Last post for 2009! Might as well end the year with something horrendously bad for you. There is not one single particle of nutrients in the recipe I've got for you today. But isn't that what half-hearted New Year's resolutions are exist for? Hope everyone had a smashing Christmas. Even though it can be a time where looming tensions rub up against each other, I was spared most of that - the closest we got was a bit of stress over getting lunch out all at the same temperature on Christmas Day. As our life is not an episode of Mad Men, there was no social failure involved with having to wait for the gravy to heat. It was wonderful to spend a whole week with my family doing not much in particular, especially since I've barely been home at all this past year. We did quizzes, drank tea, ate leftovers, went through cupboards and looked at old trinkets and schoolbooks, and my parents even indulged me by letting me watch Chess on the big TV with surround sound. Woke up the next morning to hear Don't Rain On My Parade - Dad was looking up Idina Menzel on Youtube. Felt as though it was some kind of small achievement.
New Year's will be a low-key one for me - lots of food, some drink, and Tim, myself and our friend and ex-flatmate Ange eating and drinking the lot over the course of the evening. The weather is looking typically dubious, so my fantasies of swanning about on the rooftop deck in a flowing dress while eating prawns (I don't know, I've clearly read one too many Australian Women's Weeklys or something) are fading but with good company, good food and no agenda I think we're quite safe from the evening descending into some kind of awkward Rupert-and-Hubert Mr Bean situation. I'm perfectly happy (she says defensively) being low-key this time of year.
Part of the evening's feastings is that artery-solidifying stalwart of the birthday party, Calf Club and school gala days, Lolly Cake. Also known in some circles as lolly log, quickly googling it would suggest that it is a concept more or less exclusive to New Zealand. Once you've tried it I'm sure you'll agree that whoever the bright spark that invented it was should surely have their face on the back of a coin or at the very least, have a commemorative stamp made in their honour.
Recipe from the back of the fruit puffs packet. Nigella would get a kick out of this I'm sure, in a "slumming-it" kind of way - look at all those packets in the ingredients!
200g (1/2 a tin) sweetened condensed milk
250g (1 packet) malt biscuits, crushed
150g (1 packed) fruit puffs, roughly chopped
Melt butter, stir in condensed milk, biscuits and lollies. Shape mixture into a log, roll in coconut, and refrigerate till solid, whereupon you cut it into slices.
For those of you not in New Zealand, fruit puffs are like a solid, ovoid fruit flavoured marshmallow. Marshmallows themselves would be too soft, but what with America being the leaders of the free world or something surely you must have something similar to this in the sweets aisle of your supermarket? When Tim and I were in the UK we made this for a charity bake sale at the school we were working at (they'd never had lolly cake before) and used Dolly mixture quite successfully (picking out and eating the jellies first, though).
As you can imagine, Lolly Cake is the most delicious thing upon this earth.
It tastes a little like the base of a cheesecake, and is surprisingly sophisticated texturally - dense, cool biscuit crumbs nestled around almost sherbetty fruit puffs with the occasional damp, fibrous burst of coconut. Even though I completely avoids shop-bought biscuits (hey, 'hydrogenated palm oil' freaks me out a little) here the ingredients just make sense. Oh, how they make sense.
What with it being the end of a year and the end of a whole decade, everyone's suddenly getting all list-happy and attempting to define the finest output of the last ten years. I certainly haven't the inclination to do anything too exhaustive, and because this is a food blog, I'm sure no-one is expecting me to (as if that is a reason to stop me). I already talk about music plenty, but in terms of films I feel like a lot of lists aren't reflecting the real best of the decade. The following could only be considered indicative of this insomuch as I feel like my opinion is correct, but...
Films That Happened In The Last Ten Years That I Truly Liked
Only six. I looked at Wikipedia's list of all films released this decade and came to the conclusion that I don't feel very strongly passionate about many of them. The following, however...
1: A Mighty Wind. (2002)
This film is perfect. I love it more each time I see it. It features a trifecta of the most incredible actresses in existence - I'd use the word girl-crush but I don't like it - Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, and Jane Lynch. The acting is devastatingly good, the music is joyfully sharp and despite it being a mockumentary, dammit if the clever lot of them don't make you care for their characters. (Trailer)
2: Hamlet 2 (2008)
This film is very close to A Mighty Wind for me in terms of brilliance. In fact I don't know how it isn't the top of all these best-of lists being released. It stars Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener (another incredible actress, she's often the best thing in whatever she stars in), Spring Awakening's Phoebe Strole and Skylar Astin, Elisabeth Shue, and the eye-wideningly gorgeous Joseph Julian Soria. It's about a sequel to Hamlet. I mean...really. (the glorious trailer)
3: Moulin Rouge (2001)
I know this one will never make a best-of list, but I think Baz Luhrmann is brilliant. This movie and its music was hugely important to me in my teens. I'm truly not kidding, just keeping the songs in my mind (we didn't have iPods back then) helped me psychologically get through the pain of one of those awful school camps where they force you to climb mountains and cross wire bridges and so on. It's beautiful, it's dramatic, it's dark, it's sumptuous, and truly, were Ewan MacGregor's talents ever better put to use than in this film? (Trailer)
4: RENT (2005)
Oh alright, it's not exactly Woody Allen or Sam Mendes or anything, it cuts out several important songs from the stage show and features a montage sequence in Santa Fe that may or may not be identical to every Bon Jovi music video ever made. But for employing all available original Broadway cast members to reprise their roles, for recognising the joy that is Tracie Thoms and Rosario Dawson, for having Idina Menzel sing Over The Moon live, for the gorgeous slow pan across at the screen end of La Vie Boheme, and most of all for making this musical accessible for people like myself on the other side of the world in New Zealand who would have struggled to find out about RENT any other way, it should be on this list. And all lists. (Youtube is a bit useless on the trailer front, so here's Seasons of Love)
5: The Wackness (2008)
Aha! A film that would be considered cool by discerning folk! It's a gorgeous, sad, funny little film that combines unrequited love, early nineties hip hop, and a stunning cast. (Trailer.)
6: Taking Woodstock (2009)
This film with its mellow but affecting storyline with one of the more important social and cultural events of the century as a backdrop is so good! And yet I read so many negative reviews. Many complained about how a movie with a music festival in its title didn't really feature any performances. This I felt was a bit simplistic, as the film was centred on a person's journey and experiences leading up to and during Woodstock. It was about people coming together for the music, not the music itself. There's already wonderful footage of the actual performances on that day, I don't see why this film was supposed to recreate that. Convincing, compassionate performances from all involved (including - yay! - Broadway's Jonathan Groff, who looks like he was born to wear sandals and ride a white horse) made this film hit me where films should. (Trailer)
(Honourable mention to Moon, an incredible film directed by Duncan Jones...the fact that it's not in the top six is more a reflection on my memory than its merit as a film. It belongs!)
There have been a lot of other films this decade that I've really enjoyed, (Ponyo, Billy Elliot, Revolutionary Road, Memento, Orange County, Every Little Step if that counts), plenty that I've disliked, and there are, admittedly, plenty that are on a lot of best-of lists that I've never even seen. You'd think having done two years of film studies I could muster up something a little more intellectual and film-festival-ish, but here we are. The list is slim, but sound.
Title almost came atcha via Led Zep but I switched at the last minute to Amanda Palmer, quoting her beautiful beautiful song Another Year (The Point of It All) from her album Who Killed Amanda Palmer. She's touring New Zealand in March and I absolutely can't wait.
On Shuffle while I type:
I would be completely lying if I didn't own up to the fact that I've been singing along very loudly to the revival cast recording of Hair. Prosaic choice, and nothing new, but it's just so fantastic.
2009 has been as packed with events as any other year - there was Otaua Village's David triumphing over the Goliath that was the Pukekohe WPC oil company wanting to more or less cripple my hometown (okay, Otaua isn't exactly Fern Gully but it was a no less worthy cause and a long and difficult battle from the people of the village. I couldn't have been happier that we more or less 'won'.) There was also graduation, a new existence on Cuba Street, the wonderful Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at the Aotea Centre... In November I had completed a year's full time work and had my contract extended for another year. A few weeks ago this very blog got me on the front cover of a magazine - the Sunday Star-Time's Sunday magazine (I still haven't worked out a non-time-consuming way of saying that). I'm ready I think, I hope, for whatever 2010 has got in store for me. Happy New Year, everyone! Stay safe and happy and try the lolly cake - it's ridiculously good. Any New Year's resolutions?