Of molluscacide and cinema. Of opening up and digging in.

On my break from my sorting and throwing, I set my DVR to the Olympics (so that I could skip the, tarnation, commercials). I cooked and ate and watched a movie.

For supper, I had mussels, steamed in white wine and Sambuca, garlic and parsley and chives.

Mussels are a favorite light supper.  They are fun and easy and tasty.  When you buy them, make sure to ask the fishmonger when they came in. If they were more than two days, buy something else. Ask the fishmonger to sort them. Think in terms of a pound per person. If the fishmonger is worth her salt-water seafood, she’ll put a little ice in with the critters. Get them home swiftly and into the fridge. You may have to scrub them off a little and “de-beard” them…no, nothing of Richard III … which reference will have greater significance below.

Give them a nice soak in water, so they’ll give up any sand they have. I do this a couple times. In the meantime, in a big pan you can cover tightly, I start with a tiny bit of olive oil, a tablespoon of finely chopped onion, and a couple cloves of minced garlic, a splash of white wine.

This time I added my own blend of dried Fine Herbes and then some Sambuca. Variations are nearly endless. Start the concoction to boil add the be-shelled critters, clamp down the lid, and wait. I like to put my ear close to the lid and listen for the grisly chorus of the their little screams of agony. Just kidding… they don’t scream in agony. Even if they did, who cares? I’m the top of the food chain. Hint: to help get over any squeamishness, it helps to name them individually.

They will open up pretty quickly, if you started the boil ahead of time. A glass lid helpful.  Do NOT try to pry open and eat any that didn’t open.  No.  Really.

“But Father! But Father!” you are saying, “You are a mean molluscacide! I will never eat mussels. You are against Vatican II. … but… What movie were you watching? Probably something patriarchal.”


The King’s Speech.

This is a great movie, which bears many viewings. It is one of three movies I have seen in the last 20 years or so after which no one left the theater, but watched the full credits. There are layers and layers of meaning. There is so much parent/child baggage in this, it rends the heart.

For me, we get in the movie – aside from any historical accuracies or inaccuracies – a beautiful profile of true courage. Historically, “Bertie” had to step up in a critical time, with disadvantages, in the view of his whole country. I like to think that the courage of the father of the present queen, who in a spirit service tackled his greatest fears in the sense of duty, inspired her through the last six decades.

The cast… can it be better than this? Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Claire Bloom, Guy Pearce and Eve Best as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson – creepy accurate, Timothy Spall, Anthony Andrews.

The dialogue is also terribly witty. A sample:

Bertie starts to light a cigarette from a silver case.

LIONEL: Don’t do that.

Bertie gives him an astonished look.

BERTIE: I’m sorry?

LIONEL: Sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.

BERTIE: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.

LIONEL: They’re idiots.

BERTIE: They’ve all been knighted.

LIONEL: Makes it official then. My “castle,” my rules.

And the scene when Myrtle comes home early… brilliant.

As the new King is watching a film reel of Hitler during a rally, little future Queen Elizabeth asks what he is saying.  Bertie says, “I don’t know, but he seems to be saying it rather well.”  With something of the Faramir about him, he watches with riveted and knowing trepidation.

Another point: the abdication of Edward.  The film underscores the contrast of duty and selfishness.  Edward (David) is set to do something that his Church – of which he is laughably the head – is wrong.  If he cannot force the Church to conform to him, he will abandon his duty.  Of course the Church of England, tied to the state, must inevitably follow common mores and trends.  Damning, really.  But I digress.

There are, by the way, good recordings of the real players available on YouTube. Fascinating.  And still in living history, though fading.

Back to sorting and the Olympics.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. acardnal says:

    I have watched the movie and own the dvd. After your review, perhaps I will watch it again. But not NOW. . . .the Olympics are on TV.

  2. albinus1 says:

    Unless they’ve done something else together that I’ve missed, the scene where Myrtle comes home early may be the first time Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle shared a scene together since they played Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, respectively, in the much-praised version of Pride and Prejudice in the 90s. [Right!] Apparently for awhile they were an item in real life as well.

    I agree that Guy Pearce and, especially, Eve Best were scarily spot on as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Haha, little screams of agony. This is my only complaint about seafood. Mussells are one thing, but thrusting an 80 year old lobster into the boil… oy! Just doesn’t seem right. [No. I disagree. It seems perfect.] That’s why I’d have somebody else do it. It’s like a Mafia hit.

    That was a good film. I related because that is my field, and it was a little disconcerting to have a promotion of practicing speech pathology with virtually no training. Risky to say the least. Common sense does go a long way however. Things are often alot more complex now for therapists but stuttering is still stuttering. His brother’s cruelty, oh, heartbreaking. There are many amazing satisfactions if one is a competent speech pathologist. So many ways to really help someone. I’m not sure it’s worth the infinite tortures of the preparation required, but, it is a great field.
    I love all those British films, PBS type films. I still love Sense and Sensibility, the exteriors and the interiors are wonderful, and yes, the DIALOGUE. Colin Firth has come to be a favorite. A good looking British man with good teeth.

    [My grandmother was a speech therapist for decades.]

  4. Cafeam Fruor says:

    Father Z., I’m a huge fan of Sambuca and of mussels, but I never thought to put them together! Sounds scrummy. How much Sambuca do you use per pound of mussels, or what ratio of wine to Sambuca? [Ummm… yes! I used about … that much.] I’d love to try this, but I’d hate to guess amounts randomly, since a little Sambuca goes a long way. [Just do it.]

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    @Cafeam Fruor:

    suggested Google search: Sambuca mussels

    Shop & Shop stores in New England package mussels, steamers, and cherrystones with labels giving both a “packed on” and “sell by” date.

  6. Cafeam Fruor says:

    Thanks, Charles. I do frequently Google recipes, but sometimes, Google is just overwhelming. There’s TOO MUCH info out there, and sometimes it’s nice just to hear a suggestion without hunting and sifting through a million pages of junk. Oh, well. Experimenting it is. :)

    [Poor baby! There is an old Latin adage: Fabricando fabri fimus. o{]:¬) ]

  7. Andkaras says:

    Albinus,I was thinking that very same thing the about the “Pride and Prejuduce” alumni,and didn’t think that Fr.Z would catch that being a man and all (can not get my husband to watch even one episode of that most excellent A &E production) …(although he could recite every line of “Saving Private Ryan”). Though I thouroughly enjoyed “The Kings Speech”,I made the mistake of watching it while my children were in the next room and had to scramble to hit the mute button at the one part. If you enjoyed that ,You may also like”Domnton Abby” with smoked oysters. [I like my smoked oysters with Laphroaig.] It’s the best thing since “Brideshead Revisited”. The book of course.

  8. Andkaras says:

    Oh, I mean” Downton Abby”.

  9. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Downton Abbey season 3 starts next month, with Shirley MacLaine as Cora’s mother from America! Can’t wait to see her grapple with Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess. I’ve got the popcorn all ready!

    re: King’s Speech

    Father, you mean to tell me that you didn’t see the Madonna version, with Wallis as the hero? Sure she was chummy with the Nazis, but that minor black mark was more than outweighed by her glorious adulterous virtues! All about “following your heart” or some such thing…

  10. Geoffrey says:

    GREAT FILM! I do not use the word “film” very often. Most modern movies are utter tripe. This was brilliant. My absolute favourite. I saw it in the theatre, and bought the DVD as soon as it came out.

    I thought one of the most touching scenes was where George VI broke down when reviewing the coronation plans. Many people admire and envy royalty, but they have a burden that very few can even begin to fathom.

    RE: Downton Abbey… I’ve been re-watching the first 2 series on DVD as I patiently wait for January. Incidentally, series (season) 3 is supposed to include a “Catholic story-line”.

  11. NescioQuid says:

    “A good looking British man with good teeth.” Where did we (as in Britain) get this stereotype…:-) We do have orthodontists here. on the NHS..! Still, speaking as a woman, bad teeth are not attractive – true, but suspiciously glo-white teeth are also off-putting.

  12. irishgirl says:

    I have not yet watched ‘The King’s Speech’ (the DVD is at the library, so I should borrow it sometime), but I did read the book on which it’s based. Great story!
    I wanted to see it when it was in the theaters, but I was a little put-off by the ‘R’ rating.
    The only clip I’ve seen was the confrontation between ‘Bertie’ and the speech therapist Lionel Logue in Westminster Abbey before the coronation, when Colin Firth yells out, ‘But I have to have a voice!’ and Geoffrey Rush answers calmly, ‘Yes-you do.’
    And just last week I rented ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (the A&E miniseries with Colin Firth as Darcy). Loved it! Yeah, I have to confess it: I’m a sucker for a good-looking Englishman! Sigh…..
    @ Kathleen10: I love the DIALOGUE in the British films, too, though I do wish they speak up a little louder and a little slower (maybe I’m getting deaf in my old age!). I especially adored ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (the version shown on PBS in 2008)-that got me kind of ‘hooked’ on film versions of Jane Austen’s novels!

  13. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    I’m with NescioQuid.

  14. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    I had to look up ‘R’ rating. No one should be put off by it. It’s a while since I saw The King’s Speech, and I’m straining to think why it was awarded. I seem to remember that at some point His Majesty uses vulgar speech, out of frustration with his speech defect. But, frankly, this film is much less offensive than most modern films – much less, for example than the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, which I understand had a lower MPAA rating.

  15. NoraLee9 says:

    For Cafeam Fruor:

    Father said use a splash. Tip the bottle up, the stuff goes splash. tip the bottle back down. Place the cork in.

  16. majuscule says:

    irishgirl– I too love the dialogue in (many) British films. I often watch with subtitles so as not to miss anything.

  17. wmeyer says:

    Cafeam Fruor: Cookbook measures are a starting point only. Anyone who cooks much develops an understanding of the materials and processes, and consequently tinkers with recipes. Generally not by measure, but by feel. Repeatability is for processed food; people who cook for pleasure do so for the act of cooking (creation) as much as to enjoy the result.

  18. Sorbonnetoga says:

    Kathleen10: While Logue certainly started with no formal training (except as an actor), he later contributed greatly to forming a professional body for speech therapists. He even managed to get royal patronage for the organisation. http://www.rcslt.org/about/introduction

  19. yatzer says:

    Comforting to hear someone else occasionally uses subtitles, or in my case closed captioning, for English to English. I can get a BBC accent just fine, but some other variations are more difficult. Especially difficult are the ones that make the gutteral “t” sound in the back of the throat.

  20. contrarian says:

    The King’s Speech is fantastic.
    I also very much like The Queen.
    Quit blubbering and do your duty.
    Love it.

  21. Cafeam Fruor says:

    wmeyer, I understand entirely. I cook by taste and eyes myself, and I rarely use exact measurements (except when it comes to baking, but that’s a different story), and when I use a recipe, I always change it up to suit my tastes. I’m only cautious with experimenting when I have really expensive ingredients (mussels and Sambuca both are far from cheap), because I can’t afford to ruin a dish on my teensy budget even in the name of the joy of creation. I’ll just have to dig into Google.

  22. Cafeam Fruor says:

    NoraLee9: Oh, I got the splash part, but that was just for the wine. Father’s measurement for the Sambuca was a “some”, but “some” could be anything from a smidge to a sip to a swallow to a gurgle to a whole shot glass or two. Alas! I guess I’ll have to start with a swallow (and then a sip for the cook!) and see how it goes. :-)

  23. Will D. says:

    wmeyer, I disagree, at least in part. When I try a new recipe, particularly if it’s a method or cuisine that I am unfamiliar with, I am always an unreconstructed ossified manualist. After I’ve cooked the recipe once or twice by the book, then I’m comfortable improvising around it.
    I sympathize with Cafeam Fruor. I live far from the sea, so getting live critters is very hard and expensive, so I’d be reluctant to wing it and risk making an expensive flop of a dinner.

  24. wmeyer says:

    Will D: I am not at odds with your approach. The first time I try someone’s recipe, I am inclined to follow, rather than improvise. After tasting the result, I normally know in which directions I will wish to improvise. Unfamiliarity is the main motivator–if the recipe is in some way novel, but otherwise familiar, I am less constrained. Your mileage may vary. ;)

  25. Will D. says:

    wmeyer, we do appear to be on the same page after all. Bon Appetit!

  26. Vecchio di Londra says:

    ” Edward (David) is set to do something that his Church – of which he is laughably the head – [believes] is wrong.” The irony of this situation was that Henry VIII declared himself ‘the head of the Church’ in order to do something very similar – not to marry a (twice-)divorced woman, but to divorce his own wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn. The further irony was that in 1936 it was the Archbishop of Canterbury (Cosmo Lang) who checked Edward VIII in his plan. Difficult to imagine Cranmer forcing the King into French exile and telling the country the monarch had “sought a craving for private happiness in a manner inconsistent with the Christian principles of marriage.”
    Britain gained greatly from Ed VIII’s replacement by the brave and modest George VI, who refused to negotiate with Hitler and coolly refused to leave London during the War, despite the bombings and the risk of invasion and capture.
    And aaaah, moules marinieres is a feast, and the quick and simple cooking makes up for all the fiddle with the rinsing and shell-banging (to close the open ones and check they’re alive before cooking them). Sambuca sounds an interesting touch – I bet an aniseed liqueur would also be good.
    In the UK the traditional season for mussels is September to April (‘whenever there’s an R in the month’) but I’ve noticed them on sale in June and July this year, so maybe that rule doesn’t hold any more.

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