Thursday, September 21, 2006

Took the night off work

to see a play--Bruce Norris's "The Pain and the Itch" at Playwrights Horizons--theatergoing is good for the soul, for my soul at least (assuming a reasonably decent play). This one's interesting--the writing is excellent, and it's a very good production too (beautiful set!)--and yet I found myself thinking about why plays and novels whose dominant mode is satire are not in the end suited to my tastes. At the intermission you could hear everyone saying with horror and admiration "I know people exactly like that"--and it's true, one of the characters in particular reminded me of someone I know. And yet it is not the whole person you know, it is that person at her most irritable and unsympathetic and awful and blindly self-absorbed--so that though the play itself is really very gripping to watch, very enjoyable, you miss in the end the sense of empathy elicited by a play perhaps less forcefully intelligent yet more human in its affiliations. Interesting--and yes, there is no doubt that people do pass off a lot of bad behavior in the name of protecting the children, but still--the most touching moment in the play involves the rather nightmarish plastic-surgeon brother of the awful male protagonist helping his just-thrown-up-after-drinking-too-much-malt-liquor-from-the-mini-mart inapproprately young Eastern European girlfriend back into her blister-inducing boots (in a nice touch, she makes sure to put the remaining cans of malt liquor into her handbag) with genuine gentleness--I could have used a bit more of even that twisted kindness.

A very good dinner afterwards, with conversation about Locke and Hume and long-distance running, only I have one passionate sentiment: why, oh why do these very nice New York restaurants with good sensibilities and fairly delicious food think it a good idea to make fruit crumbles in those wretched creme brulee dishes? The two are completely different things, I see why you might want to maximize the surface area of creme brulee (crunchiness) in a large flat dish--though really they are twice the size they should be, proportions very saucerish--but really crumble is a deep-dish phenomenon, the idea of crumble is 90% fruit with, you know, a thin sprinkling of crumble on top, not this whole flattened-out half-and-half-layered thing that mars even good ingredients (i.e. not inappropriately bland and sweet--this strawberry-rhubarb one was otherwise quite reasonable, and having pistachios in the crumble seems to me more or less reasonable though possibly unnecessary).


  1. I do love to make a good deep crumble, in fact just made one with some sourish fall apples from my own trees at the weekend. I usually add chopped almonds or hazelnuts and oats to my topping, which I suspect is thicker than you like it, especially since the fruit always seems to shrink alarmingly in baking. Hm, this is making my mouth water, I'm going to brew my morning coffee.

  2. Well, now, again I'm not sure I agree with you, being one who sees fruit as essentially an excuse for topping, whether one is crumbling, crisping, or cobblering.