There is this great super smart book about movies ( that you should all buy now , it’s really is that great), called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, that I swore would not have had Ordinary People amongst its 1001. But it, amazingly enough, did, Just why wouldn’t this one be there? Because Ordinary People is the Oscar winning movie that all fingers point to when discussions of bad Oscar decisions are had. Yesl, it’s true! this was the year that Raging Bull came out. Raging Bull didn’t win Best Picture of 1980, but it was acknowledged by most film critics as the best movie of the 1980’s.
Oh, sigh Raging Bull, Raging Bull, Raging Bull. I cannot think of a movie that is more overrated than Raging Bull. Sure, the cinematography is beautiful and the acting is spot on perfect, and Robert DeNiro gained and lost all that weight, but this brutal boxing bio pic is pretty much the life story of a thug, A truly irredeemable human being. But, as we’ve seen plenty of times before, and we’ll see again, sometimes the Best Picture of the year doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Sometimes the best picture isn’t even nominated. Ever see Singin’ in the Rain? Not even nominated, so get over yourself Raging Bull.
If they had such an award, Ordinary People should have also won an award for Best Casting. Timothy Hutton was only 19 when he played the tortured teen–he deservedly won the supporting actor Oscar. Who’s idea was it to have the usually kooky and somewhat irreverant Donald Sutherland play the bewildered mild mannered dad? Great choice, Donald Sutherland is never boring. Who wouldn’t of liked to have been a fly on the wall of the room where the decision of casting Mary Tyler Moore as the cold distant mother was made. Seriously, Mary Tyler Moore, America’s sitcom sweetheart, the woman who put capri pants on the television map, nails this scary, somewhat villianous part. She’s brilliant.
Ordinary People was filmed in my ‘hood. I grew up in Highland Park, IL–that’s where Conrad’s psychiatrist has his office. I used to hang out at the restaurant, Walker Brother’s Pancake House in Wilmette where Conrad and Karen have a coke and discuss life on the outside. Beautiful place. Great coffee there. They do not, however, serve carbonated beverages. That’s pretty much the biggest flaw about Ordinary People, no cokes at Walker Brothers. The last time I was at Walker Brothers (about a year ago or so) they still had a picture of Ordinary People’s director, Robert Redford by their cash register. I’m hoping to get a picture of that picture. Soon.
What is it about Best Picture winning troubled American family movies and French Toast? Kramer Vs. Kramer had some French Toast bonding scenes and Ordinary People has a “uh-oh there’s something wrong here” French Toast scene. So I had to make French toast. But I made them fun. No one got burnt, or swore, or just put them down the garbage disposal untouched.
French Toast Kabobs
Cut unsliced bread loaf into cubes.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to warm. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, salt, and vanilla. Stir in bread.
- In a large saute pan set over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Place half of the bread mixture in pan; cook, turning occasionally with a spatula, until browned on all sides. To keep warm, transfer to the oven. Cook remaining bread in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter as before.
- Thread bread cubes onto skewers alternating with blueberries, raspberries, and banana slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, if desired. I made a blueberry sauce, and a little bit of creme fraiche mixed with maple syrup and drizzed on the kabobs.
Another restaurant scene was filmed at the Zodiac a restaraunt inside Needless Markup Neiman Marcus at Northbrook Court. From their website I got the recipes for the movie. This is a great simple soup that anyone could make.
¼ cup olive oil
1 frying chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
½ cup dry white wine
3 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh parsley (6 to 8 small sprigs reserved for garnish)
2 dried bay leaves
8 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and sear them, turning occasionally, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the same saucepan and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine, bouillon, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Add the flour and thoroughly mix together. Return the seared chicken to the pan and mix well. Add the cream and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for about 1 hour, or until the chicken meat falls from the bone.
Strain the soup into a clean saucepan, reserving the chicken (discard the vegetables). When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat (discard the skin and bones) and add the meat to the soup base. Return the soup to a simmer and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley.
The bouillon cubes add an element of flavor that cannot be replicated with stock or other ingredients. It’s a “truc”, or culinary trick, the great Paul Bocuse taught me.
I also made popovers
Neiman Marcus Popovers
3 1/2 cups milk
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Chef’s Note: The key to making great popovers is having the eggs and milk warm before the mixing. It is also important to let the batter sit for an hour before baking it. Popovers do not freeze well, and pre-made batter has a tendency not to work properly the next day.
To make this recipe, you will need a Teflon-lined popover pan with a 12-cup capacity. These are available at kitchen equipment and specialty stores, and some cooking mail-order catalogs.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place the milk in a bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until warm to the touch. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
Crack the eggs into the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until foamy and pale in color. Turn down the mixer to low and add the warm milk. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Turn the machine off and let the batter rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Spray a popover tin generously with nonstick spray. Fill the popover cups almost to the top with the batter and place the popover tin on a cookie sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 375° F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer, until the popovers are a deep golden brown on the outside and airy on the inside.