Tag Archives: television

What’s Your “Back in Time”?

7 Apr

My friend Angwa hipped me to this BBC show called “Back in Time for Dinner,” which I’ve turned into my lunchtime fun time for the week. Each one-hour episode has the five-member Robshaw family living through a different decade, from the 1950s to the 1990s. The first floor of their house is transformed into what a typical house of that decade would look like–kitchen, living room, dining room; they wear the clothes; they do the things; and they eat the food.

In the 1950s, this means that mom’s stuck in the kitchen all day doing amazing amounts of housework. There’s no fridge–you keep things cool on a slab of marble in the larder. The country still is rationing food, so there’s not much meat.

Throughout the years–and some decades have massive amounts of change in a very short time–we see the introduction of refrigerators, freezers, TVs and highly combustible chip pans. Fish sticks, ready meals and Rice Krispies vie for stomach space. Society changes, and therefore the family changes with it–things like women working and kids moving out of the house. World events like the 1970s energy crisis have a major impact on day-to-day life that many of us would find shocking.

It’s fascinating to see how society changed with regards to our food and how we make it, and how our living standards have changed. It got me thinking about what’s “back in time” for me–and what’s not.

For example, the Boy and I don’t have a microwave. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this is an appliance that 90% of Americans have. I remember the magic of getting our first one when I was maybe 10. We could cook hot dogs in 45 seconds! We learned that you don’t nuke foil-wrapped burgers! We got yelled at if we stood in front of it while it was on!

But as an adult, I’ve never really cared about owning one. Last year, when our 16-year-old microwave–the one Ma Jaracz got me because she didn’t know how I was living without it–bit the dust, we decided not to replace it. Heating up leftovers is kind of a pain now, but we manage just fine doing whatever we did in the microwave by using the stove and oven–and have more counter space.

However, about three years ago, I joined the ranks of the 60% who have a dishwasher, and it’s  revolutionized my world. I grew up with a dishwasher, so spending most of my adult life without one was a big step back. Having one has completely changed how much time I spend washing dishes, which changes how much I’m willing to experiment with cooking and baking. If a recipe doesn’t work out, it’s not as miserable an experience to clean it up as when I had to spend an hour washing up the failure.

Even the food trends are interesting to think about–and how cyclical they can be. Consider popcorn. As a kid, it was a big deal to get an air popper. Then we graduated to microwave popcorn. Now I make it on the stove old-school style–but with my fancy popcorn pan.

We also have a lot more packaged food that makes life easier–but maybe isn’t really the best thing for you. When I was a kid, making a cake from scratch was the most difficult thing you, but the Boy’s chocolate cake recipe takes maybe five more minutes than a boxed cake mix. And it tastes much better.

But today we also have so many more global spices and flavors–and this has made our food so much more interesting and allows for a lot more variation and enjoyment.

At any rate, this week I’ve spent a lot of thinking about where our society has been with food and home innovations, and wondering where we’re going. I can’t imagine why I’d really want a smart refrigerator, but in 20 years will it be the norm? What new cooking gadgets will revolutionize our world? What food won’t we be able to live without?

Let me know your thoughts. In the meantime, I’ve got to eat lunch, which today means I’m going back to the 1980s. I hope I see an electric can opener!

 

 

Little House of Green Gables?

13 Jan

Yesterday the CBC announced that it’s reviving one of the most beloved characters in young adult lit and will be making a new series out of Anne of Green Gables.

Are you excited, fans of the Megan Follows version? Or are you scared? I’m a little bit of both.

Anne is one of my favorite literary heroines. She made me wish I’d had red hair growing up. For high school German, I chose the name “Anne” (AH-ne) because of her. If I’d ever had a daughter, Anne would’ve been my top pick for a name. And when the Megan Follows miniseries came out in 1985, I was the prime age to fall in love with it.

And I did–eventually. It took me a good episode to get used to the fact that the producers of the miniseries had not tapped my imagination for how everything should look (nor had I ever been to Prince Edward Island, so my imagination had been filling in some gaps), but eventually I was hooked and became a big fan. For me this version seems most true.

So of course I’m a little worried about the new ones. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else shouldn’t be allowed to revisit and reinterpret Anne–there have been several other miniseries and shows and cartoons and musicals and plays depicting or based on the books, so I’m not against a new generation having their own version. Plus, this one’s being helmed by one of the writers from Breaking Bad, which is pretty exciting, given how good that show was.

However, it’s this phrase describing the show that worries me: chart new territory.

This phrase was used in a couple different reports of the news, and that’s what has me worried. I don’t know about TV shows that end up being more “inspiration” and less “true to book.”

But Jill, you also were the prime age when Little House on the Prairie came out? Don’t you have experience with TV shows that chart new territory around beloved book series?

No, I don’t. Ma Jaracz wouldn’t allow me to watch Little House on the Prairie precisely because it wasn’t like the book.

But Jill, you did watch The Dukes of Hazzard, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island when you were a kid, did you not?

Yes, Ma Jaracz would let me watch those fairly regularly. I won’t question my mother’s thought pattern here, as everyone has their moments. I’m guessing she thought Mr. Roarke was  a better role model than the beloved Pa Ingalls. And Mary Ingalls had nothing on Julie McCoy, of course — a girl could learn a lot of organizational skills from a Cruise Director. Let’s start career planning when we’re young!

But the fact is, I’ve never watched Little House–not even when I could. It’s not all like the books, so why bother?

I’m sure all of us fans have some apprehension about what could possibly happen–I mean, look at Game of Thrones. They’re out of books, so what’s going to happen? Perhaps a white wedding with Billy Idol as the officiant? And then it goes south really quickly and HBO pulls the plug so they end it with dragons flame broiling everyone (except Hodor — he magically lives to have his own spin-off)? Isn’t that the kind of fear we all  have when something we love gets translated so wonderfully to the screen and then a re-translation threatens to ruin both versions for everyone?

I hope that’s not the case for Anne fans, and we’ll have to see how it turns out. I know I won’t be re-reading the books ahead of time so that when I watch, my memory will be a little foggy of what actually happened in the books. That doesn’t mean that if Anne suddenly organizes a blood drive and saves Prince Edward Island or if Diana Barry goes blind, I’ll stick with it, but I’ll certainly give the new version a shot.

 

The Other ANTM

30 Apr

One of the great things about flying Qantas is that you get to enjoy a pretty massive personal entertainment system that will entertain you for many more hours than your flight lasts. Case in point: It has four or five newer movies I’ve wanted to see, but it also had three episodes of “Australia’s Next Top Model.” Being a sucker for reality TV and having watched many a cycle of the American version, I couldn’t resist.

I’ve gotta say, it’s a little different than the American show. First off, during downtime when the models are just hanging around the house, many of them read actual books. For fun. I saw this happen twice in one episode and then again on another. When have you ever seen the American contestants read more than Tyra Mail?

Secondly, when an episode is teaching the models to face their fears by touching all kinds of strange animals, the Australian models have every right to be scared out of their minds because 90℅ of the wildlife in Australia will kill them–and the remaining 10℅ wants to but they’re just too lazy.

Thirdly, reality competition franchises get a bad rap when the judges aren’t as good as the original, and let me just say that Didier Cohen is no Jay Manuel. Didier is American (the Aussies can’t love our accent, can they?) and looks and sounds like he’s taken umpteen rounds of media training that’s designed to suck every ounce of personality out of him. I heard Miss Tyra summarily fired Jay, Nigel Barker and Miss J. Australia should snap up that motley crew (though I do like the Australian photographer guy) and put some life into the production.

Now, none of these differences made me stop watching, and I quickly went through the three episodes on the system–only three! They were just as captivating: posing, teens being teens, and in one, a contestant got sent home for choking another contestant.

OK, maybe it’s not so different from the American version after all.

Baking Weather

7 Jan

The world of food competitions is something I’m kind of fascinated with. I enjoy cooking and baking–trying new recipes and sometimes coming up with my own–but it’s not enough of a hobby to make it more than impressing my friends and my waistline.

I do enter the occasional food competition. I recently made a banana, spinach and pineapple pizza that I thought wasn’t half-bad, but it didn’t pass the muster in Chiquita’s competition. That’s understandable, given that the people who do win a lot of recipe contests really work at it and know how to develop a recipe. I’m just a yokel when it comes to that kind of thing, and the non-responses I’ve had to contest entries are proof that I’d have to put some real effort into developing that skill if I want to get somewhere with it.

However, I do enjoy judging from the couch and watching the occasional food competition show. My British friend Angwa failed me this week, when I discovered “The Great British Baking Show” all on my own, and not with the help of said friend who got me into watching “Top Chef.” Harrumph!

Have you been watching? It’s fantastic! Especially when everyone’s baking in The Tent, and it starts pouring rain. So British! And frankly, better weather than the cold we’re starting to get. The contestants have to do three recipe challenges per episode/food item, one of which involves making one of judge Mary Berry’s (who’s called the “doyenne of baking”–it’s got to be fabulous to be the doyenne of something) recipes. The instructions on these tend to be something like, “put it in the oven and bake until done.” Then you see frazzled contestants puzzle over just exactly what that means while furiously checking their pastry.

The contestants come up with some amazing items. During the “Biscuits” episode–after which I felt challenged to learn how to make a proper English biscuit, which will come just after I’ve finished perfecting the Swiss Roll that they had to make during the “Cakes” episode–they made these incredible 3D biscuit displays — think gingerbread house, but with dragons or pirates or ski mountain scenes. And then the judges ate them! Who makes these things?! Who eats them?! Apparently the Brits.

One thing I like about the show more than it just being a good reality competition show (one of my favorite genres to watch) is the fact that it does inspire me to try new things in the kitchen, get to know ingredients better and try new things with them.

For Christmas this year, I gave some foodie friends three jars filled with recipes I’d tried — some bourbon caramel sauce, some bacon jam (if you want a good bacon jam recipe, Cinnamon Cooper’s is the best. The chorizo makes it magical), banana bread muffins and mint chocolate flourless cake. When they’ve emptied the jars, they can return them, and I’ll fill them with other things I want to learn to make, things like homemade ketchup, a good BBQ sauce, pickles, different types of bread, some boozy cakes, etc. It’s a mystery food subscription, and I hope it’ll be fun to keep up with–or rather, with all of this inspiration, see if they can keep up with me.

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