Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 24 2015 8:39 PM

Katniss Pines for Pita Bread in This Terrific Hunger Games Parody

Through three books and four movies, Hunger Games fans have witnessed Katniss Everdeen reject the advances of her hunky best friend, Gale Hawthorne, for the company of the kind, soft-spoken Peeta Mellark, her one true love.

Or so we thought. Katniss and Peeta always seemed a bit off as a couple, and the latest video from YouTube parody channel PistolShrimps shows why: It’s pita, not Peeta, that Katniss desires. Turns out all the Mockingjay wanted was some soft, gently leavened flatbread.

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Nov. 24 2015 6:33 PM

Claire Vaye Watkins’ Tin House Essay “On Pandering” Has a Very Limited Definition of “Male Writers”

This week, Tin House published a meaty essay by Claire Vaye Watkins about gender, reading, publishing, misogyny, motherhood, art, and—most of all—pandering. The 5,000 word piece—originally presented as a lecture at the 2015 Tin House Writers’ Workshop (where, a disclaimer informs us, it was “met with enthusiastic applause”)—ties together several threads. For one, how the sleepy and picturesque college town around Bucknell caters to rich students seeking a safe form of self-discovery. Also, how an email from a prominent literary editor exemplifies sexism in the writing world. How Watkins’ whiteness gives her assurances that writers of color don’t have, empowering her to more easily lay claim to the “writer” label. How she feels like her motherhood erodes her right to that label. How she wants us to respond: “Burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”

Nov. 24 2015 4:45 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts’ transformation from maligned cafeteria gross-out fare to foodie luminary is complete. Trendy New York restaurants gussy them up with pig fat and sell them by the tiny $8 plateful;  David Changs Brussels sprouts at New York’s Momofuku were so popular he had to take them off the menu for his cooks’ well-being. Popular food bloggers Ree Drummond (“absolutely to die for”), Deb Perelman (“I love those tiny cabbage-heads”), and Heidi Swanson (“it's not unusual for us to cook them … two or three times a week”) have sworn their allegiance.  “I love Brussels sprouts,” shout t-shirts, bumper stickers, and baseball caps.

We get it: Brussels sprouts are delicious. Named for the Belgian capital, though they originated in ancient Rome, they’re pleasantly dense—all those tightly packed layers of leaves—and milder than their cruciferous relatives (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). It’s pretty hard to ruin them unless you boil them to death or undercook them. Frankly, it’s their erstwhile bad reputation, not their newfound popularity, that’s baffling (although some studies have suggested that some people’s loathing of the vegetable is due to genetics rather than philistinism).

Making Brussels sprouts delicious requires the usual suspects for making things delicious: fat, salt, and good timing. Fat is necessary less for its flavor than for its browning and crisping properties—without it, your Brussels sprouts will never turn golden, crunchy, and gently caramelized. Salt is obviously a universal flavor enhancer, but it’s especially necessary to balance out Brussels sprouts’ inherent sweetness. And timing is more important for sprouts than for many other vegetables: You need to get them both 1) fully tender, but not mushy, and 2) deeply browned, but not charcoal-like.

My suggestion: soy-roasted Brussels sprouts, which might be called, more accurately, soy-baked-and-then-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Nov. 24 2015 4:12 PM

Who Was Net Guy? What’s Up With the Tiger Lady? A Mockingjay Part 2 FAQ.

If you’re a Hunger Games superfan, you probably reread Suzanne Collins’ books and anticipated every scene in the final movie, Mockingjay Part 2. If you’re not Hunger Games superfan, you might have been confused by a few plot points in the recent film, even if you’ve watched the other Hunger Games movies. What was that black, oily stuff? How did that guy get caught in that net? What were those zombie-like creatures that attacked Katniss’ squad in the tunnels?

To help you out, we’ve answered a few frequently asked questions about Mockingjay Part 2. (Needless to say, this post contains spoilers for the book and movie.)

Nov. 24 2015 3:41 PM

The Five-Ingredient, 20-Minute Holiday Dessert That Your Guests Will Go Crazy For

This post originally appeared on Food52.

This holiday back-pocket dessert goes out to all you non-bakers, and anyone who’s feeling a bit tuckered from the more elaborate, delayed-gratification baking projects of the holiday season. There is no delaying of gratification here.

With five ingredients and about 20 minutes, you’ll have a pure, joyful dessert that looks festive as all get out, which you will have casually winged together as others clear the table or between rounds of after-dinner charades. Your guests will descend upon it, hungry for a respite from pie and cake and all the holiday heft. 

The recipe is Baked Caramel Pears from Lindsey Shere—pastry chef at Chez Panisse for 27 years and the author of Chez Panisse Desserts—and has a long, but long-dormant pedigree: Florence Fabricant wrote about it in the New York Times in 1993, Marion Cunningham in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998. Almost two decades later, it’s time we resurrect it.

Nov. 24 2015 2:09 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Stuffing

For a holiday that ostensibly brings Americans together, Thanksgiving has a knack for highlighting regional fault lines and exposing local prejudices. Consider stuffing, the holiday’s quintessential side dish. The very word invites conflict, since many Southerners call it “dressing,” whether it’s stuffed into a turkey or baked separately from the bird. But the vital controversy arises over substance: Depending on where you’re from and who your ancestors were, you might make it out of white bread, out of rice or other grains—even out of chestnuts.  

Nov. 24 2015 1:48 PM

The Newly Unearthed Faulkner Play Suggests That Faulkner Maybe Actually Hated Women

Welcome to the year of Lazarus literature, in which long-lost works keep rising to walk the earth. Now Andrew Gulli, the same Strand editor who in August claimed to have discovered the unknown Fitzgerald short story “Temperature,” has allegedly found a never-before-published Faulkner play in the University of Virginia’s archives. Setting aside Gulli’s suspicious luck (for one, he tends to resurrect texts by writers, like Mark Twain and John Steinbeck, in whom there’s an enduring interest; where’s the exhumed John Dos Passos manuscript, Andrew?!), the one-act comedy does seem to show Faulkner in lighter spirits. The play’s called ‘Twixt Cup and Lip. In it, two men bet on whether a beautiful and airheaded young woman will marry one of them after an hour. Faulkner is known for densely wrought modernist brocades like The Sound and the Fury, lyrical tragedies about a shadowed Southern past. This script is something different: namely, one of the most flippantly nasty pieces of literature I have ever read.

Nov. 24 2015 12:57 PM

The Simpsons Pays Tribute to Paris (via Hamilton)

Viewers who kept their eyes peeled during Sunday night’s episode of The Simpsons noticed that the show paid a subtle tribute to Paris, following this month’s horrible attacks. This tableau briefly flashed by during a montage of Broadway marquees:

The tribute has levels, more than many people seem to have realized, so let’s break it down:

Nov. 24 2015 12:30 PM

An Alternative Thanksgiving Pie for Pumpkin Haters

There is a small but vocal contingent of people who, inexplicably, dislike pumpkin pie. Many of these people are children. At least 116 of these people belong to the Facebook community called “I Hate Pumpkin Pie.” One food blogger unfathomably decried pumpkin pie filling, which she said “so often winds up turning even a perfectly good pie crust into sodden mush.” (She did concede that her dislike was “almost un-American.”)

If you have the misfortune of counting one of these pumpkin pie haters among your kin, what should you feed them for dessert on Thanksgiving? The obvious answer is pecan pie. But there is another option that looks almost exactly like pumpkin pie when it comes out of the oven (if not when you cut into it), yet tastes vastly different. It is suitable for pumpkin lovers and pumpkin haters alike. It is honey custard pie.

Nov. 24 2015 11:01 AM

Tom Hooper on Casting Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl and the Trans Community’s Backlash

The Danish Girl, opening in limited release Friday, is based on the real-life story of early 20th century painter Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener), one of the first known persons to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and her wife, painter Gerda. Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the novel of the same name stars Eddie Redmayne as Lili and Alicia Vikander as Gerda, and is a major contender in the Oscar conversation. I spoke with Hooper (Les MisérablesThe King’s Speech) about his aesthetic choices for the film and how he felt about the pushback he received from some members in the LGBT community for casting Redmayne, a cisgender male actor, in the role of Lili.

The film looks gorgeous, and I’ve seen lots of critics compare its aesthetic to a painting—what sort of images and paintings inspired you during the filmmaking process?

I was very inspired of [Vilhelm] Hammershøi, who’s this amazing Danish artist who kind of slightly obsessively painted his own apartment. [It] had this very Danish sort of blue-gray walls and there’s this very sort of tightly austere palette in different shades of blue—there was something about the kind of loneliness and the starkness and the beauty of that that somehow spoke visually to me of what it might be like to really be living as Einar. There’s something claustrophobic about it that I think spoke to something slightly unsettling, which is the mood I wanted to create ... And so we built a set that was sort of based on very specific Hammershøi paintings … what’s behind Eddie Redmayne is basically exactly a Hammershøi canvas.