Today was wonderful. Our good friends Paul and Rachael had their baby, Zander, 5 weeks ago. Paul's parents flew over from New Zealand last week to see the baby and to go to his blessing. Paul and Rachael are not religious by any means - in fact they're atheists - but parental pressures made them agree to a blessing and baptism for Zander and they asked if Max and I would be his godparents! We of course agreed and early this morning we drove to Ealing to meet everyone. Rachael is a physics teacher at a private all boy's catholic school, so the blessing was to take place at her school's church. The priest to perform the blessing was Father Thomas, who I've met before at Paul and Rache's wedding.
The school where Rachael works is absolutely insane, as only a catholic school can be. Recently one teacher went missing and the chemistry teacher climbed out of the classroom window and down the fire escape - during class - because he couldn't take it anymore (he resigned). Despite the constant craziness, everyone likes Father Thomas. As Rachael put it today, "Even though I'm not religious I've always thought Father Thomas is how a man of religion should be." I agree. He's very jovial and charismatic, a good listener, well travelled, and he really knows his wine. ;)
The only people present for the blessing were Father Thomas, Paul, Rachael, Zander, Paul's parents, his brother David, and us. We were honoured to be included in such an intimate family affair. Father Thomas gave the blessing and afterwards we all went out to lunch at Gilbey's. Lunch was excellent and incredibly cheap for what we had. They have a lunch deal of £7 for a 2 course set menu. My starter was the Smoked Mackerel Salad with Chive Aioli and my main course was the Seafood and Saffron Risotto with Herbed Olive Oil. My dessert was the Grand Marnier Panna Cotta with Roasted Figs and a coffee. There were several bottles of good Sauvignon and Muscadet, of which Father Thomas drank several glasses despite having another christening to go to straight after lunch. "I'll down a few glasses of water and I'll be fine.. "
We talked to Father Thomas about his travels to Italy (Florence recently) and when I told him I was from the Seattle area he said that he had visited Vancouver, B.C. a few years ago. He took some boys from the school on a trip there and they told him they wanted to go to Hooters. Not knowing what it was he asked an elderly lady - while in full priest dress - the directions to Hooters. He said it wasn't a high point in his career.
We were sleepy after our long big lunch so we went back to Paul and Rache's and I half napped while they watched the England vs. South Africa rugby game. We then gave David a ride to his friends house and settled in to watch movies at home for the rest of the evening. The first was The Thirty-Nine Steps and the second the French film L'Emploi du Temps, or Time Out on BBC4.
"Vincent Renault is a middle-aged, middle-class Frenchman who persuades his family, friends and arguably himself, that he retains a job despite being unemployed. Each morning he dons suit and tie and leaves home ostensibly to attend meetings. In reality he drives around aimlessly and voyeuristically peers into offices and other work places, as if reminding himself of a past he attempts to construct through deception. It's clear Vincent could get another job, but he has become content with his fantasy life and its sprawling implications."
I really enjoyed L'Emploi du Temps, the cinematography was beautiful, tension building, and atmospheric. Aurélien Recoing as Vincent slightly reminded me of Kevin Spacey in both his acting and appearance. The way he subtly portrayed Vincent spinning an increasingly intricate web of lies and his emotional downfall was impressive. The beautiful Karin Viard's performance as Muriel was also excellent and convincing. The ending wasn't at all what I expected, and for that I am grateful (I won't give it away).
Man, you and bobosphere both describe having panna cotta on the same day. Rowr. That's like my favorite dessert in the whole world. (Except maybe for warm bread pudding.)
That movie's plot sounds similar to one of the 15 Portraits Of Despair that Neil Gaiman read to us — except in his story the unemployed man starts to burgle houses to keep his family in money, and then his wife mentions the police came round to call the other day, and at the end he's huddling in the bedroom watching the police walk up the driveway. Creepy, but not as creepy as the other one about the man with all the cats...
Thanks for reminding me of the correct spelling of `panna cotta', I went back and edited it. Silly girl, I should remember the spelling of one of my favorite desserts. Unsurprisingly the best panna cotta I've eaten was in Italy (swoon). You know, I don't think I've had bread pudding, which is surprising since it's a British national dish. My other favorite dessert is a perfectly made crème brulée (the warm chocolate cake at the Wild Coho gets an honorable mention).
I haven't read 15 Portraits of Despair, it sounds interesting. Apparently L'Emploi du Temps was partially based on a true story, although the true story had a much more tragic end. In the film the man pretended to have a fantastic new job at the UN and would stay up nights memorizing world facts and would tell his family and friends how much he was helping in Africa, so there was the added element of questionable morality as his family revered him almost as a compassionate saint. The film might not be for everyone though, it seems like it might be a real love or "I don't get it" thing for people.
Crème Brulée is a little too much for me ... I can't keep from imaging it soaking into my arteries :-) Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but the more gelatinous texture of panna cotta makes it seem lighter.
Oh, you must try bread pudding. Warm, with some kind of liquor-based sauce poured on. Yummm.
Sad to say, but I think both crème brulée and panna cotta are about equal in artery-clogging goodness. But I know what you mean about the illusion of less fat in the panna cotta. :)
ok, ok, it is getting to be bread pudding season here so I will make it a goal try some..
Nigella Lawson gives a recipe, she calls it a "very English dish", which is basically panna cotta with elderflowers in it. She says she won't let a June (is it June, or July when the elders flower? Round about then anyway) go by without making it, it's so delicious. Basically it's just like panna cotta, but you cook the cream with loads of elderflower heads in, to infuse it with their flavour.
And, by a strange reversal of food nationalities, the most delicious bread pudding I've ever had was in an Italian restaurant, De La Strada in Exmouth Market, London. They made it with Pannetone (I don't know whether I spelled that right and can't be bothered to check) instead of bread. Mmmmm! A few weeks later, our local Netto (ultra-cheapo supermarket which sells 99% crap but always gets in the odd batch of interesting items) was shifting pannetones, obviously post-Christmas leftovers, at 99p each. I bought one and always intended to make some bread and butter pudding myself, but somehow ended up eating it all first.
I'll bet the panna cotta with elderflowers looks really beautiful. My family used to cook with flowers all the time, I'd love to start doing it again except I have a hard time finding edible flowers available near us.
That's funny the best bread pudding you've eaten was in an Italian restaurant, I wouldn't have expected that (I think you've mentioned De La Strada before?) I'm surprised I haven't had any bread pud yet as it's one of Max's favorite desserts.
It's very cringe-inducing as you watch him dig himself into an even deeper pit from his fabricated tales. And the almost documentary style of filming really increases the unsettling feeling throughout the film.
I think the end might be a real love/hate thing for people though, personally I loved it. I'd be curious what you think of it if you see it.
I thought I might give out dead horse heads for Christmas this year, to keep within the theme..
Sorry to make you "England sick" (er, that doesn't sound like a positive thing). I hope you can come visit Ole' Blighty again sometime soon. :)