The Film: Monsoon Wedding – India
Just like White Wedding, the push and pull of modern versus traditional takes center stage as a wedding brings together family and friends. The layered story takes on serious issues but there is a beauty here from director Mira Nair that shows us the moments that matter.
Family gatherings are swayed by deep secrets and conflicting desires, but while all the big family drama is going on, there’s a little story happening between the wheeler-dealer event planner, hired to make the home beautiful with ceremonial tents and marigolds, and the quiet servant, Alice. This is the heart of the film.
The interwoven stories of the Verma family at times feel much like any other wedding drama but PK Dubey and Alice transform the story into a delicate and tender one. Their love is simple but Mira Nair and the screenwriter, Sabrina Dhawan, allow it to be a foil to all the other complicated emotional stories happening. Vijay Raaz and Tillotama Shome play the memorable characters. Without much dialog they manage to say so much.
The story manages to stay in the background for most of the film, and if closely examined there isn’t much to it, but it’s for those very reasons it evokes such a positive reaction. Yesterday’s post about Shall We Dance?, a film from Japan, had the same quality — seemingly simple but ultimately a reflection of reality.
Not every story is big and filmmakers should be empowered by Monsoon Wedding to tell the story in the scope that works for the story. Sometimes a small story leaves the biggest impression.
Holiday Spirit: +2
The Food: Chili Bake with Pumpkin Pecan Cornbread Topping
The cake trick started the idea for my creation — use only a can of plain pumpkin and a box cake. Mix them. Bake according to the package directions. And voilà!
So I thought, why not try it with cornbread mix. I followed the instructions for baking temperature and to let the mixture sit a few minutes before baking. Now, it didn’t rise the way the cake does, but the taste was gorgeous, a rich corn and pumpkin delight that mixed really well with the deep chili. Next time I might add the egg or maybe some flax to see if it will rise more.
The chili pie seemed like a perfect mix between a warm and hearty bowl of chili, the tasty but boring Shepard’s pie, and the one dish goodness of a pot pie.
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons± garlic, minced
- 2/4 cup ground beef
- 1 cup± kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/4± cup no heat jalapeno, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon± chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 cups yellow tomatoes, or can of crushed red tomato
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- salt, to taste
For the topping
- 1 box 8.5oz Jiffy cornbread mix
- 3/4 + 2 tablespoons pure pumpkin or sweet potato
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
Additional optional toppings:
- shredded cheese
- sour cream
Set oven to 400. In a pan fry the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and spices for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef. Fry for 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, the jalapeno and beans. Let it cook until the water boils off and the sauce thickens. Stir regularly.
When it’s thick, pour it into a casserole dish. Mix up the pumpkin cornbread. Let it sit in the mixing bowl for 5 minutes. Put it on top of the chili. Bake about 15 minutes.Top with cheese, broil until bubbly. Be careful not to burn the cornbread.
Feel free to play around with the cornbread recipe. The Jiffy mix asked for 1/3 cup milk and one egg. Next time I’ll put the same amount of pumpkin in and add 2 tablespoons of liquid egg. This mix would be great over any chili, as a topping for chicken potpie, over a thick beef curry, or just on it’s own.
Holiday Spirit: +4