Posts tagged “mad men

Monday Reader: 4/14/2014

Posted on April 14, 2014

Napoleon III and Other Stories

Posted on May 22, 2013

napoleon_iiiSee this guy and his well-waxed mustache? This is Napoleon III, emperor of the French Second Empire and I devoted a couple of years of my life to learning all about him, his era and a wild-haired architect whose life had a rags-to-riches narrative arc. You may find that wildly impractical, but to me, it made and continues to make good sense. Having spent so much time reading about this particular Napoleon, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he got a shout-out in “Mad Men” two weeks ago, when the creative team was brainstorming ideas for a new margarine account. I am probably one of the few people on the planet to realize that the shout-out was not quite right. In the show, Peggy said that margarine was invented by Napoleon III, who wanted to create a butter substitute for his army that wouldn’t spoil. What actually happened is that the price of butter skyrocketed and in 1869 Napoleon III offered a prize to anyone who could create a more affordable butter substitute.  A chemist by the name of Hippolyte Mege-Mouries created a process for churning beef tallow with milk to create what became known as oleomargarine. Although Mege-Mouries won the emperor’s prize, the French never took to the product and so in 1871, the inventor worked with a Dutch firm that bolstered the product’s appeal by dyeing it yellow. The rest, as they say, is history.

But I still prefer butter.

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I moved across town recently and am slowly (but gratefully) digging out and trying to get a reliable wifi signal. I christened the new kitchen the other night by cooking a tasty, improvised (and fairly easy) tilapia dish. I don’t have pictures, but I can give you a rough idea of the recipe and promise you that it is good. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil and put four tilapia pieces in it. Season both sides with salt, freshly ground black pepper and parsley. Then, squirt the juice of one lemon over the fish and then pepper it with capers. Bake for 15 minutes and serve with a green salad. Next recipe I post will have pictures and specific steps and all the other things that make blog posts worth a damn. For now, just take my word on this, try it, and let me know what you think.

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Two blogs I enjoy right now:

* Amy Haimerl’s The Detroit House: Amy is a business journalist. Her husband is a jazz pianist. They bought a big old house with a great history and are trying to renovate it without killing each other. She’s writing about the experience with great humor and transparency, all against the backdrop of a city that is undergoing a renovation of its own. Great story here. You should check it out.

* Katherine McCoy’s Paleo Living in the Crescent City: Katherine is a marketing professional in New Orleans and a former swimmer for Tulane. Part of the fun of her blog is watching how she tries to pursue this healthy, paleo lifestyle in a city where indulgence is always just around the corner. Her discipline is amazing and her dog Pearl is super-cute.

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I’ll leave you with this view from my new backyard:

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Mad Men: The Italian Dish

Posted on April 24, 2013

donandsylviaOh good grief, Don Draper. Not only do you head back down the philandering path, but you take up with your doctor buddy’s wife, an Italian dish who seems just as practiced at cheating as you are. She lives downstairs! She’s friends with your wife! You’re pulling the whole love-in-an-elevator thing waaay before the rock band Aerosmith made it cool in the 1980s. Yes, that makes you ahead of your time, but just how desperate are you to be caught and ruined?

After the season premiere, I thought you had turned a corner because of all your guilty pillow talk. Now? Two more episodes into the season and I just don’t know about you. Didn’t you go through enough personal hell in seasons 3 and 4 to learn your lesson? How many more layers of hell must you face in order to see the light and be redeemed? So far, you seem to be caught in limbo between lust and greed, although I have to say that tormenting Megan for having a love scene on her soap opera smacks of a hell of a lot of treachery.

You bastard.

Don Draper, as a woman, I should hate you. I really should, you insufferable lady killer, you. But honestly…you’re a handsome fella, who is self-made and smart. Sometimes, you even mean well. Given your rich story line and all the trouble you’ve seen, I’m pulling for you, in spite of you. But I think that maybe you and Roger Sterling need to trade places on a psychiatrist’s couch.

Which brings me to Roger: I’m not worried he’s going to kill himself anymore. He’s back to being the silver-haired fox with the screamingly hilarious one-liners. Maybe the therapy is working. Or maybe he’s doing LSD again. The tweeting masses made much of Don and Stan’s secret meeting about the ketchup account on Sunday night, but smug-faced Sterling’s line about firing Harry Crane before he could cash his commission check was comedic gold.

Dear Matthew Weiner: More Roger, please.

Back to Italian Dishes: I made lasagna Sunday night. Part of the reason I did that was to honor Don’s Italian Dish, Sylvia. The other reason was to silence my seven-year-old, who has become as obsessed with lasagna as Garfield the cat. To make lasagna, you start with either marinara or bolognese sauce as the bottom layer. I chose bolognese…

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Top the layer of bolognese with a layer of cooked lasagna noodles. Then, top the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta cheese, followed by a layer of shredded mozzarella, followed by a layer of shredded parmesan. I added another layer of bolognese and noodles and wound up here:

IMAG1218I added ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan again, covered it with foil,  popped it in the oven for 50 minutes and then got this:

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Now that you’ve feasted on that, what about Don’s wife Megan? Now that her star is rising on daytime television, now that she’s being roped into these love scenes, now that Don is flipping out about it (all the while slipping downstairs for a quickie), what’s going to happen with her? Granted, Megan aggressively went after Don when she was his secretary, was promoted to copywriter (and the second Mrs. Draper) and then quit to pursue an acting career (helped along by Don, who cast her in a commercial). Let’s say she finds out about Don and Sylvia. Then what? When I ponder this question, I can’t help but think of the Gillian Flynn book Gone Girl, which involves a wife who vanishes on her fifth wedding anniversary. Megan might want to take a page from that book if things continue to go further south.

Although I’m wondering whether the secret ketchup account storyline could provide some clues about where this season is headed. Don and company were warned by their client Heinz Baked Beans not to go after the Heinz ketchup account, which they did anyway. They pitched ketchup, they lost ketchup, and then they lost baked beans too. Don said you have to dance with the girl who brung ya, but he didn’t in more ways than one. Since he can’t have it both ways at the office, is he about to find out he can’t have it both ways at home too?

Other notes:

* My inner Francophile loved that the show included “Bonnie and Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. Here’s a clip.

* “Mad Men” has always gotten kudos for its costumes. New York Magazine has a great slideshow of some of this season’s late-1960s-inspired looks, from fringed suede jackets to white go-go boots.

New York Magazine also interviewed Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten, who plays creepy Glen on the show.

The Hollywood Reporter lists its five worries about the show.

Florida Today and Wired  report that the show’s creators are pitching a new show about the space program in the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of the journalists who covered it. 

Mad Men Season Six, Episode One: A Meal Megan Draper Would Throw

Posted on April 8, 2013

Photo: AMC TV

Photo: AMC TV

This will not be a post about what happened on the much-anticipated two-hour season premiere of “Mad Men” last night because I haven’t seen it yet. I haven’t seen it yet, because in a high-minded effort to downsize, we ditched our unwieldy cable subscription for Apple TV.  No one really needs 5 bazillion television channels. And yet, now we’re paying a price for our practicality.

About an hour before “Mad Men” started, my husband learned that he would get an email from iTunes as soon as the episode was available. We waited for that email…and waited…and waited…and waited…and then re-watched the final episode of Season 5, which closes with Don alone in a bar. A pretty blonde approaches him and asks him if he’s alone. He gets that old look in his eye (you know the one) and immediately we sense that Season Six might be a doozy.

When it became clear that I would not see the premiere real time with the rest of the known universe, I began to feel like Megan Draper in the above photograph, who had been waiting and waiting and waiting for Don to come home from work one day. She had dinner waiting. He didn’t call to check in. When Don finally got home half-drunk after an afternoon in a Midtown bar with buxom redhead Joan Harris, Megan hurled a plate of spaghetti across the dining room.

While other “Mad Men” fans were nursing their Manhattans and wearing their sixties-inspired fashion last night, I was preparing a dinner that I now believe Megan (a French Canadian) would a. cook and b. throw at Don. The meal is adapted from Rachel Khoo’s relatively new cookbook “The Little Paris Kitchen.

Photo: Chronicle Books

Photo: Chronicle Books

The dish is chicken and mushrooms in white wine sauce. I served it with fettucine and French green beans.

A bit of backstory: I’ve been trying to recreate this dish since about 2009, after having it in a bistro just off the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. I never could get the consistency quite right. After picking up Khoo’s book, I realized what the problem was: All I had to do was make a golden roux.

Another adjustment I had to make: My daughter can be fairly picky, so I roasted the chicken instead of cooking it in the sauce. I know most French mamas would gently nudge their spawn to try the chicken in the sauce, but I feel we have to pick our battles wisely when it comes to the smaller set. Someday

At any rate, you make a golden roux with two tablespoons of butter and a 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. When the roux is the desired color, take it off the heat and slowly add about 2 cups of chicken stock to the mixture, whisking it until it is smooth. Return the pan to the heat and simmer it for ten minutes, whisking constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of stock at a time. At the end of ten minutes, add 1/2 cup of white wine to the sauce before letting it simmer for ten minutes more. While the sauce is simmering, saute the mushrooms in butter. Then take the pan off the heat and whisk in 4 tablespoons of heavy cream, a teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Then mix in the sauteed mushrooms.

The end result should look like this:

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Plated with a side of linguine, roasted chicken and steamed green beans, here is the final result. It’s a creamy, decadent dish that’s easy to make and quick too, probably something Megan Draper could serve Don on her way out the door to an audition, if she didn’t fling it across the room at him in frustration first.

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