With Dad gone, one of the things I miss most is his theories. Whenever I drew a blank on a column topic, he was always ready with one, from his belief that the preservatives in food increase longevity to his faith in the power of butter to grease his arteries and make the blood flow better.
Fortunately, when we read his will, I found that I had inherited his theorizing ability. What a great bequest! I was so grateful to receive it, I immediately put it to use over the holidays.
In my continuing desire to escape both reality and the unrelenting rain, I binge-watched a series of made-for-TV holiday movies, and came up with an important theory of my own: Hallmark is the smoking gun behind our current state of affairs. If you are still trying to get to the bottom of why the vote went the way it did, trust me, the blame falls squarely at their feet.
Hallmark movies are set in a different America than the one you and I live in. And apparently millions of Americans have bought into the fantasy. Not to get political, but I believe it is the very world that Trump supporters fervently wish to inhabit.
The movies are set in small towns, since a major plot point is that American values reside only in rural settings and city folks have to come there to rediscover their values, faith, roots, true love or whatever. These invariably charming towns (no Wal-Marts here!) are populated almost entirely by generically Christian white people. Needless to say, there are no recent Syrian or Libyan immigrants, and no Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists. No one has an accent — not even a New England or Southern accent in towns that are purportedly in Massachusetts or Tennessee. Certainly no one speaks Spanish, and the only African Americans or Asians to be seen are in supporting roles, usually as the generic wise best friend or favored employee.
Ah, Trump’s America. It makes even Napa look like a bastion of diversity.
I wouldn’t want to live there, but I admit the towns do have one major attraction for a single gal: they are filled with incredibly good-looking, available men whose only baggage is that they have been too devoted to their eerily well-behaved children and spent too long mourning their late spouse. (Alas, the death rate for mothers seems to be terribly high, as many of the men are young widowers with two or three children. I guess that’s what happens when the locals drive Planned Parenthood and affordable health care out of town.)
The most surprising thing to me, given that the movies are supposedly set in America, is that no one is obese or even pleasingly plump in these idyllic places. That is particularly amazing considering that the heart of town is invariably the bakery, and folks seem mostly to subsist on Christmas cookies.
Even without the cookies, the alternative reality that Hallmark paints is so sickeningly sweet that it could bring on diabetes in viewers. Fortunately (since our health care may be going the way of the dodo any day now), the holidays are finally over and Hallmark has put away those movies for the year, so the treacle flow has slowed.
Their January movies are mysteries and, thus, a bit grittier, though they are set in the same mythic small towns. There’s still no Wal-Mart, folks all seem gainfully employed in small local businesses (especially the bakery) and there is a total lack of diversity, so it’s the Hallmark/Trump version of America nonetheless.
But as you might expect, the NRA has made its presence felt. There are a lot more guns than in the Christmas films. And even though, as you know, guns make us all safer and are there to protect us, the crime wave is troubling.
All is not as it seems in Hallmarkland. If you find yourself there, take my advice. Beware of those jolly folks in the bakery, and avoid dark alleys.
You would not believe the murder rate in those towns.
Romanesco Cauliflower with Orecchiette
What, did you think I was going to give you a cookie recipe? No way. I’ve had enough Hallmark sweetness for the year, and am changing the channel. Besides, if you are like me, you are dieting and off sugar right now. (If not, feel free to take your life into your own hands and venture into a small-town bakery for your cookie fix. Just watch your back.)
Me, I’m sticking to salads and vegetables. Coincidentally, the question of favorite ways to cook cauliflower happened to come up in a discussion with friends last night, reminding me of this old favorite recipe. I shared it with you a number of years ago, but with beautiful romanesco in the stores right now, I thought it worth repeating.
1 head romanesco or other cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 healthy pinches dried hot peppers
1 pinch saffron
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound orecchiette
Cut the florets from the romanesco and slice each in half vertically (through the point) to preserve its beautiful shape. If the pieces are really large, you might want to cut them into more pieces—they should be bite size. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and cook the florets for a few minutes until somewhat tender but not completely cooked. Remove the cauliflower but reserve the pot of water.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften. Add the anchovies and continue to cook, breaking them up into bits in the oil (they will practically disappear). Add the cauliflower pieces, hot pepper, saffron, currants and pine nuts, along with about 1 cup of the reserved cooking water. Turn the heat to medium and cook until most of the water is gone and the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, bring the pot of cauliflower cooking water back to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and cook the pasta. (You can play with the quantity – I prefer there to be more vegetable than pasta, but you could easily stretch this dish with additional pasta.)
When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the cauliflower. Stir to mix, add salt and pepper to taste (and possibly some more hot peppers) and serve.