“Hummingbird Cake aka Doctor Bird Cake”

Below is a small article about the dessert known as Hummingbird Cake aka Doctor Bird Cake:

“HUMMINGBIRD CAKE AKA DOCTOR BIRD CAKE”

One of the dishes that became very familiar to me as a child was the dessert known as the Hummingbird Cake. At least to others. My grandmother, who used to prepare it a lot when I was a child, called it the Doctor Bird Cake. And for years, I used believe this dessert had originated in the American South. Well . . . I was wrong.

Contrary to what many Americans believe, the Hummingbird Cake had originated on the island of Jamaica. The cake’s actual creator remains unknown. However, the dessert itself was named after the island’s national bird – the hummingbird. The latter is also known by another name – Doctor Bird. And this is how the dessert acquired its nicknamed. The Hummingbird Cake was created on Jamaica during the 1950s or around the beginning of the 1960s. The ingredients for the cake consisted of flour, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, ripe banana, pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla extract, eggs, and leavening agent.

Following its initial popularity, the Jamaica Tourist Board exported the recipe for Hummingbird Cake, along with other local Jamaican recipes, in media press kits sent to the USA in 1968. The marketing was aimed at American consumers to get them to come to the island. The March 29, 1979 issue of the Kingston Daily Gleaner (Jamaica) stated: “Press kits presented included Jamaican menu modified for American kitchens, and featured recipes like the doctor bird cake, made from bananas.” One of the first publications in the United States to feature the receipe for Hummingbird Cake was the February 1979 issue of Southern Living, thanks to writer L.H. Wiggins. Once the recipe reached the Southern United States, two other ingredients – chopped pecans and cream cheese frosting.

Here is a recipe from Southern Living for Hummingbird Cake:

Hummingbird Cake aka Doctor Bird Cake

Ingredients – Cake Layers
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained (such as Publix Crushed Pineapple in Pineapple Juice)
2 cups chopped ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Vegetable shortening

Ingredients – Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup salted butter or margarine, softened
2 (16-oz.) pkg. powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients – Additional
3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted

Preparations
Step 1 – Prepare the Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and toasted pecans.

Step 2 – Divide batter evenly among 3 well-greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Step 3 – Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely, about 1 hour.

Step 4 – Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 5 – Assemble Cake. Place 1 Cake Layer on a serving platter; spread top with 1 cup of the frosting. Top with second layer, and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with third layer, and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange pecan halves on top of cake.

Starfleet Uniforms in “STAR TREK: PICARD”

STARFLEET UNIFORMS IN “STAR TREK: PICARD”

Recently, I have come across a good number of articles on the Internet about the the upcoming CBS All Access series and recent addition to the STAR TREK franchise, “STAR TREK: PICARD”. I admit that my curiosity about the new series has led to some kind of anticipation for it during the past several months. There is one aspect of my curiosity that has been settled – namely the costume designs for the Starfleet uniforms to be featured in the new series.

According to the publicity surrounding “PICARD”, it is supposed to be set at least twenty years after the events of the 2002 film, “STAR TREK NEMESIS” . . . roughly around 2399. This period – namely the end of the 24th century and the early years of the 25th century – in Federation/Starfleet history has already been featured in television shows like “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” and “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Because of my memories of the Starfleet uniform designs featured in those episodes, I realized that it did not jibe with the new uniform designs for “PICARD”, as shown in the image below:

It had occurred to me that this new uniform design for “PICARD” reminded me of the Starfleet uniforms worn between Seasons One and early Season Five on “DEEP SPACE NINE” and throughout “STAR TREK VOYAGER” (which was set in the Delta Quadrant), as shown in the images below:

 

 

I found this rather odd, considering that the time period for “DEEP SPACE NINE” and “VOYAGER” stretched from 2369 to 2377-78. Had the uniforms for Starfleet changed so little during the 20-30 years period? Not quite. Starting in 2373, Starfleet officers and crewmen wore new uniforms shown not only in Seasons Five to Seven of “DEEP SPACE NINE”, but also in various STAR TREK movies, beginning with the 1996 film, “STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT”:

 

So what happened? Did Christine Bieselin Clark, the costume designer for “PICARD” had decided to create a new twist on the uniforms featured in “VOYAGER” and the earlier seasons for “DEEP SPACE NINE”? Or had she forgotten those uniforms featured in at least two STAR TREK uniforms set in the future? What am I referring to?

There was an episode that aired in early Season Four of “DEEP SPACE NINE” called (4.03) “The Visitor” in which Captain Benjamin Sisko had disappeared due to an inversion of the Bajoran Wormhole. The episode featured how his son Jake Sisko’s life would have eventually unfolded over the years. The episode included a scene set 25 to 30 years later in which two of Captain Sisko’s officers – Julian Bashir and Jadzia Dax had visited Jake, wearing Starfleet uniforms:

 

One could dismiss this as a possible future uniform for Starfleet personnel. And yet; in the series finale for “VOYAGER” called (7.25-7.26) “Endgame”, which began in 2404 and featured an elderly Admiral Kathryn Janeway plotting a trip to the past to change the future for the crew of U.S.S. Voyager.; the same uniform design was featured:

 

Had Clark, along with creator Alex Kurtzman, and the other producers of “PICARD”, simply decided to forgo those future uniforms featured in both “DEEP SPACE NINE” and “VOYAGER”? Had Clark even seen those episodes? Or did she decided to create new Starfleet uniforms that were similar to the more familiar uniform featured in the STAR TREK television shows set during the 2370s for the sake of nostalgia? Regardless of the answer, I can only feel that this is a step down for the new series.

 

Lobster Roll

Below is a small article about the American sandwich known as the Lobster Roll:

LOBSTER ROLL

One of the most popular sandwiches created in the United States in the New England dish known as the Lobster Roll. Not only is the latter native to the New England states, but also the Canadian Maritimes.

The sandwich consists of lobster meat served on a grilled hot dog-style bun. The lobster filling is served with the opening on top of the bun, instead of the side. The filling usually consists of lemon juice, salt, black pepper diced celery (or scallions) and melted butter. However, in some parts of New England, the butter is substituted with mayonnaise. Potato chips or french fries are usually served as sides for the sandwich.

According to the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink”, the Lobster Roll may have originated in 1929, as a hot dish at a restaurant named Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut. Over the years, the sandwich’s popularity spread up and down the Connecticut coastline, but not far beyond it. In Connecticut, when the sandwich is served warm, it is called a “Lobster Roll”. When served cold, it was called a “Lobster Salad Roll”. Over the decades, the Lobster Roll’s popularity had spread to other states along the Northeastern seaboard. As far back as 1970, chopped lobster meat heated in drawn butter was served on a hot dog bun at road side stands such as Red’s Eats in Maine.

Although it is believed to have originated in Connecticut, the Lobster Roll in the United States is usually associated with the State of Maine. But as I had pointed out, it is commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, New York; where lobster fishing is common. The sandwich has also become a staple summer dish throughout the Maritime provinces in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, where hamburger buns, baguettes, or other types of bread rolls and even pita pockets are used. The traditional sides are potato chips and dill pickles. McDonald’s restaurants in the New England states and in Canadian provinces such as Nova Scotia and Ontario usually offer Lobster Rolls as a limited edition item during the summer.

Below is a recipe for the classic Maine Lobster Roll from the Destination Kennebunkport website:

Maine Lobster Roll

Ingredients

*1lbs (or slightly more) cooked lobster meat, keeping 4 of the claw meat intact for garnish
*1/4cup finely minced celery
*1/4cup best-quality mayonnaise(I prefer Stonewall Kitchen’s Farmhouse Mayo), plus additional to garnish (only if you didn’t get the claw meat out in one piece!)
*1/2tsp fresh lemon juice(I literally just squeeze a few drops on the lobster)
*Sea salt, only if necessary
*Finely ground black pepper, to taste
*4 best quality New England-style hot dog rolls
*5tbs very soft salted butter
*Optional but good – paprika to garnish

Preparation

1. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the lobster, celery, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Taste first, seasoning with salt only if necessary and lightly with pepper. Chill until ready to use, but no more than 8 hours in advance.

2. When ready to serve, place a griddle or a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread both sides of the rolls with the butter and cook each side until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (check your first roll, I found the bakery rolls browned faster, and it only took slightly more than a minute per side).

3. Fill and mound each roll with the lobster mixture—they will be quite full. Garnish the top of each with a piece of claw meat, or place a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each roll and sprinkle it with a smidge of paprika or chopped chives. Serve immediately.

“CAMILLE” (1936) Review

“CAMILLE” (1936) Review

I am about to confess to something many might regard as sacrilegious. I have never regarded Greta Garbo as one of my favorite actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I had nothing against her . . . personally. But I realized that I could barely recall any of her movies that were personal favorites of mine. Because of this, I was very reluctant to do a re-watch of one of Garbo’s most famous films, “CAMILLE”.

Produced by Irving Thalberg and directed by George Cukor, “CAMILLE” is based upon the 1848 novel and 1852 play “La Dame aux Camélias” (“The Lady with the Camellias”) by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The movie told the story of Marguerite Gautier, a woman of low-class birth who rose to become one of Paris’ top courtesans. Debt-ridden from helping friends and suffering from tuberculosis, Marguerite hopes to attract the attention of an aristocrat named Baron de Varville as her next “client” at the opera. However, just as she manages to attract the Baron’s attention, Marguerite meets a young member of the bourgeois gentry named Armand Duval and instant attraction flares up between them. The attraction eventually develops into love. But external influences – including Marguerite’s debts – threatens their potential for happiness.

I have not seen “CAMILLE” in a long time. A long time. There is a good chance I have not seen it since I was in my early twenties. But something . . . I have no idea what . . . led me to watch this film after so many years. In the end, the only regret that I managed to feel was that I had ignored this movie for so long.

Did I have any problems with “CAMILLE”? Perhaps a few. I noticed that the movie’s narrative began in 1847 and ended roughly a year later. I think. But considering the story’s setting, I found it surprising that the narrative never touched upon the political upheavals that swept throughout Europe between early 1848 and early 1849. In France, the upheaval was known as the French Revolution of 1848. During this event, the French king Louis Philippe I was overthrown in February 1848. Four months later, many Parisian workers had unsuccessfully risen in insurrection against the conservative Second Republic government. I realize that “CAMILLE” is not a political movie. But considering the film’s setting and the fact that one character had plans for a diplomatic career (Armand Duval) and another was a wealthy aristocrat (Baron de Varville), I found odd that the political upheaval was never touched upon.

I also had mixed feelings about the costumes created by legendary Hollywood designer, Adrian. I realize that the man had a reputation for creating some of Hollywood’s most memorable and famous costumes. But . . . I do not know. Oh, yes I do. I think Adrian should have stuck to modern day costumes. His period costumes were not bad. Some of them have actually impressed me. A good example would be this particular costume from “CAMILLE” – namely Marguerite’s dark velvet riding habit:

I also admired how Adrian managed to re-capture the fashion for men during the 1840s:

On the other hands, I had problems with gowns the ones worn by Greta Garbo in the images below:

 

I was inclined to complain about the sequins featured in the costumes, but I discovered that they had been worn as part of fashion for thousands of years – including the 19th century. But I have other problems with the above costumes. One, they looked as if they came from some cheap costume warehouse. And two, Garbo looked as if she was about to be consumed by the voluminous amount of material used to create those gowns. Or could it be that Garbo lacked the figure for the fashions of the mid 19th-century? No . . . I do not believe that is a good excuse. I am certain that Western women of the 1840s came in different shapes and sizes as they do today. It is possible that Adrian had simply failed to design Garbo’s costumes in a way that would fit her perfectly. As a high-priced courtesan, Marguerite Gautier had the funds to purchase a wardrobe filled with clothes tailored to fit her. I do not think that Adrian took the time to fit Garbo’s costumes. Or perhaps she did not give him the time.

Otherwise, I cannot think of any other complaints about “CAMILLE”. If I must be brutally honest, I think it is one of the best motion picture love stories I have ever seen, hands down. Ever. I was surprised that Alexandre Dumas fils, the son of the man who had written classics such as “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”, had written “La Dame aux Camélias” when he was roughly 23 years old. And screenwriters James Hilton, Zoë Akins and Frances Marion did a superb job in adapting Dumas’ story.

“CAMILLE” could have easily developed into one of those sappy love stories that in which only external forces stood in the lovers’ way. And yes, Dumas’ tale featured those “forces” that stood in the way of Marguerite and Armand’s relationship – Baron Varville, Marguerite’s bank account, her friends and Armand’s father. But there were other forces in play. Namely, Marguerite and Armand. Between her passive aggressive personality, her penchant for evading the truth and her inability to handle her finances; Marguerite had put herself into a situation that made it nearly impossible to have a genuine romance with Armand, let alone anyone. And poor Armand. I could say that he was completely faultless in this romance. Yes, he was naive. Armand was also hot-tempered, rash and a bit too stubborn and proud for his own good. Considering the state of her health, I do not believe Marguerite’s romance with Armand was destined to last very long. However, I feel that it were not for their personal flaws, the pair could have enjoyed more time together than they actually had.

Many still regard Greta Garbo’s performance as Marguerite Gautier as her finest performance. As I had hinted earlier in this review, I have only seen less than a handful of Garbo’s movies. But I cannot deny that she gave a brilliant performance as the cynical, yet warm-hearted courtesan. Although Garbo was a healthy looking woman most of her life, I do admire how she utilized body language and facial expressions to convey Marguerite’s questionable health and languid lifestyle. I have always suspected that Robert Taylor was one of the underrated actors in Hollywood history. He had been in Hollywood for two years by the time he shot “CAMILLE”. Many critics tend to focus on Garbo’s performance when discussing the movie. As I had pointed out, she gave a superb performance. But so did Taylor, as Armand. He did an excellent job in conveying Armand’s character from a very naive young man to someone who is a bit more cynical and mature. And yet, Taylor made sure to retain Armand’s temper and stubbornness.

Another excellent performance came from Henry Daniell, who portrayed Marguerite’s “client”, Baron Varville. Daniell not only skillfully conveyed Varville’s cool and arrogant nature, but also the character’s slight infatuation with Marguerite, but also the latter’s pain in facing the reality of Marguerite’s true feelings for him. Laura Hope Crewes, famous for her role in the 1939 Best Picture winner, “GONE WITH THE WIND”, gave a very entertaining performance as one of Marguerite’s closest friends, a veteran courtesan named Prudence Duvernoy. It is a shame that Crewes never earned an Oscar nomination for her performance. Her Prudence is a skillful mixture of friendly warmth and a mercenary nature. “CAMILLE” also featured first-rate performances from the likes of Lionel Barrymore, Rex O’Malley, Leonore Ulric, Jessie Ralph and Elizabeth Allan.

I was astounded to learn that “CAMILLE” had earned only one Academy Award nomination – Greta Garbo for Best Actress. And she lost to Luise Rainer’s performance in “THE GREAT ZIEGFELD” . . . much to the surprise of the Hollywood community. Hell, I am not only shocked that “THE GREAT ZIEGFELD” had also won Best Picture, I am flabbergasted that “CAMILLE” did not even earn a Best Picture nomination, along with nominations for the leading actor, a screenplay nomination or a Best Direction nod for George Cukor. How did this travesty happen? A superb movie like “CAMILLE”?

The discovery of the limited amount of acclaim that “CAMILLE” had earned back in late 1936/1937, this only convinces me how irrelevant that the Academy Awards truly are. Thankfully, movie fans still have the movie to enjoy for years to come, thanks to George Cukor’s superb direction; a great screenplay by the likes of James Hilton, Zoë Akins and the legendary Frances Marion; and a superb cast led by the iconic Greta Garbo and the excellent Robert Taylor.

 

 

“THE LAST TYCOON” (2016-2017) Episodes Ranking

Below is my ranking of the episodes from “THE LAST TYCOON”, Amazon Studios’ 2016-2017 loose adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1941 unfinished novel that was published posthumously. Developed by Billy Ray, the limited series starred Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr:

 

“THE LAST TYCOON” (2016-2017) EPISODES RANKING

 

1. (1.08) “An Enemy Among Us” – While production chief Monroe Stahr commence upon a campaign to secure Brady-American Pictures first Oscar nominations, studio chief Pat Brady seeks for a solution to balance the studio’s account books and get the Board of Directors off his back. Meanwhile, starlet-to-be Kathleen Moore plots to escape from her dangerous deception.

 

2. (1.03) “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven” – Brady proves his worth as studio chief as he plans to woo film star Margo Taft to sign up with Brady-American. Due to the loan he had given Brady, MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer tries to interfere in the studio’s projects. Brady’s daughter Celia forms a connection with office boy Max Miner. And Monroe’s relationship with Kathleen blossoms.

 

3. (1.09) “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” – In this season finale that focuses on the Academy Awards ceremony, Brady makes a decision that causes a rift between him and Monroe and Celia. Monroe and Kathleen grapple with the emotional fallout of her deception.

 

4. (1.06) “A Brady-American Christmas” – During the Christmas holiday, Stahr encourages Kathleen to join Fritz Lang’s secluded rehearsal, leaving him alone on Christmas Eve. Brady schemes to boost ticket sales for “Angels on the Avenue”. Celia and Max are brought closer by tragedy.

 

5. (1.01) “Pilot” – The series premiere and pilot introduces Monroe as Brady-American Pictures’ production chief, who constantly clashes with Brady over the content of the studio’s films, fends of Celia’s infatuation with him and falls in love with Kathleen, whose nationality reminds him of his late wife, Minna Davis.

 

6. (1.06) “Eine Kleine Reichmusik” – Stahr orchestrates an extravagant Hollywood party that masks a secret agenda involving Austrian-Jewish musicians. Brady continues to courts Margo Taft to become Brady-American’s permanent leading lady. And Celia becomes aware of director Fritz Lang’s provocative private life.

 

7. (1.04) “Burying the Boy Genius” – The death of MGM production chief Irving Thalberg sends shock waves throughout the Hollywood industry and leaves Brady pondering over Monroe’s shaky health. Meanwhile, the latter risks his budding relationship with Kathleen to save a movie and Brady American.

 

8. (1.07) “A More Perfect Union” – Brady hatches a bold business ploy that has sweeping consequences for the studio’s employees and forces Monroe to contain the repercussions. Kathleen struggles to manage her tangled web of half-truths.

 

9. (1.02) “Nobody Recasts Like Monroe” – Monroe continues his pursuit of Kathleen, who rejects the idea of being a replacement for Minna. Pat Brady’s pet project has a devastating debut, forcing him to accept Monroe’s help. Celia gets cozy in her role as producer, so Hackett takes it upon himself to give her an education.

Tarte Tatin aux Pommes

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Below is a small article about the French dessert known as Tarte Tatin aux Pommes:

TARTE TATIN AUX POMMES

I love Apple Pie. I love it more than any other dessert on Earth . . . well, aside from donuts. I thought there was only one kind of apple pie. Which goes to show how limiting my thinking could be. And I eventually discovered when I learned about the French dessert, Tarte Tatin aux Pommes.

The Tarte Tatin aux Pommes is a pastry that consists of fruit, usually apples, is caramelized in butter and sugar before it is baked as a tart. The apples originally used for the dessert came from two regional varieties – Reine des Reinettes (Queen of the Pippins), and Calville. Over the years, other apple varieties have been used, including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala. When choosing apples for a Tarte Tatin aux Pommes, it is important to pick a type that will hold their shape while cooking, and not melt into apple sauce. In North America, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or Jonathan have proven to be popular choices. The Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, quinces, peaches, pineapple, and tomatoes. Other fruit and vegetables like an onion can also be used. The Tarte Tatin aux Pommes should be made with puff or shortcrust pastry.

The creation of the Tarte Tatin aux Pommes proved to be an accident. The dessert was created at a hotel called Hôtel Tatin, located in the commune of Lamotte-Beuvron, 200 miles south of Paris, France. The Hotel Tatin was owned by two sisters named Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin during the 1880s. The most common tale about the dessert’s origin is that Stéphanie, who did most of the hotel’s cooking, had started to make a traditional apple pie. But feeling overworked, she left the apples cooking in butter and sugar too long. Realizing that the apples and butter might be in danger of burning, Stéphanie tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. There is another origin tale for the dessert. In it, Stéphanie had baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake. She went ahead and served the hotel’s guests the unusual dish. Whatever the veracity of either story, the concept of the upside down tart was new in the 1880s. For instance, patissier Antonin Carême had mentioned glazed gâteaux renversés adorned with apples from Rouen or other fruit in his 1841 book, “Pâtissier Royal Parisien”.

The tarte eventually became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Many historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Tatin sisters or the branding of an improved version of the “Tarte Solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. Research suggests that, while the Tarte Tatin aux Pommes became a specialty of the Hôtel Tatin, the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish”. They had never written a cookbook or published their recipe. The sisters never even called it Tarte Tatin aux Pommes. That recognition was bestowed upon them after their deaths by Curnonsky, famous French author and epicure, as well as the Parisian restaurant Maxim’s.

Below is a classic recipe for Tarte Tatin aux Pommes from the Epicurious website:

Tarte Tatin aux Pommes

Ingredients

*Frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-ounce package)
*1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
*1/2 cup sugar
*7 to 9 Gala apples (3 to 4 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

Special Equipment

*A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roll pastry sheet into a 101/2-inch square on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Brush off excess flour and cut out a 10-inch round with a sharp knife, using a plate as a guide. Transfer round to a baking sheet and chill.

Spread butter thickly on bottom and side of skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit vertically on sugar, packing them tightly in concentric circles. Apples will stick up above rim of skillet.

Cook apples over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, 18 to 25 minutes. (Don’t worry if juices color unevenly.)

Put skillet in middle of oven over a piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake 20 minutes (apples will settle slightly), then remove from oven and lay pastry round over apples.
Bake tart until pastry is browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, invert a platter with lip over skillet and, using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert tart onto platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet. (Don’t worry if there are black spots; they won’t affect the flavor of the tart.) Brush any excess caramel from skillet over apples. Serve immediately.

Cooks’ note:

*Tart can cool in skillet up to 30 minutes. It can also stand, uncovered, up to 5 hours, then be heated over moderately low heat 1 to 2 minutes to loosen caramel. Shake skillet gently to loosen tart before inverting.

“AN IDEAL HUSBAND” (1999) Review

“AN IDEAL WOMAN” (1999) Review

I have a confession. I have not seen that many adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s plays and novels. And it has been quite a while since I viewed my last adaptation, namely the 1999 film, “AN IDEAL HUSBAND”. I was surprised to discover that this 1999 movie was not the first adaptation of Wilde’s 1895 stage play. There have been other adaptations – including four other films and several radio productions. But this is the only adaptation I have ever seen.

Written and directed by Oliver Parker, “AN IDEAL HUSBAND” opens with a ball held at the home of British government minister Sir Robert Chiltern and his wife, Lady Gertrude Chiltern. Among those attending the ball are:

*Arthur, Viscount Goring, a close friend of the Chilterns
*Mrs. Laura Cheveley, a former British socialite and Lady Gertrude’s former schoolmate
*Miss Mabel Chiltern, Sir Robert’s younger sister
*Earl of Caversham, Lord Arthur’s father
*Lady Markby, a friend of Mrs. Cheveley
*Tommy Trafford, Sir Robert’s aide and potential suitor for Mabel
*Sir Edward, a newspaper baron

During the ball, Mrs. Cheveley approaches Sir Robert with a request to help support a fraudulent scheme she is financing to build a canal in Argentina. Mrs. Cheveley’s request is tainted with blackmail. If Sir Robert does not agree to her request, she plans to reveal that he had sold a Cabinet secret to her late mentor and lover, Baron Arnheim, which enabled the latter to buy shares in the Suez Canal Company three days before the British government announced its purchase of the company. Arnheim’s payoff was the basis of Sir Robert’s fortune and Mrs. Cheveley has Robert’s letter to Arnheim as proof of the latter’s crime. In desperation, Robert turns to his friend, Arthur Goring, to help him deal with the blackmailing socialite, who was a former lover of Arthur.

I understand there had been changes made to Oscar Wilde’s original plot. Since I have never read or seen the play, I will not comment on these changes. Instead, I want to discuss the movie. Overall, I thought it was an entertaining and charming tale about the slippery slopes of moral ambiguity and social hypocrisy. As I watched the movie’s narrative unfold, it occurred to me that it revolved around a good deal of hiding, deception and misconceptions – the very traits that have been a part of romantic comedies in Hollywood for years. The epitome of this kind of storytelling could be found in the sequence in which Lord Goring found himself greeting a variety of visitors inside his home during the space of one night, while he and his valet struggled to keep all or most of them hidden in separate rooms. “AN IDEAL HUSBAND” also featured some sparkling dialogue, thanks to the pens of Oscar Wilde and the movie’s screenwriter/director, Oliver Parker. Both Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore received the cream of the lines:

“Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself.” – Arthur, Lord Goring

“Do you know, Gertrude, I don’t mind your talking morality a bit. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. You dislike me, I am quite aware of that, and I have always detested you.” – Mrs. Laura Cheveley

“All I know, Gertrude, is that it takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love. Gertrude, you have more courage than any woman I have ever known. Do not be afraid now to use it.” – Lord Goring

As one can see, Lord Goring and Mrs. Cheverley are among my two favorite characters in the story, along with young Mabel Chiltern. Most of the other characters seemed to wallow in arrogance, self-deception or priggishness. My least favorite character proved to be Sir Robert Chiltern. I found him not only priggish, but also hypocritical and dishonest. I realize that audiences are supposed to regard Mrs. Cheveley as the worst kind. And perhaps she is. But her dishonesty did not strike me as hypocritical, as Sir Robert’s.

I have two problems with the plot for “AN IDEAL HUSBAND”. I also found it rather annoying that she was the only character who suffered for her dishonesty . . . unlike Sir Robert. The worst he had suffered was a scare and a wife whose disappointment in him only lasted a few days. Then again . . . Oscar Wilde was a man. I should not have been surprised that he would have allowed Sir Robert to suffer as little consequences as possible for his transgressions. Another problem I had with the movie was its last half hour. Following Laura Cheveley’s departure from London, Lord Goring finally asked Mable Chiltern for her hand in marriage. However, Sir Robert had refused to give, due to his discovery that Lord Goring and Laura Cheveley had been lovers in the past. The plot for the film’s last half hour seemed like a completely different story, aside from it being a consequence of Lord Goring’s past. I think Laura Cheveley left the story some twenty to thirty minutes too soon. This made the last half hour feel almost disjointed and unnecessary.

I have no complaints about the movie’s production and look. I really enjoyed Michael Howells’ production designs for the film. I thought he did an excellent job of re-creating late Victorian London. This was especially apparent in crowd scenes that featuring the elite riding along Hyde Park’s Rotten Row and balls and parties for the elite, including the Chiltern’s ball during the film’s first half. Howells’ work was greatly enhanced by Rod McLean’s art direction and Katie Lee’s set decorations. Yes, I have not forgotten about the costume designs created by Caroline Harris. What can I say? They were exquisite, as shown in the images below:

 

The performances featured in “AN IDEAL HUSBAND” struck me as first-rate. There was not a performance in this movie that did not failed to impress me. The movie featured solid, yet charming performances from the likes of Ben Pullen, Nikolas Grace, Peter Vaughn, Marsha Fitzlan, Simon Russell Beale and Lindsay Duncan, whom I found especially entertaining as Laura Cheveley’s witty friend, Lady Markby. Jeroen Krabbé did an excellent job in conveying the ambiguous, yet corrupt nature of Sir Robert’s mentor, Baron Arnheim. John Wood gave a slightly funny performance as Lord Goring’s stuffy father, the Earl of Caversham. Minnie Driver’s portrayal of Sir Robert’s younger sister Mabel Chiltern not only struck me as funny, witty and completely charming.

I must admit that I found the characters of Sir Robert and Lady Gertrude Chiltern a bit off-putting, but I cannot deny that both Jeremy Northam and Cate Blanchett breathed life into their characters. Northam did an excellent job in capturing the hypocrisy and ambition of Sir Robert Chiltern. And Northam also ably conveyed Sir Robert’s obvious love for his wife. Blanchett gave an equally skillful performance as Lady Gertrude Chiltern. The actress did an excellent job of portraying how Gertrude’s love for Sir Robert dangerously edged toward blind idealism and the character’s emotional devastation upon learning about her husband’s past transgression. Julianne Moore earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Mrs. Laura Cheveley. And it was a well deserved nomination, as far as I am concerned. I thought she gave one of the film’s best performances as the scheming blackmailing socialite, who also possessed a talent for acute and pragmatic observations of human nature and society. The film’s other best performance came from Rupert Everett, who portrayed the superficially self-absorbed Lord Goring. And that is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Everett’s performance so much. He managed to convey the warmth and wisdom underneath the shallow playboy with style, wit and subtlety. Like Moore, Everett managed to earn a Golden Globe nomination.

I enjoyed “AN IDEAL HUSBAND”. Well . . . most of it. I thought Oliver Parker did an excellent job of adapting Oscar Wilde’s play with a witty script and a first-rate cast led by Rupert Everett. It is a pity that the last act of the movie seemed almost like an afterthought. Oh well.