When I was younger I never understood how adults could cry at movies. It seemed so strange to me that some fictional story and people who never existed could emotionally touch a person so much. It was an action I attributed to adult life and gave it little other thought than that.
The first story I cried to was actually from a video game. The lovers were forcibly parted: he would fade into non-existance and she would have to live her life without him. She runs to embrace him one last time but he suddenly fades away and she sorrowfully passes through him falling to the ground where she begins to cry on the floor. My heart absolutely broke in sympathy for her; this girl that never was. I called in sick to school that day and refused to leave my room for the next few hours.
After that, I found that I was easy to emotionally sway. A somber violin chord, the right words, well placed pathos all pulled me so far in that when things came to their teary conclusion I simply cried my eyes out. It happened when I watched the final few moments of Six Feet Under where I bawled and my boyfriend at the time had to come out and comfort me. In fact, those last six minutes still make me misty when I watch them as I think about my own family and mortality.
When I read Yiyun Li's book, The Vagrants, the ending left me almost hollow. It was as if the author had tapped me like a maple tree and drained every bit of happiness out of me - leaving only poignance. The characters had reached out of the pages and into my chest tugging them apart like bits of string from a frayed cloth. Every word was memorable and the book still resonantes with me.
Recently, I've become horribly addicted to watching the most modern seasons of the BBC's, Doctor Who. In one of the episodes, Billie Piper's character, Rose Tyler, is forever separated from her love, The Doctor. After two seasons of watching them grow so fond of each other only to be forcibly thrown apart by the universe itself I must admit I was more than a bit melancholy.
Excuse me a moment. I have something in my eye...
Why is this sort of story telling so rare these days? What happened to characterization, story exploration, and plot?
No, these days we get this.
We drown in a deluge of raw sewage that is reality television and poor storytelling. Bad Girls Club, Hell's Kitchen, seasons 2-4 of Heroes, the list goes on and on, and - even worse - gets renewed season after season.
Generally I don't watch a lot of television. Given, I have a few guilty pleasures. True Blood is one, but that's more softcore porn that anything thank you Ryan Kwanten being naked in every episode. I do watch The Real Housewives and The A-List, but only after I've had a glass of wine or two and I've finished a thirteen hour work day. In these cases I don't want to use my brain anymore and, in that regard, reality television certainly has a place in my life. The Daily Show for sure, though I wish John Stewart would take a note from True Blood and get naked every episode as well.
I also love a show called The Soup. It's a low budget bit on E! that simply shows clips of the worst that television has to offer. It's a chronicle of society's alarmingly rapid downward spiral in intelligence and propriety. Fascinating stuff. The show is an easy way to remind myself why I don't have cable (everything I want to see is online) and why I generally just don't watch television.
Now, normally, I rarely get to watch it since - again - no cable. However, the other day I was with my friends Paul and Henry playing catch up. It had been a while since we had seen each other and I offered to come over and make lunch. After so much arm twisting they reluctnatly acquiesced and let me cook for them.
We threw together a quick tomato tart and chatted over tea. We discussed the plusses and minuses of blue cheese, rental law, and our various upcomming vacations. Paul's bird, Scoop, a parrot of some sort with a prickly attitude and feathers the colors of candy thread threatened my life and I his. All and all, a lovely early afternoon.
Eventually, I started work on the dessert. A simple galette of honey-tasting Calimyrna figs and a smear of peach preserves. We (that being Paul and I, and Henry despised all blues; the poor, misguided boy) then dotted the top with Saint Agur blue; a blue cheese made in the Auvergne region of central France. It's a particular noteworthy cheese; a delicious double cream cheese that's incredibly creamy and smooth with a salty finish and only a hint of that twangy blue flavor so common in French blues. Plus, unlike so many other blues, it melts quite easily.
As it baked we moved to the sitting room and put on an episode of The Soup.
I was updated on the state of television. I have bad news, America. The state of television is absolutely terrible.
I'll be honest. I think I died a little inside and my opinion of humanity dropped a few notches.
We laughed at how outrageous all these shows were because, let's be honest, today's entertainment is terrible. I can, truly, see why people watch this stuff. If I had a sick day from home and wanted to let my brain melt modern television is happy to accommodate. It's a reason some of these shows succeed.
A beeping from the kitchen goes off and we slide the galette out of the oven. The crust is flakey, brittle to the touch and packed with butter. The figs are hot, tender, and sweet. I can't help but press each piece against the roof of my mouth and let it goosh apart into jammy mess. The St. Agur adds just the right amount of salt and cream, which has all caramelized and melted into the cooked peach preserves and left dark veins the color of charcoal streaking across the figs.
The three of us continued to chat. We watched a few oddly artsy pieces of film that made little sense to me and soon enough had to call it a day.
I went home and decided not to turn on the TV. Instead I cracked open my kindle to continue reading, The Help. I may have cried at one part. Just a bit.
Fig Galette with Blue Cheese
I use the pie crust recipe from Simply Recipes as it is easy and never fails. I just make the crust a day or two ahead before making pie or I just put it in the freezer for later.
Makes 2 galettes.
1 recipe pâte brisée, this will give you two chilled discs of pie dough
2 tablespoon peach jam (or any favorite jam or preserve)
2 lbs figs, quartered lengthwise
3 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Working with one disc of dough at a time roll out the first disc of pâte brisée on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick and 14-inches in diameter. Be sure to check under the dough to ensure it is not sticking to the work surface. Move to a baking sheet.
2. Spread out a tablespoon of the jam being sure to leave a 2-inch boarder around the edges. Place the figs in a tile-like circular fashion on top of the jam. Crumble the blue cheese liberally over the top. Afterwards, fold over the edges of the dough, pleating it as you go. Sprinkle lightly with a bit of sugar.
3. Bake for 45-50 minutes. The crust should be lightly browned and the fruit bubbly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.