The Film: 千と千尋の神隠し [Spirited Away] – Japan
I had heard of the works of Hayao Miyazaki and seen bits here and there, but watching this movie years ago was my first full experience. I watched the whole movie, internally on the edge of my seat. The story felt familiar, playing like an old fairy tale or legend that has become an accepted part of culture, but both the beautiful animation and the deeply emotional narrative went to fresh places.
From Wikipedia: A sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. Miyazaki wrote the script after he decided the film would be based on his friend’s ten-year-old daughter, who came to visit his house each summer.
The world, or rather other world, of this film is unbelievably bewitching. The story is so well crafted by Miyazaki’s emotional intelligence and it’s magic so grounded in the reality of the fantasy that it reminds me very much of reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Both authors seem th have a similar understand of the way a child’s mind works and manage to tell a great story for children and adults by never talking down to the audience.
The details in the animation are so intricate that the smells and tastes of the world come through the screen. The textures and light are pleasingly cinematic but the plot and technique go hand in hand. There is comedy and adventure, love, and loyalty — there are also elements of the macabre but it doesn’t turn into grotesque — there is an Alice in Wonderland tone to the fantasy. There are also some overlapping themes but this film breaks fantastic new ground.
The amazing animation is such a fertile visual environment that you will find yourself drawn in, even if you are not well versed in animation. Be warned however, you’re not in for princesses with evil step-parents and sassy talking horses. What makes it so interesting is that it is far from the typical animation.
If you’re a fan of animation, Miyazaki films, or even if you’re new to the genre — Spirited Away is fantastic entertainment with an emotionally savvy core to share and enjoy!
The Food: Soy Sauce & Butter Popcorn
If you’re looking for a hard popcorn this isn’t the recipe for you. I would suggest making this from the more robust kettle corn, with it’s crunchy shell, and some combination of powdered butter and soy sauce.
I’m sure there are many ingredients I could turn to that are more interesting but I happen to absolutely love the soy sauce I have. Until I found this one I always thought soy sauce tasted only of salt water. But this sauce has a delicious and complex taste I find myself tasting extra drops whenever I whip it out. If you like your popcorn warm and full-bodied, try this fantastic combination.
- 1/4 cup corn kernels
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or reduced salt margarine
- 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Cook the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a metal mixing bowl.
Put the butter, soy sauce, pepper, onion, and optional pepper flakes in a sauce pan on medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. The sauce should be a little caramelized from the soy sauce.
Now here comes a very specific step: I read in some other recipes that if you try to pour the sauce over the popcorn it will turn into mush. It will happen, trust me. The sauce is hot and is too liquidy to stick to the popped corn. What you do is take a high temperature rubber scraper and gather some of the sauce on in, then stir the popcorn with the scraper.
As the sauce cools you will be able to drizzle it from the scraper into the bowl without fully saturating the pieces. The point is to get droplets into the bowl, not a giant stream of hotness.
Continue stirring until the popcorn is evenly coated. Serve immediately.
It may be possible to bake the flavor into the popcorn by putting the oven on a low setting so that the moisture is removed. I was not patient enough to try and I happen to enjoy the warm, soft taste where the flavors bloom as you eat.
Apparently this is a popular flavor combination in Japan. If you’re looking for something a little more complex I suggest adding rice seasoning mixes, almonds, candied citrus peel, crushed fried onions, wasabi peas, sesame and honey, or include hot mustard in the sauce.