The Sopranos: More on Season One

I previously discussed three aspects of The Sopranos, based on my decades-late watching of the first season. I want to discuss two more aspects: one that I know will change through the seasons, the other that I am sure will not change.

Let’s start with the constant: food. In this world, if you arrive somewhere, you bring food, if someone visits you, you offer food, if you’re meeting, there will be eating… And what better place to whack someone than a restaurant, as when Junior decides that the best place to kill “Little Pussy” is the restaurant run by Artie, one of Tony’s oldest friends.

What will change is technology, particularly communication technology. In the first season, a telephone is something with a cable connecting it to a wall, or to a phone box. In the first episode of the second season, we see a relatively slim cellphone.

I’ll be back soon with comments on the second season. Is it as good as the first?

The Christmas on Fire

Christmas tradition in the country of my birth includes setting food on fire. The country in question is the United Kingdom, and the food is Christmas pudding. The pudding comes after the main course, which often involves turkey roasted in the oven.

Our main course yesterday was lamb. To be more specific, I used Alton Brown’s Silence of the Leg O’ Lamb recipe. I bought a six-pound leg (without the shank), already boned, rolled, and tied. I made the lovely paste of garlic, mint leaves, mustard, and so on and smeared it on the leg.I fired up the grill, emptying the drip tray first.

When the grill’s built-in thermometer read 500 F, I put in the lamb, in such a way that it was not over a flame. I flipped it a little over 20 minutes later. It looked a little more charred that I’d expected, but things seem to be going well. I went inside to the kitchen to tend to other dishes, such as mashed potatoes, and a simple but successful combination of snow peas, bacon, and white wine.

I was summoned from the kitchen with the news that the grill required my attention. There was a rather impressive fire, originating from the drip tray. No photos or videos were taken; I’m not sure whether that’s good new or bad news.

From this point on, the story becomes happier, if less exciting. I turned off the gas. The fire went out. I emptied the drip tray again. I turned the gas back on. I served the lamb a little later than intended, with the exterior rather more charred than intended. But the inside was tasty, much of it pink. The main course was not followed by Christmas pudding, or by any further fire.

I hope that you have eaten well this holiday season, and that you have been safe from fire and other hazards.

Thanks, Food, etc.

I started my first Thanksgiving as a citizen of the USA by reaching inside a turkey. Mercifully for all involved, the turkey wasn’t alive at the time.

I am thankful for many things. Food: I’ll eat a lot today. Family: it’s good to be with my family here, and I’ll call my family back in England. Opportunity to tell yet again the joke that Brits do celebrate Thanksgiving – on the 4th of July.

Back to food. One of the things I cook most often is pasta with what we call b-sauce. We call it that because it’s like bolognese sauce, but isn’t authentic. Today’s Guardian carries the reassuring news that “there is no definitive recipe for a bolognese meat sauce.” It provides several recipes, varying with respect to meat, vegetables, wine, whether there’s a dairy ingredient, etc.

My own recipe comprises, in order of appearance in the saucepan: onions, carrots, ground pork, mushrooms, tomatoes (crushed, canned), wine, salt, pepper, oregano. Talking of wine, I’m surprised that most of the recipes in the Guardian article call for white wine. I prefer to use red, have sometimes used white, but often have to resort to water.

All this reminds me of a recent (well, earlier this month) announcement: FoodPress. The site looks interesting, but could use a more prominent search box.

Wherever you are, I hope you also have much to be thankful for.

Italy Boots Kebabs

The kebab “is being kicked out of Italian cities as it becomes the target of a campaign against ethnic food, backed by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi,” according to The Times (via Reddit). The ban started in the town of Lucca, and:

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said…

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple”…

The story goes on to make the silliness yet clearer.

The San Marzano tomato, a staple ingredient of Italian pasta sauces, was a gift from Peru to the Kingdom of Naples in the 18th century. Even spaghetti, it is thought, was brought back from China by Marco Polo, and oranges and lemons came from the Arab world…

Massimo Di Grazia, the [Lucca] city spokesman, said that the ban was intended to improve the image of the city…

There is confusion… over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.

The article really does seem to be from the The Times, rather than from The Onion. It does not mention whether onions are seen as undesirable foreign invaders.

Bloggers at Bella Luna

Last night a few dozen Boston-based bloggers went to a party at Bella Luna in Jamaica Plain. Bella Luna is the restaurant above the Milky Way; or, to put it another way, the Milky Way is the bowling alley below Bella Luna.

The occasion was the recent arrival of executive chef Jacob Zachow, and the new menu (so new that, as I type this the following day, the web site still shows the old menu). As I told Jacob, I was particularly impressed with the veggie burger, with its combination of black beans and cumin. I’d have it again, and I don’t often say that about veggie dishes. That said, I enjoyed the pork even more.

My thanks to the management and staff of Bella Luna, to Image Unlimited, with whom they worked on the event, and to my fellow bloggers, all of whom made it fun. I was hoping to meet Universal Adam, whose post alerted me to the event, but I don’t think he made it.

I am of course in favor of free food for bloggers. Having said that, if I had anything negative to report about the food or the party, I would do so in this post. But the most negative thing I can say is that Bella Luna will be moving to a space further away from my Roslindale home (albeit still in Jamaica Plain, and so not too far away).

Of Chameleons and Croissants

Veiled ChameleonWe so enjoyed previous visits to the lizards and snakes at the Museum of Science that we went back today. Earlier in the day, (a different) we were in Canto 6 at the same time as Mayor Menino.

Canto 6 would get my vote for best (plain) croissant in Boston. Flour didn’t have any on my most recent visit (and it’s not the first time I’ve caught them with their croissants down), and so lost the “final” by default. But others have done far more extensive research than I have.