"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chicken Fricasse, and Melissa Gets Intellectual

Excuse me for just a minute while I go off-topic.

I think the Soprano's series finale last night was one of the most brilliant moments in tv's history.

Why? Television is by nature a passive activity. We are fed story lines, advertisements, laugh tracks. We talk about what we see, sure, and The Sopranos has got to be one of the most talked-about shows in decades. But still, in spite of all our different theories we all thought we would get spoon-fed David Chase's chosen ending.

Instead, at the last minute David Chase whisked that veil aside and implicated US in the ending. In those moments of blackness we realized that we had been regarding those strangers in the diner with suspicion bordering on paranoia--just as a mobster would do. David Chase has now placed the burden on us. What happened? We become co-creators, and if you want to witness the fury of unimaginative people, just do a blog search right now. This ending reminded me a little bit of the books my son read when he was younger, when you got to choose what happened, and the story proceeded from there.

What YOU think happened, what I think, ends up being a reflection of who each of us is and what we bring to the show. TV has NEVER been able to involve viewers like that. Now, you may have experienced this sort of thing before--but at a museum. Stand in front of any work of art and ask viewers what they think is going on. Abstract, representational, I will guarantee you that each museum-goer will give you a different story. The artist doesn't have anything to do with that. It's the viewer and the critic who find greater meaning by applying their own lives and experiences to the subject matter.

What do I think happened? Nothing. I think that Tony will eventually get fingered by the Feds on that gun charge. I think the build-up in the diner was a tease, meant to remind us that (as I said above) we have become as paranoid as "the family" about strangers and their intentions, reading dark motives into the simplest of activities, like a man going to the bathroom.

There are a lot of theories out there though (aside from the furious assertion that the whole scene was a cop-out and that a movie announcement will be forthcoming today)--the main one harkening back to a moment in the season premiere when Tony and Bobby were fishing on the lake, and Tony comments to Bobby that the end comes without you seeing it, that one day you're eating with your family and then it's just black. So there Tony is, eating with his family, and then it's just black.

I admit this theory has traction, and is more elegant than mine. But who would have killed him? Not the feds, nobody from Phil Leotardo's gang (they sold him out), and there's no evidence that anybody from Tony's crew likewise sold Tony out. All the possible suspects are dead or deranged. A few weeks ago I would have put money on Chrissy, but now he's dead and being adored by a cat. (Adrianna, reincarnated?) Last week I suspected Paulie, but he appears to be a loyal, if worriedly aging, part of the crew.

It has also occurred to me that perhaps Chase wanted to make the anti-Godfather finale. You remember that one, don't you? Everybody gets gunned down on the steps of the church? Here we have the other definitive Mob classic, and it doesn't end in violence (or maybe it does).

And yes, I too thought somehow our DVR bumped us off the program to record something else, or that the station had gone wonky, or that a satellite had fallen from the sky. Disaster, panic! And another tweak on the nose from David Chase.

Oh, the Chicken Fricasse. It was good, great actually. But who can think about food at a time like this?

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