Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Martha Washington's Great Cake

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Below is an article about the dish known as Martha Washington's Great Cake: 


MARTHA WASHINGTON'S GREAT CAKE

While perusing a website that featured different American dishes from the eighteenth century, I came across one that caught my interest. It happened to be a dessert created by First Lady Martha Dandridge Washington

The background for Martha Washington's Great Cake began near the end of the eighteenth century. In 1796, President George Washington had decided not to serve a third term as United States President near the end of his second term. Three months after issuing his farewell address in many newspapers, he returned to his estate in Virginia called Mount Vernon in time for the Christmas holidays. His wife Martha made arrangement for a "Great Cake", a cake filled with fruits and spices, to be baked and served on Twelfth Night, the last of twelve days of Christmas.

Great Cake had been a common dessert during the country's Colonial Era and tended to be very large. They were usually risen cakes, very similar to the Italian dessert known as Panettone. However, the "Great Cake" created by Martha Washington was somewhat denser than a panettone and possessed more fruit and spices.

The recipe for the First Lady's version of the "Great Cake" was discovered among her private papers by her granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter. It utilized different ingredients that were common in the "Great Cakes" of the past. However, Mrs. Washington did not personally prepared the cake herself. Instead, she utilized the kitchen slaves at Mount Vernon to do the actual preparation. The First Lady's original recipe consisted of the following:

"Take 40 eggs & divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well work’d then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powder’d to it in the same manner than put in the Youlks of eggs and 5 pounds of flower and 5 pounds of fruit, 2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine & some fresh brandy."

However, here is a more modern recipe for Martha Washington's Great Cake from the Seasonal Wisdom website:


Martha Washington's Great Cake

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 cups currants
*1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
*1/3 cup chopped candied lemon peel
*1/3 cup chopped candied citron
*3/4 cup Madiera, divided
*1/4 cup French brandy
*3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
*1/2 cup slivered almonds
*1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*1/2 teaspoon ground mace
*3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
*1 1/2 cups sugar
*3 large eggs, separated


Preparation:

Combine currants, orange and lemon peels, and citron in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of Madeira and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Stir the reminder of the Madeira with the brandy; cover and set aside.

When ready to bake the cake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Drain fruits in a large strainer set over a bowl, stirring occasionally to extract as much Madeira as possible. Add the strained Madeira to the set-aside Madeira and brandy.

Combine 1/4 cup of the flour with the fruit, and mix well. Add the almonds, and set aside. Sift the remaining flour with the nutmeg and mace.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is light. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating for several minutes after adding each ingredient. Whisk the egg yolks until they are light and smooth, and add them to the butter and sugar. Continue to beat for several minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Alternatively add the spiced flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and the Madiera and brandy, beating until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. By hand, gently fold them into the batter, combining lightly until well blended. By hand, fold in the fruit in thirds, mixing until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula, or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. If serving the cake plain, turn it out of the pan to cool completely. If finishing it with icing, turn the warm cake out of the pan onto a baking sheet, and proceed with the icing.

To ice the cake, spread Sugar Icing generously onto the surface, piling it high and swirling it around the top and sides. Set in the turned-off warm oven, and let sit for at least 3 hours, or until the cake is cool and the icing has hardened. The icing will crumble when the cake is sliced.


Sugar Icing Recipe for Great Cake

Ingredients:

*3 large egg whites at room temperature
*1 1/2 cups of sugar
*2 tablespoons rose water or orange-flower water


Preparations:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites on low speed, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar. After about 3 minutes, or when they just begin to form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and continue adding the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites form soft peaks.

Add the rose water, and continue beating to form stiff peaks. Use immediately to ice the cake.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

"I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU" (1951) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU", the 1951 adaptation of John L. Balderston's 1927 play, "Berkeley Square" and Henry James' posthumous 1917 novel "The Sense of the Past". Directed by Roy Ward Baker, the movie starred Tyrone Power and Ann Blyth: 


"I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU" (1951) Photo Gallery





































Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM" (2016) Review




"FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM" (2016) Review

After the 2011 movie "HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II" hit the movie theaters, I had assumed that would be the last film set in J.K. Rowling's "wizarding world of Harry Potter". Her 2007 novel, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was her last one in a series of seven books. But . . . lo and behold, Warner Brothers Studios, who had released the films based upon her novel, found a way to continue the series. The end result was the release of the recent film, "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM"

"FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM" is based upon a 2001 book written by Rowling. Somewhat. First of all, the book is not a novel, but a "scholarly" book about the magical creatures found in the Harry Potter universe. Second of all, the book was published under the fictional pen name of one Newt Scamander. What Rowlings, who served as the film's screenwriter, did was used the Newt Scamander pen name and transformed him into the movie's main character. In the film, British wizard and "magizoologist" Newt Scamander arrives by boat to New York City in the fall of 1926. Newt has arrived in the United States to release a magical creature called the Thunderbird in the Arizona desert. While listening to a sidewalk speech given by a non-magical (No-Maj) fanatic named Mary Lou Barebone, one of his charges - a creature called Nifler escapes from his magically expanded suitcase, which contains other magical creatures. Even worse, he meets No-Maj cannery worker and aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski, and they accidentally swap suitcases. As Newt struggles to regain possession of his suitcase, Nifler and other magical creatures that have managed to escape; he runs afoul of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), thanks to a demoted auror named Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein, eager to regain her position. Between his search for his missing magical creatures, regaining his suitcase from Jacob Kowalski and the MACUSA; Newt has to deal with a creature called the Obscurus, which uses children as host bodies and is causing destruction around Manhattan and not attract the attention of Ms. Barebone and her abused adopted children - including the adolescent Credence Barebone.

When I first saw "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM", I was surprised to discover that J.K. Rowling was the movie's sole screenwriter. I found this especially surprising, considering that one of the movie's producers happened to be Steve Kloves, who had served as screenwriter for seven of the eight "HARRY POTTER" movies. And I must say that I thought she did a pretty damn good job. At first, I thought Rowling had created a disjointed tale. The movie seemed to possess at least three separate plot lines:

*Newt's search for the missing creatures in his possession

*The Obscurus' destruction

*Mary Lou Barebone's anti-magic campaign


But Tina Goldstein finally exposed Newt's magical suitcase to MACUSA, Newt's plot line became connected to the story arc regarding the Obscurus. And both story arcs became connected to Mrs. Barebone's anti-magic campaign when audiences learned that MACUSA Director of Magical Security Percival Graves had recruited Credence to help him locate the child who might be the Obscurus. Seeing how these individual story arcs formed to become part of one main narrative reminded me of the 2008 World War II Spike Lee drama, "MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA". Speaking of World War II, I was happily surprised to learn that a major plot twist near the end of "FANTASTIC BEASTS" promises to lead to the featured a major plot twist that will serve as part of this new series' main narrative about the upcoming Global wizarding war that will play out during the rise of fascism and the war. How clever of Rowling.

What else did I like about the movie? Frankly, the production designs. I was very impressed by Stuart Craig and James Hambidge's re-creation of 1926 Manhattan. For me, among their best work proved to be their creation of a 1920s magical speakeasy operated by a goblin gangster named Gnarlack. Nor am I surprised that the pair managed to earn an Oscar nomination for their work. I was also impressed by Colleen Atwood's costume designs for the film. One, she did an excellent job in re-creating the fashion of the mid-1920s. More importantly, Atwood put an interesting fantasy twist for the costumes worn by the magical characters. For some reason, the clothes worn by the American wizarding community of the 1920s seemed to be more tasteful and elegant than those worn by the British wizarding community of the late 20th/early 21st century. And guess what? Ms. Atwood also earned an Oscar nomination for her work. The only problem I had with the movie's technical effects was Philippe Rousselot's photography. Mind you, I had no problems with the film's epic sweep. But I did not particularly care for the photography's brown tint - a color that I personally found unnecessary and rather disappointing. I realize that the story is set during the middle of autumn. But was it really necessary to photograph the movie with an unflattering brown tint to indicate the time of the year?

I certainly had no problems with the movie's performances. Eddie Redmayne did a marvelous job in portraying the introverted wizard Newt Scamander, who seemed to have an easier job of interacting with the creatures in his care instead of his fellow humans. I also noticed that in one hilarious scene, which involved Newt's attempt to recapture an African Erumpent at the city zoo, Redmayne displayed a talent for physical comedy by engaging with a "mating dance" with the animal. Katherine Waterston, whom I last saw in the 2015 drama "STEVE JOBS", gave a very intense, yet engaging performance as the demoted auror, Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein. I was impressed by how Waterston combined two aspects of Tina's personality - her driving ambition, which has come close to undermining her strong penchant for decency on a few occasions. Dan Fogler gave a very entertaining and funny performance as the No-Maj cannery worker and wannabe baker, Jacob Kowalski. Not only did I find his performance very funny, he also managed to create a strong screen chemistry with both Eddie Redmayne and Alison Sudol, who portrayed Tina's sister Quennie Goldstein. Sudol was an absolute delight as the carefree witch, who is not only proficient in Legilimens, but who also falls in love with Jacob.

I never thought I would see Colin Farrell in a "HARRY POTTER" film. To be honest, he never struck me as the type. But he seemed to fit quite well in his excellent portrayal of the ruthless and intense Auror and Director of Magical Security for MACUSA, Percival Graves. I was especially impressed with his performance in scenes that featured Graves' interactions with Credence Barebone - scenes that seemed to hint some mild form of erotic manipulation. Speaking of Mr. Barebone, Ezra Miller was in fine form as the emotionally repressed Credence. The ironic thing about Miller's performance is that at first, his character seemed slightly creepy. In fact, one could label his Credence a "young American Severus Snape with a bad haircut and no wit". Thanks to Rowling's screenplay and Miller's performance, I came away with a portrait of a sad and abused young man, who hand channeled his anger at those who exploit him via magic. 

"FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM" marked the first time in which I can recall a magical person of color as a major supporting role - namely the MACUSA's elegant president Seraphina Picquery, portrayed by Carmen Ejogo. Unlike characters such as Dean Thomas or Kingsley Shacklebolt, President Picquery was not simply allowed to speak a few lines before being swept to the sidelines or off screen. Audiences received more than a glimpse of the glamorous Seraphina. I was also happy to discover that President Picquery was not portrayed as some one-dimensional character without any depth. Thanks to Ejogo's skillful performance, she portrayed the MACUSA as a pragmatic and ruthless woman who could be quite ambiguous in her efforts to maintain order within the American wizarding community. I found myself equally impressed by Samantha Morton's portrayal of the religious fanatic, Mary Lou Barebone. What really impressed me about Morton's performance is that she did not resort to excessive dramatics to convey Mrs. Barebone's fanatical . . . and abusive personality. Morton gave a subtle and intense performance that conveyed a portrait of a rather frightening woman - especially one who was not magical. The movie also featured solid performances from Jon Voight, Ronan Raftery, Josh Cowdery, Faith Wood-Blagrove and Ron Perlman's voice. The movie also featured a surprise cameo appearance from Johnny Depp, whose character will play an important role in the sequel films that will follow this one.

I find it ironic that when I had first learned about the plans for "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM", I was against it. I thought J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers Studio had taken the Harry Potter franchise as far as it could go after seven novels and eight films. And yet . . . after seeing this film, I immediately fell in love with it. The movie had a few flaws. But I ended up enjoying it, thanks to the complex plot written by Rowling, David Yates' solid direction, the visual effects and the first-rate cast led by Eddie Redmayne. And now . . . I look forward to seeing more films about the different wizarding communities during the early 20th century.




Monday, April 17, 2017

"Irrelevant Bashing"




"IRRELEVANT BASHING"

I am another moviegoer who is getting sick and tired of the regarding Marvel/Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films and Warner Brothers/D.C. Comics’ D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) films. I have come across articles in which fans of both movie universes have accused the other of excessive bashing. 

I never understood this rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. To be honest, I find it unnecessary. And I believe today's audiences are getting too caught up in this so-called rivalry, thanks to the media, the studios and the two comic book conglomerates. I have seen both DC Comics and Marvel since "SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE" first came out in 1978. Why do certain films from one comic book company need to be better than those from another one? I have seen films from both that I found very impressive. And I have seen films from both that left me feeling disappointed. For me to decide whether the Marvel films or the DC films are better strikes me as ridiculous.

Some fans have claimed that since the MCU films perform better at the box office, they are without a doubt, the superior series of films. One major problem with this reasoning was the box office performance of the five major comic book movies released in 2016. Marvel’s "CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CIVIL WAR" proved to be the second (or third) biggest box office success of that year. Yet, D.C. Comics’ "BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE" proved to be that year’s fifth biggest box office success. Although both the DCEU’s "SUICIDE SQUAD" and the MCU’s "DOCTOR STRANGE" never reached those heights in terms of box office, both were successful and ironically, the DCEU movie proved to be a bit more successful.

However, I believe that box office performance is not a true reflection of a movie’s worth. No one knows the true reason behind the critics’ current and more positive reaction to the Marvel films. Not really. True, some film critics might honestly believe they are better. Then again, it is possible that some film critics were bribed to praise the Marvel films to the sky and/or bash the D.C. Comics movies. Personally, I had stopped regarding their opinion as fact a long time ago. After all, their opinions are dictated by personal tastes, or . . . other means, just as the opinions of moviegoers are dictated by personal tastes. - Yes, there might be more people who believe that the current Marvel films are better. But I have encountered a great number of opinions that favor the current DC Comic movies. And I cannot help but wonder if the MCU fans are simply the loudest. Also, judging a film based upon box office success or the number of fans for a certain franchise strikes me as irrelevant. There are a lot of fans of the "TRANSFORMER" films. A lot. Which is why those movies generated a good deal of money. In the end, it is all subjective. 

I am fans of both the MCU and the DCEU. I have been aware of some bashing of the MCU films by certain DCEU fans. However, their bashing seemed to be minor in compare to the consistent and excessive stream of criticism and bashing directed toward the DCEU films … and I believe this bashing is getting out of control.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of Marvel fans (or perhaps I should say the Marvel/Disney company is threatened by the three movies released by DC Comics between 2013 and 2016. These three movies signaled the end of the Marvel/Disney’s monopoly on a series of comic book movies based upon a collection of titles. The bashing for the DCEU has become utter ridiculous and excessive. I am also beginning to wonder if those who had accused Disney/Marvel of paying off the critics to bad mouth ALL THREE DCEU movies that have been released so far … had been right after all. Because this criticism has become over the top. It has now extended to both "WONDER WOMAN" and "JUSTICE LEAGUE" and they have yet to be released. Has bashing the DCEU movies become the "in" thing to do? Just as bashing the "STAR WARS" Prequel films is still a popular past time? I hope not. For I had almost bought it myself. 

When "MAN OF STEEL""BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE" and "SUICIDE SQUAD" first hit the theaters, I was reluctant to see all three, because I had stupidly accepted the bad opinions about them. Yet, I overcame my reluctance and went to see them, anyway. And when I finally saw those three movies, I enjoyed them. All of them. Very much. In fact, I regard "BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE" as one of the best comic book hero movies I have ever seen. And that was when I finally realized that a film critic’s opinion was worth dog shit. No more. I am simply going to form my own opinion of any movie I am interested in seeing. And I refuse to be some mindless drone and accept the views of others simply because it is the in-thing to do.

The idea that we are supposed to be accept that the Marvel or MCU films are better than the DCEU films, because many film critics or movie fans say so is irrelevant. It is irrelevant, because their views are matters of opinion. Preference. I do not accept this view "numbers matter" regarding the artistic quality of a film, because I do not share it. I have watched a lot of comic book movies in my time. From my perspective, only my opinion of an individual movie count. I do not care whether any those movies are based upon the titles of Marvel, DC Comics or any other comic book company that exists. And considering that art and entertainment are subjective in the end, what is the point in declaring that MCU films are better or that DCEU movies are better? It seems like a waste of time to me. I think we all should focus on which individual movies that appeals to us and not bother on which company makes the better films.

Warner Bros./DCEU is scheduled to release two movies in 2017. Disney/MCU has scheduled three to be released. I plan to see all five movies this year. And I will be damned if I pay attention to any film critics or moviegoer . . . until after I have seen these movies. Regardless of who performs better at the box office, I am the one who will decide which films I want to see and which ones I want to buy, regardless of whether they came from DC Comics or Marvel.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"THE BLUE AND THE GRAY" (1982) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from the 1982 miniseries, "THE BLUE AND THE GRAY". Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, the miniseries starred John Hammond and Stacy Keach: 


"THE BLUE AND THE GRAY" (1982) Photo Gallery








































































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