Restorative rest or rant?
He offers you
A week in the life food styling for Hannibal:
Feb 15 - Preliminary draft, unnumbered
This script has not yet been broken into numbered scenes, so I mindfully ignore that page 35 has a two-page scene with Hannibal serving Abigail a lemony dish of what looks like veal. I’m still wrangling sheep’s gut for the previous episode and haven’t got time to sketch up a veal picatta.
However, while I sleep I dream of veal noisettes mingled with char-grilled lemon halves nestled in leafy lemon boughs woven like a laurel crown on the antlers of a black stag.
I wake up and sketch. Mid-way through the script, Will is hospitalized. Hannibal brings him a steaming Tupperware container of a restorative breakfast.
Feb 16 – Preliminary sketch
|Sketch for draft version of the script|
Feb 20 - Preliminary Production Draft released
Poor Will is in hospital – Hannibal brings him a Tupperware container of amaranth porridge garnished with cruciferous vegetables, legumes and grains. This does not mean he is too busy to make dinner – a guy’s gotta eat - but now his guest is Bedelia, not Abigail. And although the script is being totally rewritten and the Dining room scene is represented only with sluglines, I’m saddened because I know that now, Hannibal’s going to have to do the dishes himself. Madame duMaurier is not the kind of woman who helps you wash up.
|Sketch for draft script|
Feb 20- One-Liner issued with only Day One and Day Two bookable
Prop Master says “get the ball rolling” – meaning the conversations with Jose Andres and OKs from producers. OK on the hospital scene. It will be a Chinese medicinal soup my father used to make. That was decided last night in a volley of late night emails between Bryan Fuller, Robyn Stern and myself. Which is a good thing because it is first up on Day Two. Not so OK on the Dining Room Scene which is nowhere to be seen in the One-Liner – the day-by day shooting schedule.
|Chinatown shopping - full of fun surprises|
I spend the morning gathering fresh black chickens from Chinatown. I need four and each shop I visit has zero to two. I guess black silkie chicken is not a really big item right now, unlike inverted pig rectums – which are everywhere.
Returning to my kitchen studio, I email Mike, the Prop Master. Script asks for steam on the soup I ask him if I should prepare for that or can steam be done in Post. But I already know that post-production special effects are too costly. Not surprisingly, Mike says to give the director real steam options.
Back in the day, we used to blow cigarette smoke through straws onto the dish when we wanted steam. Nice! Smoke drifts up because heat rises. But pesky health nuts have driven cigarettes outdoors and now lighting up on set is unheard of. I can but dream of the series of commercials I once shot for Rothmans cigarettes where daily, the suits brought cartons of their product to the studio and gently encouraged us to chainsmoke throughout the sessions.
|Here's the Silkie chicken before I made him into broth. That's white fungus clumped around him. |
(Photo courtesy Brooke Palmer Sony/NBC)
Feb 22 - Day Two of Eight
Late at night, I pack up my little car which fails to start. Give my battery a jump-start and cross my fingers. In the morning, it starts like a charm. Thank goodness because my food scene is first up:
|Black Silkie Chicken broth with red dates, wolfberries, bok choy, ginseng and white fungus. That plate garnish is a Silkie chicken foot tied with pea shoots.|
About that steam...
Food styling photographs with steam is no problem. For stills, you can use any number of toxic chemical combos to great effect. But for steam in an eating scene, I regret to say the usual solution is tampons. (T28s in crew-talk). You camouflage them with food coloring, soak them in water, microwave them just before shooting and stuff them under the food. Voila, steam.
Tampons - nay; pompoms - yea!
|trimming pompoms to put in mushrooms for steam effect|
But I don’t like the potential for embarrassment or misogynistic snickering. Plus there’s nowhere in a clear broth to hide a honkin’ big tampon.
So I make my own little steam-poms. Fat pompoms made out of several shades of brown cotton wool, soaked in water, stuffed into Chinese black mushroom caps that have had the stems and spore gills scooped out. I give the wooly pompoms little brush-cuts so they resemble the excised spore gills.
Then, just before each take, we microwave them under plastic wrap and float them in the broth.
Wow, did you see that steam billow off the soup!!!!! You didn’t? Really? No? On the cutting room floor, you say? C’est la vie...
Done like Dinner
By Day 4 of 8 it looks like the dinner in scene 26 is out. The dialogue has moved to Bedelia’s home. I can relax for the rest of the week. Except the sheep gut scene for the previous episode still has to be shot, along with some food scenes to reshoot for Episode 6 and the draft script for Episode 12 will be popping up in a few days. Other than that, I’m all resto-relaxo.
Time to stew up a restorative broth!
Here's a recipe for you so you can personally test the efficacy of a tasty broth with wolfberries - a herbal remedy that has been used in China for several millennia to increase virility.
Wolfberries in Tomato-Beef Broth
Wolfberries aka Goji berries are small dried red berries that can be found in Asian grocery stores and health food stores. This recipe is beef-based but you can use regular chicken instead - or Silkie chicken if you can find it - it's tough so you must slow-cook it to tenderize it, and it tastes a bit gamey but makes a rich delicious broth. Substitute cubes of boneless chicken for beef and add strong chicken stock instead of water.
½ lb beef round or sirloin, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp butter
1 lg onion, sliced
1 lg can plum tomatoes, crushed.
½ oz dried wolfberries
2 cups water
1 lg carrot, cut in chunks
½ cup fresh green peas
salt, pepper to taste
1. In a heavy pot with lid, heat butter over medium-high heat and add beef cubes, stirring til brown. Add onions and stir til lightly browned. Add tomatoes, wolfberries and water. Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is tender.
2. Add carrots and simmer for 20 minutes. Add peas and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve.