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.


Claudia said...

The ending of that movie is indeed one of the more poignant scene in all of moviedom. I think it's time to see that movie again. Uggs are comfortable - what can I say? I wear my daughter's to go get the mail (and silly you for flying to the Midwest this winter). Will check out your polenta and make sure my vote counted!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love Big Night! My whole life living in Brooklyn I never rode the Cyclone..too chicken. my husband loves it!

I have a 2o hour flight coming up...I better get some Uggs! :)

PS I looked at your first post and now I finally know what is in your sauce in your header photo!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

PS I voted! :) Congrats!

Mister Meatball said...

Claudia and Pat:Thanks for voting. Very much appreciated.


Proud Italian Cook said...

Congratulations!!! of course you got my vote!( just did it)I just love your writing style, I invisioned everyone on that plane just the way you described it.
Big Night inspired me to make the Timpano, I've been making it for years, usually around Christmas, but the egg scene is priceless!
I might have to invest in some Uggs too.

Mister Meatball said...

PIC: Thanks for the vote, the kind words, and of course the timpano recipe.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

What kind of wine would you serve with scrambled eggs? You wouldn't just have a glass of water, milk doesn't do it.

Mister Meatball said...

THS: What, you got sumthin against milk?

No wonder you're walkin around w/ no teeth in your head!

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

So how was this foodie jaunt to Chicago, Mr. M? Heard you went to Spiaggia. How was the food and the atmosphere? Anything interesting happen while you were there?

Lea Ann said...

I've not seen that movie in years...great scene. I would not have done well on that flight. Better you than me. And congrats, heading over to vote.

Jeannie said...

Err...have no idea what the movie's about but I am sure I'll enjoy it if I can get hold of a copy, anything to do with food, I am gamed!:D I'll be heading to the top of this page to vote.

Mister Meatball said...

Lee Ann & Jeannie: Appreciate your taking time to vote, thanks so much.

THS: Cafe Spiaggia could have been better. Oddly, my meatballs are a lot better than theirs. Which just don't seem right.

The Publican was excellent. The Bristol and The Purple Pig were also good.

Loved The Parthenon in Greektown. Nothing fancy, just good, honest food. Spent all Sunday afternoon there, then collapsed.

Dante said...

Big Night was filmed in Keyport, NJ, in 1995 the week we moved to Hazlet, which is about 2 miles away. Love that movie!!

cman said...

I haven't seen that movie in a long time.. I love that scene.