November 2, 2010

What to Eat While Watching an Argentinean Film

Perhaps as you read this you may be wondering what the three Argentinean films (plus one American film about soccer) have to do with a blog about Argentinean recipes.

I mentioned in my previous post that I did some work for the Starz Denver Film Festival this year, screening films and writing program notes.  But beyond that, I find that watching films are a wonderful way to learn about culture, language and even the thoughts and mannerisms of a country's people.  I was lucky enough to get to watch a number of wonderful independent films this fall, so I urge you, even if you don't reside in Denver, to check out the lineup on the SDFF's website.  (And that goes for films from any culture–the festival's featured country this year is Iran, which has produced some unforgettable entries that are included in this year's festival!)

Many of these films show up on Netflix, though some are not yet released, however, they may soon be available for rental.  The three Argentinean films in this year's festival cover with breadth and depth the experience of many of Argentina's people, whether it be in the heart of fast-paced Buenos Aires, the middle of the Dirty War of the 1970s, or the intricacies of a middle-aged couple's marriage. 

I don't know about you, but I can't even think of watching a movie without something to eat. The recipes I'd recommend to accompany these films aren't anything you'd sneak into a movie theatre, rather, a themed menu of things to make at home while watching the film.  (Or if you live in Denver, before or after the screening at the film festival!)



Ricardo Darin (also star of the excellent and suspenseful Nueve Reinas, one of my all-time favorite movies) stars as a corrupt, ambulance-chasing lawyer who scams insurance companies.  He meets Lujan (Martina Gusman), an ER doc who copes with her work stress by shooting dope into her foot, and the pair soon strike up a romance, despite the unlikelihood of any redemption.  Filmmaker Pablo Trapero again uses the hellish setting of the Buenos Aires neighborhood San Justo for Carancho, depicting the gritty side of Argentinean society crushed by ongoing economic and moral crises.

What I'd Eat With CARANCHO: The first thing I'd want after watching the epic action and violence of this film is a stiff drink.  I'd start with a Fernet & Coke, or maybe one of the large bomber-sized bottles of Andes beer that they sell in Argentina.  Next, I'd want a plate of Empanadas Mendocinas, followed by a Milanesa with Papas Fritas (French Fries)–a Buenos Aires classic, the food of everyman.  I can just imagine Ricardo Darin's character, Sosa, sitting down in a seedy neighborhood cafe for a greasy Milanesa and fries as he drags on a cigarette.   If I still had room, I'd finish with Flan for dessert–it's a classic that can be found on any menu, from the most humble street cafe to the nicest restaurant.



Argentinean director Natalia Smirnoff's directorial debut is about a woman who faces the changes and challenges of middle age, with the pieces of her life being put together and falling apart.  Maria Onetto is turning 50, and in the opening scene of the film, bustles about serving a feast to her guests.  When she discovers a puzzle in the pile of gifts, she stays up late putting it together, and then becomes obsessed with more and more challenging puzzles.  She meets Roberto, a charming bachelor who becomes her partner in training for an upcoming puzzle competition.  But in spending so much time with her puzzles, Maria drifts apart from her husband Juan and her suburban family.

What I'd Eat With ROMPECABEZAS (PUZZLE):  Any birthday celebration calls for Limonchamp, the combination of lemon sorbet and champagne.  And typical party fare would include the Argentinean potato salad Ensalada Rusa, and finger foods like Pionono and Empanadas.  (There are several more variations under the recipes tab).  Desserts would include Panqueques and Alfajores de Maicena, both filled with lucious Dulce de Leche and served with a strong cup of Cafe.




I'll tell you now, since I wrote the notes for this one–it's a tearjerker, but absolutely my favorite of the films I screened.  But I can't even get through the trailer without crying, so there.  The film is the real life story of director Fábian Hofman's life during the 'Dirty War' of the 1970s, where  some 30,000 young people in Argentina (accused of being dissidents) disappeared under military dictatorship.  Young Javier idolizes his brother Adrian, who is involved in anti-government activities.  When Adrian disappears, Javier is sent to live with relatives in Mexico. 

Watch for Thursday's post, where my interview with director Fábian Hofman will be up!

What I'd Eat With TE EXTRAÑO (I MISS YOU):  In a way, this movie is about a homecoming, whether it be Adrian's at the beginning of the film (the scene in the trailer), Javier's when he returns from exile, or the homecoming Adrian never gets.  I'd serve a lineup of classic dishes like Provoleta, (Grilled Provolone Appetizer) Raviolis Caseros, (Homemade Ravioli) and Pollo con Papas (Chicken and Potatoes).  For dessert, I'd serve a chocolate Torta Mojada (wet-style cake) or a Pasta Frola  (Linzer Torte with Quince filling) and a Yerba Mate.


Ok, Pelada is an American film, so why is it here? 

While the people of Argentina may come from all different ethnic backgrounds and beliefs, the one thing they all practice with religious fervor is Fútbol.  College Soccer stars Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham take us along as they travel the globe in search of the pick up games of soccer that happen in alley ways, rooftops and yards–anyplace that can serve as a field.  Pelada looks at the importance of soccer in people's lives around the globe, whether they be men, women, children, or of different ethnicities.  The game is a sort of universal language, with unspoken importance in communities and in cultures.

What I'd Eat With PELADAI'd start with a couple of bottles of Jerome Beer, the best micro-brew in the country, which comes from Mendoza.  I'd definitely be eating deep-dish Pizza Casera, a plate of Empanadas, and some Papas Fritas with Salsa Golf. (Which can also go on the pizza.)  For dessert, Dulce de Leche Gelato or  Churros.

This concludes our culinary and cinematic journey.  Thanks for going along with me, and see you at the Starz Denver Film Festival!

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