I pile far too many words onto one teensy viral video? I don’t know... my often reticent girlfriend is rocking beside me tear-streaked and hooting, our 8-year-old is squealing that she and her friends want to dance the isle at our wedding. And have you ever witnessed such an exuberant one? To paraphrase Mr. Brown's now infamous song: It’s like we’ve waited our whole lives.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Knopf Julia Contest!

What a fab, so very French competition! And this coming from someone who avidly avoids shamelessly promotional cooking events that usually involve having to incorporate some random, corporate "ingredient" into an original dish. But this contest was just right. It was all about passion. It coaxed us to spell-out our Julia love boldly by digging into her Mastering the Art trove to feed friends & family. What's more in Julia style?

I loved perusing the entries of my fellow mad-cappers. How totally kick was the multi- media Harlem bash post with it's video/text messaging/playlist/snappy invite/couture drama? Or Julia's Chicken Meunière carried out in onion-defying goggles? Or the earthy cool garden-to-table Oregon Gorge to-do? My wine-country soirée was rather prim by comparison. I really should have documented the post-dinner pool party or at least my Terrier's latent Frenchie tendencies. But honorable mention? Lovely. The adventure was brilliant. Thanks Knopf for sparking it and spreading the love.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Julia Dinner

Photos by Julie Dodge

So after the early morning J & J screening last Sunday (see recent Julia-O-Rama post), we raced off to a dreamy Sebastopol spread, Olive Oaks (we actually have friends, Edita & Martino, with a named property!), raw poulet, haricot & pâte brisée in hand - to expliquez and document Julia Child’s cusine bourgeoise from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

To be honest, I haven’t cracked Mastering the Art for years, which is not to say I haven’t been using it constantly. Digging into it again for this fête, I realize how deeply I’ve internalized the tome: the teensy batch browning; the slow fat-loved sauces; the crucial flavor-punking deglaze; the tender fold into halcyon floss; the imperative right-hand-man of righteous stock.

My European cooking school (read: French, as it is undeniably they who codified the whole shebang into technique and decree), traded in pedagogies like alarmingly thick early morning hand-outs of huge family trees titled “Mother Sauce” that branched into all sorts of tangled, intimidating progeny: Sauce Soubise, Creme Fleurette & Ravigote... Child always brought this kind of gibberish (n’a pas de sens) all home to me in intelligible, lucid spades.

Choosing the menu was a surprising snap. The Californian in me - compulsively bound by season - landed instantly on Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon). I mean Summer’s just so tarragon, which is itself just so damned French.

And with nothing but August’s green beans galore, the Haricots Mange-Tout à l'étuvée (Wax Beans Braised with Onions, Lettuce and Cream), stepped right up to preen beside the herby chicken.

And how could I resist Quiche à La Tomate, Niçoise (Fresh Tomato Quiche with Anchovies and Olives)? I mean if the JC oeuvre doesn’t scream savory custard tart, what on earth does? Besides, the 80's are so here again, and tomatoes sont arrivés.

Also, when Ms. Child pronounces a chocolaty something an “all time favorite,” you’re a fool if you don’t seriously investigate... hence, la Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheeba/Chocolate-Almond cake).

My co-conspirator Winnie throws in rogue Gougères and a Pommes Anna, crisply fleshed-out in duck fat, for good measure.

The dinner is quintessentially française: fearlessly fat and flavorful. The tart, an egg-tricked pissaladière in an butter-fused crust, is an old fashioned testament to how much tomatoes do love their beurre. The chicken is both rubbed in softened butter and browned to golden in the stuff. Tarragon is trussed within and laid beside the bird to long-stew in its crazy juices, then added by fresh handfuls to finish the glorious affair. Summer beans, onions and lettuce are layered raw into a gratin with herbs and stock to braise before anointed with thick cream. Ground almonds jacked with almond extract are tenderly wound in souffléd chocolate.

The final plate is a trippy shifting tableau: a blackened potato island surrounded by bronze poulet jus swimming up against thick jade haricot cream. The one European at the table, Martino, giddily notes - while cracking off another wedge of pomme - that the potato is so fat-full it practically fends off the chicken butter & creamy beans, which, I notice, does not slow him down in the least. Could anything on earth have delighted Julia more?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It's a kind of madness friends, this all Julia all the time. A fellow tweeter says she never thought she could tire of Julia Child, but now she just sort of wants her back in the kitchen. And it's morphed into a Julia wildfire week for me. I was flabbergasted Monday to be the Julie & Julia Sony site's featured blog-of-the-day (see previous post). I'm cooking five dishes from le glorious Mastering the Art for our Woodward's menu.

We're meeting friends early Sunday to catch said publicity-flamed flick, then racing to Napa to fire-up a Julia fête with more friends just for fun and for the Knopf's "Be Like Julia" contest (though I can't possibly think how I could be any MORE Julia at the moment). My 8-year-old is in her room trilling random Julia bon mots, so steeped is she in the mania. Truly I'm way through the looking glass here... every White Rabbit is Lapain au Saupiquet, every Dodo bird Pigeonneau en Vin Rouge.

How on earth did this come to be? Will the Julia insanity ever subside? What I can say is that her Poulet Poele a l'Estragon is a wonder; that the reason for all the fuss and frenzy is illuminated in one single bite.