Friday, 10 July 2015

Episode 6: Dolce

Circle closes

Noose tightens

Night falls

Up side umop

Our end becomes our beginning.

Dolce: figs, almond cake, comb honey, dates, pomegranates, dried apricots and seasonal fruits
All the sweet things that would have been on the table at the Last Supper are on the table for Will's Last Meal

Food? At a time like this? 

Of course no one wants to talk about the food styling until after we dwell on the bathtub scene for a few quiet moments…
Bathing the Bad One's wounds - Dr Bedelia Nightingale

Wet hot steamy dreaming...

A dreamy soak in a copper tub is the image I have in my head when Stephen, the Props Master shatters my repose with a call: what I would suggest for Pazzi’s “spilling guts”. The obvious answer is “guts, spilling.” By that, I mean although because of food safety laws, he cannot purchase or handle uncleaned eviscera, he can easily buy a variety of natural sausage casing or bung – which is cleaned gut – and fill it with oatmeal. Cuz that’s just what we do here with porridge and food colouring. It often stands in for partially digested food. He did prepare real guts but in the end, Francois made prosthetic intestines for Pazzi. Not as messy and easy to reset – they bounce instead of splat.

Bucket - o - guts

Ripped Carla's tweet right off the interweb- thank you Carla!

But to meat of another kind: Fingers and toes pigtails.

chopped up pig tails 

Cordell tests his Hannibal Fingers recipe on pigtails.

We all had quite a time running around getting pigtails for this episode. They just don’t make them like they used to. Now that pigs are raised in vast factory farms they get quite crabby (not “happy as a pig in shit”) and bite each other’s tails. So instead of giving them better conditions, industrial hog farmers just dock the piglets’ tails.
One of the dishes that I took out to the set.

The dish as it appears on the monitor hidden completely by a lid. OK.  Fine, that's just fine.

Pig tales, continued 

Ergo, when I open the 50 lb box of pigtails I ordered, I discover only 5 decent tails. The rest were sad stubs. (Just what I need right now - another dreary metaphor for life.) I make an emergency cross-town Chinatown dash to buy up all the pigtails I can find. For various reasons, we re-shot this scene so many times that eventually, I found a Jamaican grocer who stocks piles of pails of lovely salted pigtails. I go to him often now – pigtails have featured prominently in several interviews I’ve done for Season 3 -- it amuses the grocer hugely when I stress how I need the l-o-n-g ones to make a movie so he doesn’t mind fishing through barrels of pigtails to find the most lurid ones.
Pigtail pointing with the French film crew doing a Hannibal documentary for 13eme in Paris

Hot Dogs and Hot Docs 

I have made stand-in fake pigtails as well for Joe Anderson, who is our new Verger behind that prosthetic face, because I didn’t want to inflict all that pigtail fat, skin and bone on him in the multiple retakes of the eating scene. So I made little edible “bones” out of dough and pushed them into lengths of chicken wieners which I wrapped in winter melon “skin” and brushed with mustardy ketchup. Tah-da! Hot dog heaven! Except he can't get them in his mouth because of the prosthetic. So emergency measures...I grab some apples off the craft table to make little bones and push them into the wieners I had brought along for just-in-case. Now he's got mini-tails to eat comfortably and we shoot the scene without further ado. And another note

Faking the fake pigtails which are Cordell's fake fingers.
A little footnote about the ringing charcoal that Cordell speaks of as he's describing how he will roast Hannibal: it's called Binchotan and is high carbon coal made from very dense hardwood that has been kiln-charred slowly. It is odorless and pure and burns for a long time hence is highly valued by Japanese yakitori chefs. It's referred to as white charcoal and when you strike it, it rings like a bell.

photo of White Charcoal from

And another footnote about the Tibetan Singing Bowl that Cordell offers to Verger: These are gorgeous bronze or copper bowls that sit on a lovely silk cushion. They ring like a bell when struck and have been used since 500BC for meditative healing with sound. It is so like Verger to spit pigtail bones into something so sacred.

Buddhist Singing Bowls are used for healing and rebalancing 

Hop Sing goes to the store with Annie O'Toole

Director Vincenzo Natali, whom I adore, makes a little request after shooting the pigtail scene. He has an idea that Verger will hold a bit of Peking Duck on his fork as he is imagining Peking Mads stretched out on the table. So of course, he turns to me and says "I'd like some Peking Duck, Janice. In about 20 minutes?" Well, wouldn't we all? I'd like a Day at the Spa but we are on location at The McLaughlin Estate in the middle of Hamilton, not downtown Toronto. Even if we were, it would still take at least an hour. But this is the movie business and "No" is not an option. I don't know Hamilton except that it is full of one-way streets. So I do what I have to do. I grab the Museum curator, Samantha George and force her to drive me to the nearest Metro where I know they sell roast chickens to go. Luckily for me she is Steve McQueen and Wonder Woman rolled into one and she gets me to and back with chickens in 12 minutes flat, laughing all the way. I have 8 minutes to glaze and colour those babies into pieces of Peking Duck. 

But I know I don't have to tell you that just as I pull off this Miracle of the Duckflesh, Vincenzo changes his mind and we don't want the Peking Duck after all. He's going to have Verger dip his fingers in Hannibal's honey glaze instead. Because he's not immobilized in a wheelchair - it's an imagined scene. My fake Duck-chicken gets mobilized into the trash.

Supermarket roast take-out chicken on the left, Peking Faking Duck on the right

Yah, Friends of Hannibal - it's the way we roll...

Can you believe the wheelchair count in this season? This show is maiming all of us. I know I sure could use a sit-down and the location is littered with them -- actors were bobbing in and out of their wheelchairs at various times to stretch their legs and get snacks from the craft table.
Cordell (Glen Fleshler) and Verger (Joe Anderson) have a break at the craft table

The Cook, His Boss, The Prisoner and His Bestie

At last to the scene we have longed for all our food styling years: a homage to Peter Greenaway’s monstrous marination of Helen Mirren’s boyfriend in The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover. In the script, Verger was imagining Hannibal roasted like a Peking Duck. The director asked me if I wanted to work on Mads or if we should get a prosthetic body double. With a heavy heavy heart (sobbing!!!) I said it would be too onerous for Mads to endure being naked, covered in glaze and laid out naked on a table while I drape his nakedness with fruit. So on set, I glaze and garnish the Man-o-Latex instead of the Man-o-Dreams. 

Making tiny last touches in the fruit garnish as the camera crawls along the length of my latex Peking Man.
photo by Brilynn Ferguson

DUCK! It's Hannibal!

The fun we have goofing around with the prosthetic Mads head almost makes up for not having Real Mads in for the scene. (Did I mention "nakedly draping his naked body with fruit?")
I apologize to Karola, the head hairstylist and wizardly wig-maker, for getting BBQ sauce on Mads’ oven wig.

If you can't take the heat, get your head out of the oven.
Here's incredibly talented director Chris Byrne burning Peking Hannibal's head..
photo by Brilynn Ferguson

Hey - what’s that buzzing?

Do you hear the squeal of a bone saw? Oh no, here’s the scene I have always dreaded:  brain alive, sautéed at the table. I knew it would come one day…

I can't stop myself from mentioning that the prop bone saw was fake (well not surprisingly, we couldn't use a real saw - Hugh already had his haircut) and the fake blade kept falling off which took a bit of the gravitas off the scene. Oops.

This episode was all about coming full circle along a tortuous winding way, face to face with your frenemies. 

I think back to when I first got the call to be Hannibal’s food stylist and, unfamiliar with the books or films, I searched Google for “Hannibal food images”. All I got was Anthony Hopkins sauteeing Ray Liotta’s brain. Which was too grisly for me to watch but the idea of it threw me into a long search for a fryable brain substitute. For the first year of shooting, I experimented in my spare time with gluten, poached fish paste, transglutaminase, steamed eggplant, pain perdu made in a custom mould. In over 3 years I still haven’t found a decent stand-in for brains. 

And now I read the scene…my fate on a page in front of me.
Some of my brainier efforts

Happily, a few pages down, I’m delighted to read the very last topsy-turvy scene: the Vergers’ meat delivery system has whisked Hannibal and Will away from Florence to Muskrat Farms USA and averted my having to fry anybody’s brains. Especially my own - metaphorically of course and as always...

After all, it’s never ever been people, has it?

Here's an Eel in Black Bean coiled in a dish I had last week. Damn! If only I could have cooked Verger's eel like this!
photo by brilliant cookbook author Lucy Waverman

What, still no recipes?

Normally, I sadly tell you here that I am unable to include recipes and sketches in this recap because of the wishes of the publishers of my forthcoming Hannibal cookbook. Then when Hannibal didn’t get renewed by NBC, I thought perhaps the cookbook would be axed as well. Now, I am ELATED to tell you there will be no recipes here and no sketches because publisher Titan has confirmed they are committed to the Hannibal cookbook and it will be available next fall! Yay!! I will be unable to show you sketches and recipes til then. Yay - with a soupcon of sadness, of course.

And Hannidinners?

There are a couple of your Hannidnners that I have lost among the floating files on my messy messy desktop. But I promise to get them posted. Just as soon as I get clear.

Here's one that just came in today:
Stephen B made this horn-ucopia of delicious looking Sun-dried Tomato Gnocchi for 210-Naka choko
PLUS: This is an Australian food styling competition I’m judging. And I'll be posting entries weekly to tempt any Aussieannibals into giving it a shot!

Here's the link - but it's open only to Aussies -
If you are not among the lucky who live in Australia, lobby your local station to have a contest.
Details of contest are at the end of this article:   

Here's one of the early Aussie entries! (love that left eyeball!)

Next week:

Birth. Death. Blood. Escape. Capture. Murder. Mayhem. Oh, and oysters.

All content copyright of Janice Poon/Feeding Hannibal, except where noted.
Photos (except where noted) by Victoria Walsh, copyright Feeding Hannibal.


  1. I'm so excited about this cookbook! CAN'T WAIT!

  2. Can't wait to see the cookbook and artistic designs!

    There's a recently released Japanese mystery anime, Ranpo Kitan : Game of Laplace, whose first 2 episodes can best be described as Hannibal-esque; down to artistic arrangement of the bodies, treating corpses as art and the main character's psychopathy (Gourmet cannibalism not included, sadly). You may be interested in checking it out if it bears any parallels to Hannibal.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely check it out! I love anime and published 2 graphic novels for girls before I started Hannibal. Now that Hannibal has been cancelled, I will be getting back to my 3rd. After the cookbook, of course!

  3. I still haven't managed a good pheasant wing for my pheasant hunting father, but I think I was too grief stricken by the cancellation. This episode, though...woooo! Still, I'm so excited for the cookbook. I bought my 14 year old a cookbook recently, and can't get him to crack the pages, but a Hannibal cookbook? He's all about it. Consider two copies pre-sold. Accrochez-vous Janice. Espérons que nous serons tous ici l'année prochaine.

    1. Merci. We are all trying our best to hang in (but not in a Verger pig truck way) Every set I go to work on these days (Suicide Squad, Damien, 11/22/63, Heroes Reborn) crew can only talk of how wonderful Hannibal was and how sad that it got cancelled. But who knows! Star Trek got cancelled after 3 years then a movie jump-started it again.

  4. The Greenaway homage was breathtaking. Awesome job!

    As for brain faking--maybe get in touch with any Vancouver colleagues to find out who's working on iZombie? :D

    Cookbook's a go! Squee!

    1. Good idea - must ask a few West Coast zombies. Sadly, I think Hannibal's brain-sauteeing days are over but I would like to find a solution regardless. It was such a pleasure doing that Peking Mads even on a latex body.

  5. Hi Janice - I'm delighted to hear that the book is going ahead. Hurray!

    Your work on the show has been amazing and one of the highlights. I've often found myself thinking "Wow, that looks yummy" before the "Wait! That's PEOPLE!" reflex kicks in ;)

    Make sure to let us know when it's coming out and, if you decide to do a book tour, can I put in a request for you to include Ireland on your way?

  6. Thanks, and wow, I would so love to visit Ireland - it's on my top 5 list of places to go, book tour or not!

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