Saturday, February 19, 2011
Eggs, Uggs & airplanes
Don't worry. I'm not reviewing old Leslie Nielsen movies all of a sudden. I'll get to the food in a minute.
As it turns out, I was on a plane to Chicago a week or so back, en route to what can only be described as a gluttonous food-and-drinkfest with friends who ought know better than to plan such events in the dead of a Midwestern winter. (Sorry, guys, somebody had to say it.)
Being an aisle seat-except-under-extreme-duress kinda guy, naturally I was called upon to rise up whenever the lovely lady stage left found it necessary or desirable to leave her seat and move freely about the cabin. And the lady found it necessary and/or desirable to move quite a lot.
The aircraft, you see, an Airbus A320 to be tiresomely precise, was crawling with an especially high-spirited band of travelers: young female gymnasts and their mommies on their way to a very important gymnastics competition. A highlight, I am certain, of the girls' young lives.
I would not describe it as a highlight of mine.
Still, I learned many important things on this flight midway across the land. First, it is possible for one mommy to hold an entire conversation with another mommy seated on the opposite side of the aircraft, while at the same time reading "The Catcher in the Rye." Second, I should have invested in Uggs boots when (well, if) I had the chance, for all but four persons (two girls, two mommies) in a group of perhaps thirty were wearing the furry footwear. Three, there is a magnificent place on this Earth that I simply must, MUST visit before I expire; it is called American Girl, and there is something terribly wrong with me for being previously unaware of its existence and place in our culture. And, lastly, it had been far too long since last I viewed one of the most poignant five-minute slices of film that I believe I have ever seen.
This, of course, is where the eggs come in. Because on one occasion when I was asked to go vertical, so to speak, there I saw, framed inside a 13-inch laptop screen two rows forward, Secundo (Stanley Tucci) and Primo (Tony Shalhoub) unveiling their prize timpano in the over-the-top dinner party scene from the 1996 indie film "Big Night."
Considering the effort that goes into preparing one, the timpano is without doubt the rightful culinary star of this film. But it isn't to me. And never has been. To me the dish that is most alluring, most romantic, is a bunch of scramble eggs that Secundo prepares in near total silence just before the credits start to roll. I did not get to enjoy this scene on the Flight of the Ugg-Wearing Gymnasts, but then the setting wasn't quite right for that anyway.
If you're not familiar, Secundo and Primo are brothers who have emigrated from Italy in the 1950s. They own a restaurant together, but it is failing and only weeks from being foreclosed upon, shuttered. A special dinner event (the big night) promises to save the business, but doesn't, and the brothers have a terrible altercation, both verbally and physically attacking one another before each runs off in the early morning hours.
If you've got five minutes, here's what happens once the fireworks clear. (Cristiano, the waiter lying on the counter, is the singer Marc Anthony, by the way.)
And so the flight to Chicago, with all the noise and the furry footwear and the artificially flavored cheesy snacks and the up-and-down relationship with the seat I was assigned, turned out not to be so bad after all. A couple nights after getting home I figured it was probably time to check out the movie again. Watching the final scene, hearing the eggs crackle in the pan, seeing Secundo acknowledge, then feed and then hold his brother Primo, then Primo hold him back... Well, I wouldn't be much of a brother if I didn't think about one of my own at a time like this. Now, would I?
I don't eat eggs with my brother Joe anymore, what with how many years it took for the docs to finally get his cholesterol under control. I've never flown anywhere with him either, come to think of it, though I would gladly suffer through another flight just like this one if he were on it with me.
My brother did accompany me on the Cyclone in Coney Island last summer, though. For my birthday.
Which, to me at least, is about as close as you get to flying without a boarding pass and a tiny bag of peanuts.