If you wondered where all the good comedies went, the answer is France. Remember when going to see a comedy didn’t involve a woman falling? Didn’t involve R-rated humor about personal problems? Didn’t involve Judd Apatow, hanging over, or bridesmaids? Me too.
In fact, when I started watching French comedies with relative frequency last year, I realized just how bad modern American comedy had become and just how many remakes Hollywood was trying to steal from France; the versions of which were about the only interesting concepts up on silver screen.
The difficulty is, no one can replace these actors. There is no American version of Charlotte Gainsborough. And even though in France, Alain Chabat known for being the voice of Shrek, which might make him the French Mike Meyers, there is no American Alain Chabat. That’s not to say they won’t try, if they haven’t already, but the point (again) is why! The comedy in I Do doesn’t need translated.
Every little bit of humor is laugh out loud funny. Literally. No esoteric musings or deeply nuanced references. But it isn’t too broad either. The witty story moves along with perfection. It doesn’t idle where you think it might, it doesn’t hedge its bets and then give you the expected. The most delightful thing about it, apart from the charming chemistry between the lead actors, is how the film uses the concept and moves with it. The script is not just a idea with no where to go, nor does it seek to squeeze very drop like blood from a stone. It stays perfectly in tone as it gives both the comedy and character.
All of the scenes make it worth recommendation bu there are two things which make it entirely lovable. First is it’s view of men. Unique and true, not tortuously playing with gender issues, but genuinely making an important element to the story worth talking about. Even if its done through humor. The second, is how quotable it is. I haven’t had that from a movie in years. In my year+ of watching French comedies I Do stands heads and shoulders above the crowd, which makes it the cream of the cream of comedy.
The Food: Kashmiri Chai
I remember the first time I had chai. I was four years old and we were in Pakistan visiting my brother and sister in boarding school. My mom and I sat outside a chai shop on the precarious patio perched on the side of a cliff. I remember it was cold and the chai was sweet and warm.
I don’t remember the first time I made the chai myself but as I was looking around the internet tonight I came across a recipe for Kashmiri chai. The version I make, masala chai, has a black tea base. But Kashmiri uses gunpowder, saffron, and ground almond. I knew of making green tea chai but I hadn’t heard of the addition of the other two ingredients. Which I happened to have. And a drink was born.
I’m pretty sure this will be my go to recipe. I like all versions of homemade chai but this combination seemed extra special tonight. Maybe because it’s so cold outside, maybe it was the Spekulatius I found in the pantry that went so well maybe it was the fuzzy feeling sitting by the tree decked with lights and watching black and white Christmas movies with a cat purring on my lap. Maybe it was all three.
An exact recipe is difficult for any chai. All ingredients are optional and the ratios are purely to taste. I suppose that means you can do whatever you want, and in the end, a little bit of culinary freedom is all I have to give.
Loose gunpowder tea — I’m not sure just any green tea will do as gunpowder has a distinctly deep flavor. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. Use half black and half green.
Ground cinnamon — I have a cinnamon grinder and I find it’s far less wasteful than using a whole stick when I’m only making it for myself.
Cardamom — Break open the thin shell and use the seeds. The pods are best but ground can be used. The pods are sharp and the ground is mellow. If you want a richer flavor, crush the seeds or use a little of both.
Ginger — Fresh is better than ground as it imparts a living, sweet and juicy flavor. Ground will work but it will taste more peppery.
Saffron — Yes, it is a rare product. Most pantries will never miss it. But I happened to have some Turkish saffron so I used a tiny pinch. If you don’t have it, you won’t miss it. I promise.
Clove — This spice is left out more than any of the others due to taste. But I think it’s an important part of the depth of flavor for any chai. It is often substituted but I happen to like it so I used two whole cloves. I highly recommend using whole cloves as, just like ginger, it tends to be more peppery in the ground state.
Almonds — The idea is to use finely ground almonds, almost a dust, and add them at the end. Last night when I made the meringue cookies I blanched and toasted my own raw almonds so I felt I had done enough to keep my gourmet status and went for almond extract. In future, I will make almond dust because the little nutty taste made a big impact. It is the star of this recipe and definitely separates it from it’s black tea cousin.
Milk/ Sugar — This category has the most variations. Not only of amount but of variety. It is possible to use any product of similar quality. Soy, rice, grain milks. You can even get creative and use chocolate milk, Silk eggnog, flavored creamer, dry milk powder. Usually I would use whole milk and add stevia, but I had some leftover sweetened evaporated milk from the macaroons so I added that and some whole milk and left out any sweetener.
Just as there are many ingredients for chai, there are many ways to prepare it. I like to toast my spices in a pan for a moment to release their full flavor. Then I boil water, add the spices, tea, and milk and keep it on a low heat. If you do use whole milk be careful not to boil it as it will form that dreaded skin. There are two ways to tell when it’s done. The first is a darker, richer color. But with gunpowder tea that method isn’t as obvious. The second is smell. It doesn’t matter which version of milk you use, you should be able to note a fuller bouquet when the milk is warmed to the right temperature. If you’ve never made chai before there will be a lot of room to play around until you find the right combination for you. It might take a few batches to make it your recipe but — hey, more chai.