I can’t remember a time when I did not love the movies. My earliest memories include being spirited out of bed by my mother.
One of her favorite classics from the 1940s or ‘50s was about to begin and she wanted to share. Something about the dimly lit room, like the ambience of the movie theater, made it easy for me to become part of the story, feeling the emotions of the heroine or child star. Everyone else in the house was sound asleep, but we were sharing something that today is still a special bond. We’re at the movies.
Our favorite movie night of the year was the Oscars. Woe to the person who talked during any of the acceptance speeches. We actually wanted to hear what they had to say. Gathered round the old black and white box TV in the cabinet, we feasted on snacks.
No time to be in the kitchen preparing dinner on that night. The favorite, to this day, for Oscar night, Mom’s garlic dip and Lay’s potato chips. If there was anything else, I honestly don’t remember.
Not an Oscar night has passed since then that I have not made a vat of this creamy concoction to share with those I enjoy the night with. It’s the simplest of all recipes and I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t then ask me, “You’re making the dip, right?”
My love for movies has endured, and one shape it took was a mission each year to see every movie nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress before Oscar Sunday. Originally, I was on a solo mission during Oscar season, but 20 years ago, an old friend moved to Napa. Eric is as crazy about movies as I am; my tradition became a shared passion and mutual mission.
Our marathon record includes three movies in one day, in three different cities. Our strangest viewing, a little theater in San Francisco that was once a laundromat. The rows were only three seats deep. We smacked into the wall trying to go farther down the row.
As for the big night, I don’t enjoy big Oscar parties. By the time the awards show actually begins people have imbibed so much that they could not care less about what’s showing on the multi big-screen TVs, and one can’t hear the acceptance speeches or the host’s monologue. These can actually be entertaining.
The hosts of the Oscars have varied widely over the years. I’m lucky enough to remember when Bob Hope was hosting, into the late ‘70s, and then the classy and funny Johnny Carson.
Eric and I don’t always agree about the movies. The only true argument we’ve had in our years of friendship was because of a movie. The emotions that followed us out of the theater after viewing “12 Years A Slave” were palpable. Now, that’s the sign of a great movie, and a great friendship, because we are still marathoning.
We plan an annual Oscars viewing party. Think potluck, with dishes that are inspired by the nominees.
My buffet for 2016 would include the following:
“The Martian” — Potatoes with ketchup for dipping
“The Hateful Eight” — Stew
“Creed” — Philly Cheese Steak sliders
“Revenant” — Sashimi, unless you happen to have some bear meat
“Trumbo” — Cake
“Danish Girl” — Smorrebrod
“Spotlight” — Pizza
“Brooklyn” — Spaghetti
“Carol” — Creamed Spinach w/poached egg, served in individual ramekins
“Bridge of Spies” — Salmon
“Big Short”—Subprime Rib
“Steve Jobs” — Apples, of course
“Joy” — Mini meatballs in mop sauce
“Mad Max” — Produce and seeds. Thankfully, they had these in the “Citadel” or it would be lizard heads and things too bizarre to mention
“45 Years”—Toasted Tea Cakes
But I’ll always include Mom’s Garlic Dip.
I can’t imagine a world without movie theaters. The loss of almost all of the drive-in movie “theaters” was a hard enough blow. The idea of watching cinematic creations on my computer, laptop or iPhone makes absolutely no sense to me. Let the movies sweep you away, even if just for a couple of hours.
As Roger Ebert said, “We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.”
Mom’s Garlic Dip
1 8 oz. package Philly Cream Cheese
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1/4 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
Garlic powder to taste
Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature. Add milk and whip with a fork until cream cheese is whipped. Add garlic powder to taste. Whip into mixture. Add mayo and whip thoroughly until you have the desired dipping texture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Whip once more when you serve.
Back in the day, we didn’t have “whipped” Philly. This whipped style of cream cheese does not hold up well in this recipe.
Also important, the longer the dip sits, the stronger the garlic flavor. So begin sparingly and adjust during whipping process and once again before serving. Make a double batch.