January 13, 2007

That great filmmaker Billy Wilder discovered the story of The Lost Weekend while on a cross country train trip. (Doesn’t that sound grand-just traveling, sleeping and reading for days on end. Oh, the luxury of trains). After reading through the story once, he started in again, marking it up for a movie script. Well, to say the very least, Billy Wilder knew what he was doing. And what a great script; writing along with Mr. Wilder was the indomitable Charles (Sunset Boulevard, Ninotchka) Brackett. The Lost Weekend is just stellar: Very dark, it’s like an especially long Twilight Zone episode, only much better—except for that cool Burgess Meredith one.

In the 1940’s it was unusual for major studios to actually shoot a movie on location, but there they are, where I’ll be next month, on the glorious streets of Manhattan. This actually adds a lot of credence to the story. Especially the Bellevue hospital scenes. Although, I must confess, that every time Ray Milland was in a bar and rye was ordered (a lot!) I couldn’t help think of the song American Pie (“and good old boys drinking were whiskey and rye.”) Does anyone drink rye anymore? If they do they should see this movie. It’ll scare them straight.

Ray Milland won the best actor award for this film. He deserved it: he was fantastic, frightening and memorable as the boozehound, Don Birnam. Jane Wyman, not so much. But her clothes were fantastic, not frightening a bit, and quite memorable. In fact one of my favorite “characters” was Jane’s leopard coat. Kudos to you, Edith Head, designer extraordinaire for millions of movies.

A pretty fair rendering of Edith Head.

For a great parody of the movies of the 1940’s go here: Nothing like a good Bugs Bunny Cartoon to brighten up a dreary day. http://www.jibjab.com/jokebox/jokebox/jibjab/id/399934/jokeid/97908

The scene where Ray Milland pays for his drink with a typewriter and gets little typewriters for change is priceless.

For dinner we boozed it up in our food. Because we don’t drink a lot of vodka or rum around here, we went to the liquor store to buy two little airplane sized bottles of vodka and one of rum. I think the liquor store guy thought we were nuts. Although, we did have a good siscussion about flaming food (151 works the best).

Salad w/ Champagne vinaigrette


Baby lettuces

Thin slices of red onios

Feta cheese

Grape tomatoes



2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

Any fresh herbs you have around (thyme works nicely) about 1 teaspoon

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl, combine mustard and vinegar; whisk together. Add herbs. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. The vinaigrette may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Penne Alla Vodka (courtesy of Sara Moulton’s show Sara’s Secrets)

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup vodka
3/4 cup canned tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound cooked ham, finely chopped
2 drops hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 pound penne
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Melt butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in vodka, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 4 minutes. Add tomato puree and cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ham, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Keep sauce warm over very low heat.

Cook pasta in 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt per every 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain pasta.

Add pasta to sauce and toss with sauce and cheese, adding some of reserved cooking water if pasta seems dry.

Easy Bananas Foster—my first time flambeing, too! Super Fun!

1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 bananas peeled and halved, cut lengthwise
1/4 cup dark rum

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add brown sugar and stir together. Add the bananas and cook until caramelized over medium-high heat. Pour in the rum and catch a flame off of the gas stove or a BBQ lighter. Stand back when ignited and flambe. Be careful; a flame will shoot up above the pan. And it looks really cool! Let flame die down. Serve over vanilla ice cream and/or a slice of pound cake. I’d pawn my typewriter for this dessert.



  1. Sounds like a great movie. I’ll have to add it to the Netflix list.

    My wife and I watched “Lady of Burlesque” last night, with Barbara Stanwyk. Not one of her best roles.

    So what’s with the banner? I can’t make out what it is. It looks kind of like an alien’s giant helmet buried in concrete.

  2. Hey Carpus, nice to see you, again!

    The banner is a rather squished picture of the Brown Derby restaurant.

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