I've been thinking a lot about comfort food this week as I begin to make some of my favorite fall recipes. Suddenly we're cooking and baking with lots of orange, from pumpkin to sweet potatoes! Autumn is a time for squash soups, for thick, warm breads, for butter and cinnamon and apples.
Yesterday the sweet girl and I had a poetry tea party (I guess we could call these "poet-teas"?) the first of many, I hope. We'd baked our traditional pumpkin-butterscotch cookies the day before, and had some of those along with tea in thin white cups (she wanted peppermint with good dollops of milk from the little pumpkin-shaped cream pitcher, and I had decaf British Blend, my current favorite) all on an autumn-patterned cloth. We read fall-like poetry and just other poems that struck our fancy: Robert Louis Stevenson, David McCord, Christina Rossetti, William Blake.
I've been feeling extra tired this week. So last night, with D. having another late night at work and the sweet girl in bed, I crashed on the couch in front of one of my favorite "comfort food movies" -- The Sound of Music.
You know what I mean by comfort food movies -- the kind of movies that are so deliciously familiar that you feel like you're eating your mom's mashed potatoes or your favorite homemade mac and cheese. It's nourishing but not surprising to your palette -- you know just how it's going to taste, and it always feels great going down. You know it was made with love. You know other people love it too. Not twists or turns in the story recipe, which you know by heart, so it sometimes makes you sleepy (and you can probably quote from it in your sleep too). That kind of comfort food movie.
The Sound of Music is one of my favorite such movies. Besides the story, acting and singing (all of which I love) I love the feelings it evokes for me. I always remember the wonderful evening, oh so many years ago, when the film first burst onto my consciousness. I went with my dad and older sister to see it on a big screen at the Byrd Theater in Richmond. The Byrd was a majestic movie house from a bygone age of film-going, and it forever ruined me for utilitarian multiplexes. It had ornate decorations and red velvet seating, a "mighty wurlitzer" organ, and a lobby with a shimmering chandelier. I still recall how stunned I felt when we stepped back into that lobby at intermission (yes, a real intermission with an orchestral interlude). Remember what happens right before the intermission? Maria has just packed her bag so she can run away to the abbey, away from the dashing retired naval captain whose love she'd never sought but whose love she nevertheless finds herself longing for, and as she leaves she casts one last yearning look around the huge entrance-hall to the von Trapp family mansion. You know, the one with the shimmering chandelier. When we stepped out of the film world and into the lobby of the Byrd, I am pretty certain I just stood there and gawked. I was sure somehow the movie world had extended into my real nine-year-old life and I was just plain dazzled.
So every time I watch The Sound of Music, that memory watches with me. But so many other memories come along for the ride too. After seeing it on the big screen, I watched it for many years in its choppily edited version on network television. I still know all the places where the t.v. version made cuts, because I still find myself startled when the actors and actresses move into those bits of speech or song, as though they snuck them in as extras when I wasn't looking. After all these years, it still feels like bonus material.
And of course, I know the songs by heart. My sister and I used to sing along with the record album...yes, I did say album...and I know Julie Andrews' inflections and phrasings so well I tend to note the places where she pauses for breath. I also know all the places where she soars on the high notes, so I can adjust the volume on the remote control accordingly (since we're spread out on one floor, late-night movies tend to keep other people in the house awake, like tired seven year olds who should be sleeping, so I'm careful with volume).
Did I mention that Christopher Plummer was my first "movie crush"? I still melt into a puddle over the love scene in the gazebo, even though I've long since read and heard the things Andrews and Plummer have said about the hilariousness of that shot, their unprofessional bout of giggles, and how Robert Wise basically gave in and shot it in semi-darkness in an attempt to calm things down. He liked the silhouette so well he decided to keep it.
And I'm amazed that I still find things to notice in the movie that I've never really noticed before, like the shot that pans upward at the wedding, focusing in on the beautiful church altar, then swings to the bell-towers as we note the passing of time, then seems to hover in mid-air as we find our focus on a nazi flag and a square full of goose-stepping soldiers. I got shivers last night seeing that, noting how quickly and powerfully our attention was moved from the altar to the flag, and how that seemed to symbolize, in just a few seconds, exactly how Germany had swallowed up Austria. Only of course, not swallowed it up entirely, as we see in subsequent scenes of quiet courage.
What a great movie. What a great week for comfort food.