The Help (AKA Be Careful Around the People Who Cook Your Food)

Rating: Chocolate Cake

There are male viewers who will enjoy The Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett’s novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt‘s Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she’s hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A‘s Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson’s domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret–after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen’s smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer’s protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can’t catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town–in a good way.
~Amazon.com

I first reviewed the book The Help over a year ago in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In an effort not to repeat myself, I will simply say that I LOVED IT.

I knew that going into the movie version, I was going to be a tough critic.  When I first saw the trailer, I was really upset.  It seemed to…cutesy.  The book handles such important issues that I was worried that Hollywood would simply gloss over them.

After experiencing the film, I think I reacted prematurely.  The film is cutesy.  That does not necessarily make it a bad choice.  Instead, the playful music and bright colors play upon the great juxtaposition of the plot.  One world is filled with laughter and light while the other world is more gritty and harsh.

Do I think the movie is better than the book?  Probably not, but I do see why it is nominated for Best Picture. It deals with pressing societal problems while remaining enjoyable to watch.  The acting was hysterical and I am an even bigger fan of Minnie’s than I was before (sometime soon I am going to attempt to make a Terrible Awful, sans one key ingredient…).  You do learn a valuable lesson here.  Be nice to the people you work with or who work for you.  You never know exactly what might show up on your dinner table, in your purse, or on your front lawn 😉

The Grade

Visuals: 4/5

Plot: 4.5/5

Acting:4.5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already seen Moneyball and Hugo.  Now on to the rest!  Try these while you are waiting.  You won’t regret it…

If these are wrong, I don't want to be right.

Read on for the recipe…

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Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes

The chocolate centre flows like dark lava onto the whiteness of the plate. The last ounce of stress drains from my body…. I have discovered the French version of Death by Chocolate.’ Part love story, part wine-splattered cookbook, Lunch in Paris is a deliciously tart, forthright and funny story of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to the world’s most romantic city – not the Hollywood version, but the real Paris, a heady mix of blood sausage and irregular verbs. From gutting her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen) and battling bad-tempered butchers to discovering heavenly chocolate shops, Elizabeth Bard finds that learning to cook and building a new life as a stranger in an even stranger land have a lot in common. Along the way she learns the true meaning of home – and the real reason French women don’t get fat … Peppered with recipes to die for, this mouth-watering love story is the perfect treat for any woman who has ever suspected that lunch in Paris could change her life.

– Back Cover

Now, if you have been reading at all lately, you will have noticed two important things.

  1. My posting speed is slowing to a trickle.  I suppose the reason for that is this pesky problem called “life.”  I have started taking night classes so I now officially work full time, take night classes, maintain my blog (meaning that I have to continue reading and cooking), and keep up some sort of social life so that I don’t go completely insane.  I decided I would rather have fewer posts of quality that I can be proud of, rather than many icky posts.
  2. I have already posted about my dining experiences in Paris.  What do I have to talk about now?

Well, I’m going to tell you. Continue reading

Embracing The Imperfectionists: What Does Your Food Say About You?

Rating:  Orange

I managed to read a lot when I was in Paris.

Yeah, I know.  I’m in Paris!  Why am I spending time there reading a book that I could read in my own apartment?

Well, it turns out that reading is a great pastime in Paris.  People read at cafes, on the metro, waiting in the hour-long lines at the bank.

Fortunately for me, I packed a hand-dandy purse that I absolutely adore because it has a compartment that perfectly holds a normal-sized book.

My book of choice was The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman.  I picked it up because the title intrigued me and a great many important people seemed to think that it was brilliant.  When I found out that it was a story told in short vignettes, I was sold.  Like Olive Kitteridge (see my post here), it is a story long enough to satisfy my need for detail, but told in increments short enough to satisfy my hectic lifestyle and distracted mind.

Basically, The Imperfectionists centers on the people who create and work at an international, English-speaking newspaper based in Rome.

Each major player has a story devoted to his/her work, family life, and ultimately, flaws.  These are the people of the journalism world who seem to be completely put-together, but whose lives are not as perfect as they seem.

This is by no means a depressing book, so much as an insightful text about the intricacies of life.

One major way that Rachman characterizes each figure is through the food that they consume throughout the story.  In almost every vignette, food acts as a gateways for the reader to better understand the character’s psyche.

One woman makes copious amounts of rich food to serve to her boyfriend and friends. but never eats it herself.  Instead, she limits herself to hot water and lettuce.

A journalist whose career is on the decline spoons chickpeas out of a can because that is all he can afford.

A writer of obituaries focuses on peanut butter sandwiches to deal with a significant loss.

While this book is more about journalism and the people who are a part of it, the food element is a striking way for us to relate to the characters.  I found myself wondering, “What does my food say about me?”

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