Archive for February, 2010

Queen for a Day

Friday, February 26th, 2010

the queenweb

 
I wrote about Purim a couple of weeks ago in a post in which I announced that Kosher.com was giving away a tin of hamantaschen to a lucky reader of this blog. (I hope it has arrived on her snowy doorstep!)
 
I noted then that Purim is probably the most festive day in the Jewish calendar. Like most Jewish holidays it has a dark side: Queen Esther’s victory over the nasty Haman and her salvation of the Jewish people came only after long persecution.
 
We wouldn’t appreciate the happy days without the sad ones, however, so I still love to celebrate it. I enjoy being Queen Esther for the day. I just don’t get to wear a crown often enough!
 
Here’s a recipe for hamantaschen so that those of you who didn’t win them (or order them) from Kosher.com can still join in the festivities. Purim will fall this Sunday, February 28, so you still have a day or so to stock up on ingredients.
 
My mother and I made a batch yesterday as the snow fell outside. I was a little nervous about the dietary consequences of being snowed in with a batch of cookies, but fortunately the boys next door had friends visiting so we managed to give away quite a few of the hamantaschen.
 
boyshamtry
 
This recipe is basically a sugar-cookie dough with fruit filling. If you like your dough a little less sweet, try this recipe from Kosher.com. If you keep kosher or want to avoid dairy products, you may use margarine in your cookies, but the butter is a lot more flavorful.
 
Next year, I’m going to try making savory hamantaschen filled with cheese—mmm. Meanwhile, these are pretty darn good.
 
Pedants among you may be wondering about the singular of the word “hamantaschen.” One of these cookies is called a “hamantasch.” Most people bake more than one, however, so you won’t need to use the word “hamantasch” frequently.
 
Dress up, sing songs, drink a few goblets of your favorite tipple (mine is diet soda), and enjoy these traditional triangular cookies. Happy Purim!
 
hamsyumweb
 
Hamantaschen
 
Ingredients:
 
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour plus a little more for patting out the cookies
jam as needed for filling (between 1/2 and 1 cup); we tried both apricot and raspberry
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg and mix well.
 
Beat in the orange juice and vanilla, followed by the baking powder and the salt.
 
Stir in the flour and continue to mix gently until all of the ingredients are blended.
 
On a floured board pat about a third of the dough down to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Use a biscuit cutter, glass, or clean can to cut the dough into circles. Repeat with the remaining dough.
 
Place the circles at least a couple of inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place a tiny bit (about 1/2 teaspoon or maybe just a LITTLE more) of jam in the middle of each circle. (Too much jam will overwhelm your cookies during the baking process.)
 
Carefully fold the circles into triangles around the jam. This is a little tricky: If your triangles aren’t high-sided enough the cookies will flatten out in the oven. (They’ll taste good anyway, but they ARE supposed to look like a triangular hat.)
 
shapingweb
 
Seal the seams of the triangles with cold water.
 
Bake the cookies until they just begin to brown about the edges, 14 to 18 minutes. You will have between 15 and 20 hamantaschen, depending on the size of your cutting instrument.
 
queen eatswebblu
 

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Why I Cook

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

 tinky-whips-web

 
Author and chef Michael Ruhlman recently wrote a post explaining why he cooks. He went on to challenge other food bloggers to do the same. Never one to be shy about expressing myself, I’m joining the fray.
 
Most of these points have been made individually as I’ve cooked and written here In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens. I thought I’d summarize them today.
 
First, I cook (and write about food) because it gives me an integrated life. It merges the private and the public. Nothing could be more personal than feeding ourselves and our families. Yet cooking is at its best a social enterprise. It also holistically touches simultaneously on the intellectual, the physical, and the emotional.
 
Second, I cook because I was brought up to do so. My family generally prepared meals instead of buying them precooked. And when my mother wanted to get to know someone new, or to maintain a friendship she cherished, she hosted a dinner party. In my childhood home food symbolized family, friendship, and love. It symbolizes them for me today.
 
That tradition leads me to my paramount reason for cooking. I cook because cooking helps me reach out to other people.
 
Cooking is a wonderful shared endeavor, one that spans the generations. My nephew Michael is an excellent mixer and egg breaker. At 91 my mother can no longer read very well and is a lot less mobile than she used to be, but she still loves to sift or stir or just set the table. Cooking with me makes her feel useful and alive in a way that few activities can at this point in her life. And it brings us closer together.
 
Cooking obviously touches those whom I feed as well as those with whom I cook. It also helps me to touch those whose recipes and cooking styles I use, in the past or in the present.
 
With a wooden spoon in one hand and a pot in the other, I can stand beside my grandmother, a neighbor, a school friend from India, or an author whose works I admire.
 
Finally, I cook because I am interested in many different fields of study. I know it sometimes seems like a stretch to my readers when I link a recipe to film or literature or television or American history. I thank you for your patience and warn you that I’m going to keep on stretching. I love the way in which cooking and writing about food can be tied to just about anything.
 
Cooking thus becomes a way for me to stay sane, to keep in touch with the people I love and want to know better, and to learn about  topics that stir my passions.
 
It nourishes me in many ways—and it helps me make friends and learn new things every day.
 
packageweb
 
From the Theoretical to the Mundane: Taylor Pork Roll
 
Mentioning learning new things leads me to today’s recipe.
 
I’m still figuring out Twitter; I haven’t completely bonded with it yet. Nevertheless, I try to look at people’s tweets once or twice a day. A couple of days ago Lynne Oliver of The Food Timeline posted a message that read as follows:
 
If you’re from New Jersey, you know all about Taylor Pork Roll! http://tinyurl.com/yjjucme.
 
Now I was born in New Jersey, and I spend a lot of time visiting my mother’s house there. And I had never heard of this stuff before I saw Olver’s tweet.
 
According to Olver’s post, Taylor Pork Roll is a processed pork product—a cross between spam and summer sausage—first made in the early 20th century by a company founded by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey.
 
(She notes that some sources trace Pork Roll to the mid-1850s and even in some form to the American Revolution but adds that she can find no evidence that it was made that early.)
 
I did a quick internet search, and it turns out that many folks from New Jersey are indeed completely gaga about this product. One company makes a living sending the Pork Roll and similar products to members of the Jersey diaspora in other states; grateful customers have written to its web site sharing their fond memories of Taylor Pork Roll.
 
This comment from a Texas resident sums up the sentiment: “Even know [sic] the thought of it makes my mouth water and makes me feel like a kid again.”
 
The Pork Roll is also known in some circles as Taylor Ham. The Taylor Ham fan page on Facebook, which has more than 15,000 members, maintains that it was founded for “fans of what may possibly be New Jersey’s greatest contribution to the world.”
 
As a major admirer of both Frank Sinatra and Jon Stewart I was eager to try a product that might nose them out in the New Jersey hierarchy. Some writers have called Taylor Pork Roll “the heroin of pork.”
 
I ventured to the ShopRite Supermarket near my mother’s home in Millburn and looked in the meat case. Sure enough, right near the bacon I found a packet of sliced Taylor Pork Roll. (It is apparently also marketed in rolls like salami, but I wanted only a little bit so the slices suited me just fine.)
 
I peered into the packet, and one of the store employees asked me what I was looking for. When I informed him that I had never seen Taylor Pork Roll before he widened his eyes. “Where are YOU from?” he asked. Obviously, I will have to ask another state to issue me a birth certificate.
 
The most popular use for Taylor Pork Roll is apparently the “Jersey Sandwich” a.k.a. the “Jersey Breakfast Sandwich” a.k.a. the “Triple Bypass.” This is a sandwich made of warmed Taylor Pork Roll, a fried egg, and melted cheese on a bun.
 
I’m pretty sure the roll should be a Kaiser, but I had only ciabatta rolls in the house. And the cheese should definitely be American, but I substituted cheddar.
 
Next time, I think I would use thinner bread and perhaps leave out one ingredient—combine the Pork Roll with eggs, or make a grilled cheese sandwich with pork roll.
 
Both my mother and I found the sandwich tasty (who could resist all that fat?), but it was too heavy to finish. Truffle was happy to help eat some of the leftovers, of course.
 
doneeb
 
The Jersey Sandwich
 
Ingredients:
 
1 hard roll
a small amount of butter as needed
2 pieces Taylor Pork Roll (I bought the 6 ounce package with 8 slices so 2 slices weighed 1.5 ounces; a higher proportion of Pork Roll might appeal to some)
1 egg
1 ounce cheese, thinly sliced (American or cheddar)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the broiler. Place aluminum foil on a flat, ovenproof pan.
 
Split the roll in two and butter both inside pieces lightly. Place the slices on the foil-covered pan.
 
Cut four notches in each piece of Pork Roll so that it will not curl up as it cooks; the notches should come in about three quarters of an inch from the edge. (See photo.)
 
cookingprweb
 
In a frying pan over medium heat cook the pork pieces until they are warm and lightly browned on both sides. Remove them and set them aside.
 
If there is not enough fat in the pan to fry your eggs melt a little more butter in the pan. Quickly fry your eggs. (They won’t need salt and pepper because the Pork Roll contains a ton of sodium and spices.)
 
Place the slices of Pork Roll on the bottom piece of the roll. Place the egg on top, and cover it with the cheese. Pop the roll under the broiler and cook until the cheese has just melted.
 
Cover the sandwich and serve immediately. Makes 1 very filling sandwich.
Truffle is still hoping for more Taylor Pork Roll!

Truffle is still hoping for more Taylor Pork Roll!

 

 

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I Cannot Tell a Lie: I Made Cherry Pudding

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

george-washington-birthday-holiday-patriotic-1

 
Happy Washington’s Birthday.
 
I appreciate the spirit behind the relatively new (1971) holiday of Presidents’ Day, which generously embraces all presidents, even the incompetent ones like James Buchanon and the downright dishonest ones like Richard Nixon.
 
I rejoice for my friends who work in offices; they now enjoy a three-day holiday weekend on the Monday before Washington’s birthday instead of celebrating his birthday as a single holiday whenever it occurs (sometimes on a weekend).
 
Nevertheless, I prefer to celebrate Washington’s birth on the day on which it occurred, February 22.
 
Pedants might point out that he wasn’t actually born on February 22, 1732, but rather on February 11 as marked on the calendar in use then, the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted in Britain and its colonies in 1752, and dates were shifted 11 days to allow the calendar to catch up with the solar year.
 
Washington himself counted the 22nd as his birthday, however, and I think he’s an excellent source on this subject.
 
It’s traditional to make something with cherries on Washington’s Birthday, and I’m not a girl to mess with tradition.
John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

 
Most Americans now know that the story about his chopping down a cherry tree and confessing the deed to his father was made up by Washington’s enterprising biographer, Parson Weems.
 
Nevertheless, we still associate Washington with cherries. The gift shop at Mount Vernon even sells souvenirs with cherries on them.
 
The cherry-tree legend is appealing and apt in its way. Washington was known for his honesty and indeed maintained that “the character of an honest man” was “the most envied of all titles.”
 
The cherry-tree story can thus be viewed as a metaphor for Washington’s overall character.
 
Besides, I like cherries!
 
While your cherry pudding is in the oven, you might want to take this little presidential food quiz, courtesy of the Food Museum Online.
 
If you’d like to read more about George Washington and cherries (yes, he did love them, even if he didn’t chop down that tree), here’s a great post about his eating habits at The Food Timeline.
 
puddplateweb
 
Cherry Pudding
 
I adapted this recipe from one entered in the Pudding Hollow Pudding Contest by Jane Montgomery of Newton, Massachusetts. It’s one of those lovely comforting pudding cakes that are easy to throw together and satisfying to eat. It uses canned cherries because even in Virginia one can’t get fresh local cherries in February.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 can (14.5 or 15 ounces) tart cherries (NOT cherry pie filling)
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
whipped cream as needed
toasted almonds or pecans (or even candied ones) as needed (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid. Combine the drained cherries and the lemon juice, and spread this mixture into a well buttered, 8-inch-square pan or a 1-quart casserole dish.
 
Cream the sugar with the butter. Sift together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon, and add them to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk; be sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to spread the batter over the cherries as well as you can. Sprinkle the brown sugar over all. Pour the cherry juice over the top of the batter. Do not stir it in.
 
At this point your dish will look pretty messy, and you will begin to doubt yourself. Never fear: the magic of baking (or perhaps the inspiration of George Washington) will rescue your pudding. The cake batter will rise to the top and solidify, although there will be sauce at the bottom and the edges of the pan.
 

Voila!

Voila!

 
Bake the pudding until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake part comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to insert the toothpick too far, or it will hit the sauce.
 
When the pudding is done, dish it onto serving plates, making sure each serving has cake, cherries, and juice. Dollop whipped cream on the top, and put a few nuts on the cream if you like. Serves 8.
 
GW PC2
 

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For the Love of Film: Heroes, Orphans, and Peach Jam

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

orphlogo

 
I know I went on and on and on about the fascinating Iris Barry in my last post. This post will also participate in the For the Love of Film blogathon—but in a less long-winded way.
 
Thinking about Iris Barry’s passion for film reminded me that I have been lucky enough to know several people who have put their passion to work in preservation. I thought I’d mention three of them (briefly, I promise!). One of them has an event coming up that should appeal to the film folk reading this. (I’m sure many of you know about it already.)
 
1. My late honorary godmother, Dagny Johnson, zealously pursued short and long films about Paris for her film festival in the 1960s and 1970s, Paris en Films.
 
She understood the race against time involved in finding and saving films of all sorts. I have seldom seen her happier than she was the day on which she announced that one of her contacts had found a film about the French resistance in a gypsy camp—in perfect condition. I’d love to have half of her knowledge of French film. (I wouldn’t mind her personal charm, either!) 
Dagny Johnson in Cuba in 1950 with a mysterious stranger (Courtesy of Eric Johnson)

Dagny Johnson in Cuba in 1950 with a mysterious stranger (Courtesy of Eric Johnson)

 
2. My former colleague Jane Klain in the Research Services division of the Paley Center for Media in New York is a bloodhound when it comes to finding old television programs that were once considered lost—particularly when those programs involve her great love, American musical theater. I love watching Jane work and listening to her enthusiasm when she is on the trail of a television program. She is one of Manhattan’s unsung heroines. 
 
This 1959 production of "What Makes Sammy Run?" was one of Jane's TV finds.

This 1959 production of "What Makes Sammy Run?" was one of Jane's TV finds.

3. Finally, my graduate-school pal Dan Streible at New York University organizes a biennial Orphan Film Symposium. The next one will take place in April.

The symposium finds, celebrates, and helps preserve films that have no commercial homes. (Dan has a much better definition than this on the Orphan site!) In it Dan brings together scholars and enthusiasts who recognize the aesthetic, historical, and cultural value of diverse orphan films.
 
Dan’s orphan metaphor is perfect for preservation. It indicates the ways in which these films have been cast adrift as well as the moral imperative for people to help save and protect them.
  
Dan and Friend (Courtesy of NYU)
Dan and Friend (Courtesy of NYU)

 

Dagny, Jane, and Dan, I salute you and the other wonderful film and television preservationists in my life (hi, Mike!).

In addition to attending the Orphan Film Symposium you can show your support for preservation by donating to the National Film Preservation Foundation. The NFPF is giving away four DVD sets to donors chosen in a random drawing this week. Here’s the link to donate.

And of course please do visit some of the other bloggers who have spent at least part of this week writing For the Love of Film. The blogathon is sponsored by Ferdy on Films and the Self-Styled Siren, who hope to raise awareness of, and funds for, the NFPF.
 
jamsconesweb
 
Preservation, Tinky Style: Peach Jam
 
I’m not a person who preserves film or television professionally. I’m more likely to save vegetables or fruit.
 
In case you’d like to contribute to food preservation as well as film preservation, here’s a simple peach jam recipe. Spice it up a little if you like with some crystallized ginger—or color and flavor it with a few raspberries. This is the basic formula.
 
I know peaches aren’t in season for most of my readers right now, but if you’d like to cheat a little you may certainly use unsweetened frozen peaches. Be sure to defrost the peaches before cooking and to adjust the recipe proportionately to fit the volume of peaches you have. You can’t really go wrong with fresh jam on the table.
 
Ingredients:
 
4 cups peach slices or peaches
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pat butter
 
Instructions:
 
In a 4-quart nonreactive pot combine the peaches, 2 cups of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for an hour or so to allow the peaches to juice up.
 
Cook the fruit over low heat until tender. Add the remaining sugar and butter, and cook rapidly until thick, stirring frequently. The jam is ready when it sheets off a cold, stainless-steel spoon. Remove any foam you see (there shouldn’t be too much, thanks to the butter). Stir the jam for 5 minutes before you ladle it into sterilized jars; this keeps the fruit from rising to the top of the jars when cooled. Process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes.
 
If you don’t want to be bothered processing the jam, just put it in the sterilized jars and keep it in the refrigerator. Serve with toast, biscuits, or scones.
 
Makes about 4 cups.
 
jamaloneweb

For the Love of Film: Reflections on Iris Barry

Thursday, February 18th, 2010
(Courtesy of A Clock Without Hands)

Iris Barry (Courtesy of A Clock Without Hands)

 
Long ago and far away, I wrote a not very fascinating master’s thesis about a person who was very fascinating indeed.
 
Iris Barry (1895-1969) was one of film preservation’s heroines. This chic Britisher was an influential film critic in London in the 1920s, writing for three separate periodicals—the popular Daily Mail, the literary Spectator, and the fashionable Vogue.
 
A founder of the London Film Society, she was one of the first people in Britain—indeed, in the world—to call for films to be preserved.
 
Barry moved to New York in 1930 and cultivated friendships with a number of people in the city’s artistic and philanthropic circles. In 1932 her contacts paid off; she was asked to establish a library at the Museum of Modern Art.
 
In 1935 the museum started a film library—and Barry became its first curator. Her charge, according to Time magazine, was to “preserve for students and posterity important moving pictures of the past.”
 
For the next 15 years she helped invent and establish the whole idea of saving and curating films.
 
I recently asked Haidee Wasson of Concordia University, author of Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema (2005), about Barry’s accomplishments at the museum. Wasson replied in part:
 
Barry wrote in her autobiographical notes that the accomplishment of which she was most proud was that after her work at MoMA, she believed that “films would be dated like fine wine.” Before her, this was not a convention of film culture.
 
I hadn’t thought about Barry for years until a few days ago, when I read about a wonderful idea and cause. This week Ferdy on Films and the Self-Styled Siren are organizing a blogathon called For the Love of Film to highlight the ongoing task of film preservation and to raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation.
 
I decided at once to participate—and to resurrect my research on Iris Barry. My thesis dealt with her early work, particularly her writings for the Daily Mail between 1925 and 1930.
 
Unfortunately, my notes (if they still exist) are in another state, and I haven’t had a chance to get there to look for them since I heard about the blogathon.
 
So I’m sharing with you a few of my memories of Iris Barry—old, secondhand memories, but vivid ones nonetheless.
 
For the love
 
Barry was conscious from the very first of her role as a promoter and defender of film. Her 1926 book Let’s Go to the Pictures (titled Let’s Go to the Movies here in the States), like her criticism, embodied the different personae she adopted in relation to film.
 
Barry was conscious of her membership in London’s artistic and literary circles. A protégé of Ezra Pound, she had written poetry and fiction before finding an occupation in film criticism. She wanted to establish film as an art form and to define the sort of art form it might be.
 
She also saw herself as an unabashed film fan—a lover of the experience of going to the movies as well as of individual films and stars.
 
It was in part this schizophrenic nature of Barry’s film criticism that drew me to her. She could heap praise on Felix the Cat (whom she called “an institution, a totem”) as well as D.W. Griffith’s masterwork Intolerance.
 
I believe that most of us who have written about film and its history share this duality. We want to study and preserve films because they can be rich examples of cultural history or magnificent works of art.
 
We also want to study and preserve them because we grew up getting a thrill from westerns or thrillers or screwball comedies, from Clint Eastwood or Ginger Rogers or Anne Hathaway. Like Iris Barry, we are all fans of the flickers.
 
One of Barry’s other appealing characteristics as a critic was her insistence that “[t]he Cinema exists to please women.” She maintained that the majority of filmgoers in Britain were women and that filmmakers programmed for them.
 
She also urged her fellow female film watchers to be discriminating, to ask for more than sweet love stories in their film fare. “The cinema provides us with the safe dreams we want,” she wrote, “and if our dreams are often not worth having, it is because we demand no better.”
 
Marcine of the blog A Clock Without Hands wrote a post last summer citing Barry’s accomplishments and concluding, “Is it even necessary for me to say that [Barry] has lived my dream life?”
 
I also applaud Iris Barry’s accomplishments. Her life was not always a dream, however. In a recent email Jillian Slonim of New York, who is working on a biography of Barry, described her as ”a person whose public activities were known and acknowledged but whose private life was both complicated and kept under wraps by her.”
  
I look forward to reading Jill’s work as I indeed know little about Barry’s life. Jill says, “[T]he more I delve into Barry the more interesting she becomes to me.”
 
I do know this: Iris Barry was often poor. She arrived in New York at the onset of the Depression with a great wardrobe but not much else. I admire her courage in striking out on her own this way, but the experience doesn’t sound pleasant.
 
Her close relationships were stormy. She seems to have been drawn to men who abused or neglected her. The most significant example of this phenomenon (and probably the most significant man in her life) was the poet and artist Wyndham Lewis, with whom Barry lived from 1918 to 1921.
 
 
Wyndham Lewis, "L'Ingenue" (1919, a portrait of Barry), Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Wyndham Lewis, "L'Ingenue" (1919, a portrait of Barry), Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

 
Lewis was a stereotypical Bohemian artist of his period—temperamental, unfaithful, and occasionally just plain mean. He and Barry had two children, both of whom were farmed off to others to raise.
 
Barry married twice—once in London to a poet named Alan Porter; the second time in New York to John Abbott, a financier who was an administrator at the Museum of Modern Art and technically supervised her, although it seems clear that she was the one in charge of the Film Library. Neither marriage lasted.
 
In the late 1940s at the Cannes Film Festival she met Pierre Kerroux, a Frenchman who was apparently working as a smuggler at the time. She lived with him in Fayence at the end of her life. At least one friend of hers I interviewed at the time of my master’s thesis was concerned that Kerroux abused her physically. 
 
The two had few resources on which to draw. Barry’s occasional work for the museum could not have supplied much income. And she clearly had a drinking problem by the end of her life if not before.
 
Barry may have been thinking of her own relationships with men when she wrote in her Portrait of Lady Mary Montagu (1928):

Love she really knew very little about. That is the misfortune of women, that they have an appetite but no natural genius for it…. It is simple enough for a man to be attracted by a woman; but so very hard for him to accept her as a human being.
  
In my correspondence with Haidee Wasson I asked what attracted her to Barry. Here is part of her reply:
 
I was drawn to Iris Barry partly because she was such a pivotal figure for the history of film, and its relationship to art institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The more I learned about her the more compelling I found her to be. She was dynamic and uncommonly intelligent.…
 
And, I long have had the sense that she didn’t suffer fools. Barry also managed to balance the compromises required of working within established institutions yet also mining a deeply personal passion. I don’t think she was always the most likable person in the room. But, she was bold, proud and uncompromising.
 
I don’t wish for Iris Barry’s life—the poverty, the difficult relationships, the willingness to strike out blindly on new courses without thinking them through. Nevertheless, I do envy her passion: for film, for art, for preserving beauty and culture.
 
I celebrate her achievements as a critic and a curator. And I admire her poetic soul.
 
In a 1931 Bookman article about London’s literary and artistic milieu during World War I Barry wrote:
 
The effect, all too little realized at the time, was as though something that mattered very much had somehow and rather miraculously been preserved round that table when so much else was being scattered, smashed up, killed, imprisoned or forgotten….
 
It was, for the hours the gathering lasted, less important that so many were being killed and more that something lived: possible to recall that for every Blenheim there is a Voltaire and that the things that endure are not stupidity or fear.
 
Iris Barry herself accomplished “something that mattered.” And she was someone who mattered.
 
Happily, Barry is beginning to achieve the recognition she deserves. Haidee Wasson and Leslie Hankins have both published journal articles examining her writings. Jillian Slonim is finding everyone she can (and every piece of paper she can) to shed light on Barry’s life and work.
 
Jill reports that MoMA is planning to launch a “Modern Women” exhibition in Spring 2010 that will include some of Barry’s original programming.
 
More intimately, perhaps, with Jill Slonim’s help the town of Fayence, France, held a “Jour Iris Barry” last fall. On this day Fayence celebrated its late resident and officially named the movie theater in the town’s new cultural center after her.
 
love2
 
If like Iris Barry YOU have a passion for film, please consider donating to the National Film Preservation Foundation. The NFPF is giving away four DVD sets to donors chosen in a random drawing this week.
 
And of course please do visit some of the other bloggers who are writing this week For the Love of Film.
 
Meanwhile, here is a (vaguely) Iris-inspired recipe.
 
I have to admit that none of my old research on Barry gave me a clue about what to cook. Unfortunately for me but not for her, Jillian Slonim is currently at the Berlin Film Festival. She wrote:
 
Iris did like to eat though she went through many periods in which she could not afford to eat well or what she might have wanted to eat. I seem to remember reading something she wrote in her later years–when she lived in Fayence–about liking asparagus but won’t be able to check that until I’m back home…too late for the blogathon.
 
I turned to Haidee Wasson, who told me of Barry’s “tea habit.” Apparently, she enjoyed afternoon tea, particularly in her London days. So I brewed a pot of tea and made some smoked-salmon tea sandwiches. I’m sure that when Barry was doing well financially she enjoyed them. I hope you enjoy them, too.
 
And I promise my next post will be MUCH, MUCH shorter than this one…….
 
salmsandeb
 
Film (and Fish) Lovers’ Tea Sandwiches
 
I started to write down exact proportions for these little treats, but I gave up on that idea rather quickly because like most tea sandwiches they are best assembled to taste. I just stirred lemon zest, dill, and pepper into the cheese until it tasted delicious but not too strong.
 
If you want to vary the recipe, you may certainly add capers to the cheese and/or garnish. And if you’re like my mother (who adores butter), you may add a layer of butter underneath the cheese.
 
Ingredients:
 
thinly sliced white bread (either a solid homemade bread such as the one I used in my BOLT sandwiches or a commercial brand such as Pepperidge Farm)
whipped cream cheese or soft goat cheese, at room temperature
a handful of fresh dill, chopped but not too finely
grated lemon zest
freshly ground pepper
sliced smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
 
Instructions:
 
If you want to, cut your bread into pretty shapes. Since Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up, I used shamrocks. Cut off the crusts even if you don’t make shapes.
 
In a bowl thoroughly combine the cheese, most of the dill, most of the lemon zest, and the pepper.
 
Spread the cheese mixture generously onto the pieces of bread. Top with salmon and a bit more dill and lemon zest.
 
Brew up a pot of tea and watch an old film.
 
 
 
Iris Barry in France with artist Jean Raine (Courtesy of www.jeanraine.org)

Iris Barry in France with artist Jean Raine (Courtesy of www.jeanraine.org)

 

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