Sunday 30 April 2017

AmericanGods 101 Bone Orchard

Godsplaining and recipes for Chili and Gold Coins

Hannibal axed. Oblivion.

Then inexorably, that rosy-fingered dawn appears
And once again, Apollo casts his gold lasso
Across the turquoise dome
And tows us
Mewling, muttering, groaning, grumbling…
Into the heat of a brand new day.

I had been busy introducing my Feeding Hannibal cookbook and working on a new novel. In between, doing a bit of food styling on various productions like Suicide Squad, Shadow Hunters and Handmaid’s Tale. Feeling rudderless.

Made these tiny edible body parts to fake Rodent Roadkill - dystopian future take-out food 
and did some girly Brunchy Things for a plot-turning baby shower
and (for my country) concocted tempting Space Snacks for shipwrecked aliens
At every show I worked on, one or two crew would pass by my food styling station and sigh, "I miss Hannibal..." Funny how we all felt that way. It was a very special place from which we had all been banished. Plying our trades around more sullen sound stages.

…and then, one day there was light!

                                               BRYAN!                      image by others
The Gods had answered our prayers!!!
                                                                                                  image courtesy AmericanGodsStarz/Freemantle
Phonecalls, emails, texts and tweets began pouring in. Bryan Fuller was helming a tv adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s cult classic, American Gods and we, the old Hannibal crew, jumped right back on Fuller’s Crazy Train to Hell. Because that’s what film people do.

I dug out my dog-eared copy of the novel and started reading it again. Cover to cover. Not a lot of food, but I didn’t care. I was happy to be working with Bryan again -- our bright and beautiful genius. He didn’t disappoint.

American GodSquad: A primer   

You gotta love this huge crazy cast! But there are so many; who can keep track??? 

There is a dazzling array characters introduced in this double episode premier. Most of them are gods, each one crazier and more iconoclastic than the next. So brilliantly mad, bad, funny and dangerous to know that they tend blind the viewer as they fill the screen.

Sweet handsome Shadow, we know is the beleaguered but open-hearted, open-minded soul with little from his past and nothing in his future. He is the blank slate that this story is written upon. 

As for the other characters... 

Here's my Quickiwiki GodSplaining Guide             

 (some spoilerish things if you haven't read the book)

Odin: Comes to America first carried by the Vikings’ fervent prayers and sacrifices. Bloodied, blinded and broken, they flee but leave his totem behind - abandoned on the shore with the dead. Odin is the All-Father and the leader of the Gods of the Old World. We meet him disguised as Mr Wednesday, as he attempts to rally the Old Gods to join forces and fight to reclaim America from the New Gods. The day, Wednesday, is named for Woden, the Germanic Odin.
Four totems of All-father Odin: the first Norse God to set foot in America
Ibis: The Egyptian god of Knowledge, Ibis (or Thoth) is a scribe who writes the stories of our reality and records our death and our worth his ledger. He narrates several enchanting stories throughout the episodes. He manifests as the owner of a funeral home in partnership with Jacquel – whom you will meet and grow to love in future episodes.

Ibis as a magician and as a scribe - his headdress is the moon

Bilquis: In America, this God of Love is making some adjustments to modern life and finds a meager stream of worshippers one by one via internet dating sites. Lives must be sacrificed for gods to flourish, so she devours her dates as they chant ecstatically to her. She’s getting by and staying firm -- but how she longs for the days in Ethiopia when she was lavishly worshipped as Queen of Sheba and temples were built in her name. I want to tell you about the 3-ft vagina the prosthetic guys originally built for Bilquis’ Big Meal but we have too much God info to cover so I’ll get to that story later.
Bilquis visiting King Solomon in a painting by Sir Edwin John Poynter (detail)

Loki: The helpful/not-helpful Trickster God of Norse mythology, Loki uses deceit and cunning to get people to do his bidding. We meet him as Low Key Lyesmith, in jail with Shadow, as he guides him towards his fateful meeting with Wednesday - giving him that important instruction that gets him on the same flight as Mr Wednesday.
OK, I know this is not Loki - it's a Hannibal flower crown thing I couldn't resist.
Leprechaun King: Episode 4 will tell the mesmerizing story of how the King of Leprechauns came to America but until then, you will meet and adore him as Mad Sweeney.  Perchance at the Crocodile Bar, Sweeney picks a fight with Shadow and it does not go well. The coin-toss does not always come up a head.
My favorite part of Sweeney is his foul language.
Learn how to Swear Like A Leprechaun (link) and get into fights more poetically.

Technical Boy: Emotionless, immature, data-fuelled New God of Technology knows he’s winning America. Ever time a digital device is used, his power surges. Our TechBoy is a style junkie -- his hair is always on point and constantly changing. In the Hair/Makeup trailer, Karola had her hands full styling his many looks. Here's but one:
TechBoy and his Faceless Children in the garden with Media
The Children: Inspired by Kubrick’s gang, these brutal thugs do TechBoy’s evil bidding. They are the faceless mindless enforcers who slavishly follow their leader like a gang that finds strength in numbers, anonymity and dressing alike.
Who could forget these loathsome lads from Clockwork Orange 
Laura: Not really a god – more like a zombie, Laura is tiny but mighty in life, in death and undead. So she's a goddess to me. When she claims Mad Sweeney’s gold coin, and possibly his heart, it enables her to become undead with all the superpower – and slightly off smell -- that comes with it.

The Jinn - Next time, we see a lot more of him than just a flashing glance in a convenience store. Then, I'll explain where he plugs in his sunglasses.

 Shadowy Dream Symbols

Shadow dreams of the Bone Orchard, the White Buffalo and being hanged from the Tree. Here’s some background on the symbolism.

The Bone Orchard is a cemetery – a place where bones are planted.  The bones in Shadow’s orchard seem to be reborn as trees that reach out to be used as hanging trees. Then, in a cycle of life and death, when the hanged strange fruit falls, its bones are planted again. Gaiman refers to the Bone Orchard in the stories of his fine collection, Graveyard Book.
Tree of Life is a world-wide mythological archetype. The Persian one we see artfully knotted into silken rugs; the Mesopotamian Tree of Birth is found in Tales of Gilgamesh; Shadow’s Tree of Life is Nordic. You probably already know it as Yggdrasil from Wagner’s Ring Cycle which must be daily plaited and unplaited if the world is to continue. In Shadow’s world, it’s a hanging tree – and we will see how long and far its branches reach.
Aztec Tree of Life
White Buffalo Fannibals might think this is Ravenstag’s angry uncle but the buffalo is sacred in Indigenous American mythology and embodies the spirit of the Land. Shadow’s bison breathes fire – a threat and yet, at the same time, a promise of rebirth. When the Bison Man appears to Shadow, he is guiding Shadow towards his potential to become a shaman.
I see no difference
Honey Mead is the ancient elixir of the Gods but it tastes like the piss of drunken diabetic leprechauns.  No recipe. Sorry, I don’t want you to go blind on homebrew. But here’s the basic technique as it was made in a time before before history: Dilute honey with water in a large vat. The natural yeasts in the atmosphere will do the work of the fermentation – or add must of wine to get the fermentation going. Seal in a vat and wait 30 days. Open and add spices and flavorings to disguise the bad taste. Seal up again for another 3 months. Then drink up and, if the fermentation went badly, you may indeed meet your god.

If good poetry comes from Honey Mead, from whence does Bad Poetry come?  

So glad you asked. Odin saw that magical Poets’ Mead, source of all artistic inspiration, was being hoarded deep in a dark cave. Ever the seeker of knowledge, Odin felt it should be released so that glorious poetry and art could flourish. He fought many evil dwarves and monsters and shape-shifted into a nymph to seduce the guards and gain access to the mead. 

He drank up all three great vats in three swallows and transformed himself into an eagle to fly it to the safety where it could be distributed judiciously among philosophers, gods and mankind.
Pretty clear what's going on here. Like on my car every summer day - minus the poetry
On the long flight home, pissed drunk, the Eagle leaked a bit (as one does) and that errant bird pee splashed down upon the roadway where it causes those who drink it to spout bad poetry.

Eat Like a God!

So my godlings, you made it through to the end of a difficult double episode. After enduring all of the bloodspurt, eye-gouging, fistfights, hangings, bad children and typical airline attendants, I think we all deserve a big warm bowl of comfort. 

Whip out the pots and pans y'all – it’s time to Eat Like a God

Chili ingredients chillin'

Not Laura’s Chili

Poor sad Shadow, grappling with the loss of his only love and beset by this tenacious smartass stranger, looks for comfort in chili – it used to be his favorite meal that Laura made so well. This is not that chili. But it also won't bite off the dick of your former best friend. 

1/2 pound chuck or sirloin steak, cut into bite-size chunks
1/3 cup red wine
1 tsp oregano

1 Tbsp olive oil
1  medium onion chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, finely chopped, seeds removed
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3-4 tsp chili powder
1/2 pound ground beef
1 (19-oz) can kidney beans (or 1 cup dried beans, soaked and boiled)
1 lg carrot, diced
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 bottle Guinness beer or 1 cup water
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
chopped fresh dill and lemon juice to taste

1 The night before, combine beef chunks, wine and oregano in a bowl or zippered baggie and marinate overnight. (If you want to use dry beans instead of canned, soak them now in the fridge and then boil them for an hour or til tender, then drain.) Next day, when you are ready to start cooking the chili, drain beef, reserving wine for later. Using paper towels, pat beef dry and set aside.

2 Heat olive oil in a large lidded skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and add onions. Saute until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add garlic, peppers, chili powder, cumin and beef chunks and saute, stirring to brown all sides. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add 2-3 Tbsp of reserved wine and as it boils, scrape up all the browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot.

3 Add the beer, crushed tomatoes, carrots, beans, Worchestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring to boil and lower heat. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cover with lidLet it bubble very gently for at least an hour or until beef is tender. Check periodically, add more stock or water if too much liquid boils off. Add salt to taste. In Gaiman's book, Shadow says Laura also adds fresh dill and a splash of lemon but I don't think you need to if you don't have these things in the back of your fridge.

For 4 servings.

Vegetarian Chili
Delete beef for vegetarian version and to create a meaty texture, soak 1/2 cup bulgar in 1 cup water for 30 minutes and add to pot after sautéing the onions.

Gold Coin Pancakes

If you want to dazzle friends by swallowing magical coins, these should do the trick.
Draw the little backward $ spaced out in the heated pan                                  A plateful of lucky golden coins                
1 1/4 cup pancake mix
1 cup milk or water
1 egg (optional, as per package directions)

whipped cream
multi-coloured sugar or sprinkles

1 plastic squeeze bottle with nozzle top (like ketchup/mustard dispensers)

1 Prepare pancake batter with milk and egg as per directions on package. Transfer 1/2 cup of the batter to a smaller bowl and stir in 2 tsp water. It should be the consistency of honey, thicker than cream but pourable. Transfer to the squeeze bottle and screw on nozzle cap. The batter should come out of the bottle in a smooth stream when you squeeze it gently. Practice drawing with it on a dinner plate and adjust the thickness if necessary. 

2 Heat non-stick frypan over medium high heat. Using a paper towel, wipe cooking surface lightly with butter.

3 Draw 3 backward $ (about ¾-inch) in the pan using the squeeze bottle. Space them out well.Wait one minute to let them brown. Then pour a 1 Tbsp blob of not-so-runny batter directly over each $. It should run out in a circle that completely covers the $ and spread out into a circle about 1.5 inches in diameter (silver dollar size). In about 40 seconds, when small bubbles begin to form around the edge of each pancake, flip it over, cook for another minute and remove from pan when golden brown. If pancake is too brown to see $, lower the heat. Repeat until you’ve had enough. Serve with whipped cream and coloured sprinkles (that’s the magical unicorn part).

Next Week: Yay! Food! 

The Zoraya Sisters cook it up old school. And Czernobog brings out his hammer to rock your world. Plus you’ll meet the mesmerizing Mr Nancy! And so very much 6 more days.

Except where noted, all text, recipes and images within this blog post are copyright of Janice Poon/American Gods Table.                                        Unauthorized reproduction of any of this material strictly prohibited.