Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green Onion Pesto and Better Than Chocolate

A few weeks ago I found myself staring into a refrigerator full of a vegetable I had never used before.
Similarly, some years ago I realized I was gay.
In both instances, as I often do when I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I turned to the internet.

Today we will be reviewing the movie Better than Chocolate (one of my original 5 lesbian movie discoveries) and Green Onion Pesto (the most delicious thing I found to make with green onions.)

Here is the recipe
Start by chopping up the following:
2 bunches of green onion stalks (about 10 onions)
1/2 cup of almonds
2-3 garlic cloves (you can play with this depending on how garlic-y you like things)

Blend them all together, adding:
lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon's worth)
3 Tablespoons of parmesan cheese
and a dash of olive oil

Cook the pasta of your choice (we used linguine) to your preferred degree of "al dente,"
strain, and mix in the pesto. Serve into bowls and enjoy!

You shouldn't have trouble with the blending, unless you're using my blender.

Better Than Chocolate (1999)
Directed by Anne Wheeler

Not to be confused with the documentary on bouldering in Switzerland of the same name, this movie is about lady-gays in quite a variety of forms doing typical gay things. A one-night stand turned into living together lesbians, working at a queer bookstore, drag/cabaret acts, having parent troubles, having hate crime troubles, etc.

Having this sort of "scrapbook" of 90s lesbians is both what makes and detracts from the film. The 'central' (I used this world loosely) plot line following Maggie and Kim (pictured) has a pretty unrealistic beginning and is not that interesting. Even their "sexy sex scene" I was promised was kind of weird and awkward.* However as the story progressed and we got to meet people like Francis, the snarky bookstore owner, Carla, a hyper-sexual bisexual, and Judy, an outgoing lesbian trans woman, the movie does improve. Maggie's mother, who comes to live with her, is also quite a character

Over-all the movie is an ok watch—it ends quite happily and does have a story somewhere in there. It won numerous awards at film festivals and is one of Canada's highest grossing films, so clearly it was very impressive for its time…plus you've got great 90s outfits to check out. I was particularly impressed with how they handled Judy's storyline and the existence of transphobia within the gay community. It does kind of posit that "once she get's the surgery she'll be a real woman," which is clearly problematic, but people still struggle with that idea today so I'm not going to bash on it for that too much. A simple, straight-forward movie for when you want something a little silly.

Over-all Rating: unanimously, ⅓ bowl of pesto pasta

Queer Rating: unanimously, full bowl of pesto pasta

Well, thanks for joining us on our second dinner date! If you've seen the movie feel free to comment with your thoughts and we can get a discussion going (just maybe put 'spoiler alert' incase others want to comment about something else). Next week we're planning to watch a rather more mature and serious (and recent) movie to mix things up. -Syd

*I am totally ok with this. I am one of those people kind of awkwarded out by overdrawn sex scenes. I'd rather do it than watch it y'know?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegan Chicken Salad and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Hello World!

For our first gathering we're making vegan chicken salad and talking about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (I was vegan for 5 years but not anymore, but this salad is so good even omnivores like it). We recorded our thoughts for a video only to have iMovie turn it into a terrible unsynced mess, so here is a brief introduction with what I could salvage. I feel like I'm in highschool making a multimedia project gone terribly wrong, but that's what the YouTube revolution is all about.

So, now let me provide the actual recipe.
     Chop up 3 stalks of celery, one apple, 2 carrots, and a handful of fresh parsley.
     Toss in a bowl with raisins and one block of tofu that you have drained* and crumbled.
     Add veganaise until you've reached your personal favorite texture. (I like this kind of dry, around ½ cup)
      Season with ½ cup nutritional yeast* and trocomare* to taste. Sometimes I throw in curry power or whatever else I feel like.
      Feel free to experiment! The original recipe also calls for chopped onion but I frequently don't include it, but maybe you want to. Best enjoyed on toast or croissants.

*This is where non-vegans or people who don't live in Portland might get tripped up. If you don't know how to drain/press tofu, google it. Never cook with undrained tofu. Nutritional yeast is a sort of flaky yellow powder that tastes almost like cheese. You can find it at most health food stores, including Whole Foods if you must. Trocomare is an odd seasoned salt substitute thing that is uniquely delicious and can be hard to procure. Look in weird little health stores or coops, but worse case use some regular salt and other seasonings.

On to the movie! -S

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Directed by Wayne Wang
Starring Bingbing Li and Giana Jun

Based on a novel by Lisa See, this movie follows two parallel stories of friends in nineteenth century and modern China, but is kind of confusing about it. Hugh Jackman shows up for some reason. No blatant lesbianism seen, but I did fall asleep somewhere in the middle, so I could be wrong about all of that. 

The movie is actually about a very beautiful, sacred relationship between two women in Chinese culture called LaoTong*
We start off in modern day Shanghai following Sophia and Nina, who as teenagers became committed to each other in this LaoTong relationship, but have since become estranged. The movie opens at a party where Nina has been promoted at work and will be sent off to New York. Sophia, outside sobbing, tries to reach her on her cell phone, but instead gets hit by a bus and falls into a coma.

The rest of the movie takes us through three different storylines: them as teenagers being really cute and finding ways to hang out even though Nina’s mother forbids it; them as Lily and Snow Flower, fictional characters in Sophia’s novel set in 19th century China; and the present day where Nina tries to uncover the truth about where her friend has been all this time and where we try to figure out if they’re actually secret friends of the heart *winkwink* .
There are a lot of shifts in time and setting, which may cause some confusion, but overall it is a cohesive story.

Is this queer?
Perhaps not deliberately, but there IS something to be said about a story that is showing us that the most important relationship in a woman’s life is the one she has with another woman. And what an INTENSE relationship it is.

I found it a bit dramatic at times, as romantic relationships can be, and I kept thinking they were going to make out, but then they didn’t. Don't expect any homosexiness.
On a scale of none to one chicken sandwich:
⅓ vegan chicken salad sandwich in general.
⅔ vegan chicken salad sandwich in queerness.

There are a lot of unnecessarily dramatic scenes, and it does kind of reduce the impact of the actually dramatic ones (see: foot binding), but I at least would not call it a slow movie. Nothing particularly wonderful, but good for hanging out and talking about as it's playing. Apparently the book is only the 19th century China storyline, so possibly more enjoyable. 
⅔ sandwich in general, ⅓ sandwich in queerness. 

It's kind of like getting married
*More on LaoTong relationships:
From what I understood/read about on the internet later, a LaoTong relationship is established at a very young age and is stronger and more intimate than that of a husband and wife. The women are completely committed to each other as faithful supporters and for lack of a better word, super best friends, for the rest of their lives. These bonds were especially important when they were created in ancient China because of the hardships that these women would be enduring in their lifetime.
They also shared a secret women’s language called NuShu, which they used to inscribe letters to each other on the folds of a sacred fan, hence the title of the movie.