What’s for supper? Vol. 94: Meat the rainbow!

Sorry this post is so long. I just can’t seem to stop talking.

Quick question: Do the photos load up more slowly or look different from usual? I’m trying a slightly different thing. Let me know!

On to the food.

SATURDAY
Birthday party!

It was a beach party, so of course the day started with thunder and downpours. But it cleared up! The rain just chased all the cowards away, so we had the place to ourselves by party time.

It was sort of a Moana party, so we cleaned out the last of the luau decorations and leis from the dollar store. The cake was the Heart of Te Fiti:

Ehh, close enough. If we needed it to restore the life to our island, I would have looked harder for the green sugar.

I tried Wilton food color spray (affiliate link, certified Kosher, not for sale in Catalina Island. Now you know) for the first time. I was terrified of making it like amateurish graffiti, so I didn’t use enough. Will probably try this stuff again if I need to do a sunset cake or an underwater effect. It smelled like chicken noodle soup, though.

I honestly can’t remember what we had for supper. Maybe burgers.

***

SUNDAY
Kids had hot dogs, chips, strawberries and blueberries; we had steak

What happened, see, was we are planning to take the kids to a giant water-and-amusement park this weekend, so we felt okay skipping the county fair this year. But then I had a sudden thought. What if we just went ourselves? 

We do have happy times at the fair, but it’s so exhausting and stressful with a crowd of kids. Without them, there would be no bracelets that cost a million dollars, no emotional agony as one kid sorely regrets squandering his One Food Treat on fried dough instead of cotton candy, no sunburned babies, no panic when kids wander away to check out the goats, no grousing, no exhausted toddlers, no “sorry, you’re still not tall enough to ride this ride,” no throwing up, no dehydration, etc.

None of this:

Just fun! Fun fun fun!

So off we went, and . . . very quickly ran out of things to do. I got some fried pickles. We pretended to consider buying a piglet. We went on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and that was nice, but then Pharaoh’s Fury was horrible. HORRIBLE. Just plain scary, with no delightful terror or exquisite tingle of fear. We just both felt like we were going to die the whole time, which we were, and it went on and on and on as death whistled past our ears and everything familiar and safe careened far, far away. When it was finally over, we staggered over to a bench and just sat there wobbling for a while. Then we gave our tickets to some kid and went to Chili’s.

***

MONDAY
Cilantro lime chicken, rice

A new-to-me recipe from Damn Delicious. It’s supposed to be for the slow cooker, but Fisher quantities didn’t fit in one Crock Pot, and I feel like the Instant Pot slow cooker isn’t hot enough.

I took a “before” picture because it was so pretty, and I wasn’t sure what it would look like cooked:

So I started it out in the IP for a few hours, then put it on high pressure manual for five minutes. I added a little water, because I wasn’t sure if there was enough liquid for the IP, but it would have been better without; it was a little soupy. I shredded the chicken easily with a fork and served it over white rice or wrapped in tortillas.

It was a good combination of flavors and textures, subject to lots of variation. Will definitely make again. Damn Delicious bills this as a make-ahead freezer meal, because you just prep everything and then throw it into the pot all together, and that’s it.

I know it’s tiresome, but it really is true that fresh ingredients make food so much better. Some days I feel very bitter about going to the trouble of those extra steps (usually because I forgot to buy the quickie version), but I’m always glad I did it when it’s time to eat. Fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro, fresh garlic, yaaas. I did use frozen corn, and it was snappy and flavorful.

***

TUESDAY
Deconstructed pork shish kabob, watermelon

Bone-in pork picnic was super cheap, so I bought two, for maybe seven pounds total. I cut the meat off the bone, trimmed the fat, and cubed it, then mixed it up with four sweet peppers, about 16 ounces of halved mushrooms, two red onions, and a few cups of marinade. All the food was cut to the size you’d want for threading it on a skewer.

The marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes.

I didn’t have time to let it marinate, but just spread it in a single layer on my two giant sheet pans (which I continue to love. We’ve put them through their paces and they have not warped a bit)

and put them under a hot broiler (one pan at a time, so they could get direct heat) until it was blackened.

Everyone loved it. It wasn’t quite the same as food cooked on the grill, because what is? But it was still delicious.

Definitely making this again. You could easily use bottled Italian dressing for the marinade. Although [irritating ticking noise made with my cheek] fresh ingredients, ya know.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kids had fish tacos, we had Chinese

Our plan was to ditch the kids again (because it’s summer! Adults should have fun in summer, too!) and I’d meet my husband at his office an hour away, and we’d have Indian take-out on a blanket for an outdoor Bollywood movie.

But I had only cleared half my schedule, and realized I’d be a country mouse fighting rush-hour traffic in the city, and then we’d have to go home in separate cars at the end of the night. Too much like dorm life with curfews! So we ditched the kids anyway, and he taught me how to drive stick shift in a parking lot. Our last stick shift lesson was almost twenty years ago. This one went better than the last time, in the same way that . . . well, you’ll just have to supply your own joke about something that was a miserable disaster the first time, but then was fine the second time. Then we got Chinese food (I had hot and sour soup, a dragon roll, and a silly drink called a Fog Cutter) and a little walk and a little drive in the dark. I do love that man.

And I love having kids who can put together a meal at home! They cooked, ate, cleaned up, changed the baby, and organized tooth brushing before we got back. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. All you need is five teenagers.

***

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, hot pretzels

I was completely wiped out by dinner time, so I asked the kids to deal with it. It seems I forgot to buy extra bread for sandwiches, so dinner was on the feeble side. Oh, well. We were supposed to have string beans from the garden, but nobody felt like picking them except for the really incompetent ones.

***

FRIDAY
I think spaghetti.

***
And it’s time to start thinking about last hurrah of summer meals! Or maybe special eclipse meals. Or Perseid meals. Whatcha got?

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MOANA review: Even the chosen one has a choice

Early on in the animated movie Moana (2016), the Polynesian chieftain’s daughter has an adorable pet pig who’s always getting into amusing scrapes. You think, as a seasoned Disney audience, that you’ve identified the heroine’s big-eyed, wordless sidekick.

But then Moana just sails off without her pig, and she accidentally and reluctantly acquires a brainless, completely un-cute chicken for a sidekick instead.

This switcheroo feels like a deliberate nose-thumb to predictable Disney tropes. Moana’s constant companion often provides comic relief, but not as a cutesy break from the story. Instead, she has to break away from her own concerns and preserve him from death countless times, because that’s the kind of person she is. And so we get our first clue that Moana is not your typical Disney princess.

Here she is as a baby:

She wants very much to pick up the beautiful shell that is being pulled back out to sea, but makes herself protect the baby turtle, instead. She’s rewarded not for who is she is, but for what she does.

And so the movie departs from typical Disney fare in a more important but less obvious way than the chicken sidekick. It’s instantly established that she’s a strong, determined, spirited girl who is different from the rest, and she’s going to end up disobeying her father and achieving something remarkable, a la Ariel/Belle/Pocahontas/Mulan/Et Al, setting herself apart from the people who want her to stay home, be good, take no chances, etc.

But! While Moana does disobey her father, she has an excellent, self-sacrificial reason for doing so. In fact, she has the same goals as her father has, and she ends up achieving what he has taught her from babyhood that it’s her duty to achieve.

So this is not yet another story where Ms. Lovely Rebel flips her hair at the patriarchy and is rewarded handsomely for betraying everyone who loves her. Instead, she is a good, loving daughter who follows her calling, rather than following her heart. Melanie Bettinelli goes into this refreshing theme in more detail. Obedience is good, but it’s in service to something greater, and sometimes you have to just go serve something greater more directly.

Which leads me to another appealing theme in Moana: There’s a lot about being chosen and being special and having a mission and fulfilling your destiny; but every single character also very clearly has free will, along with being chosen to act. Everyone makes a choice: Maui makes several choices; even the grandmother says, as she gets her (later significant) stingray tattoo, “I hope I made the right choice.”

Moana decides at one point that she can’t or won’t go on any further, and returns the magical whatsit to the ocean. She quits and tells the ocean to choose someone else. And the ocean accepts it.

She was the chosen one, but she still has a choice herself, and she is free to crap out, which she does. (Spoiler: She later changes her mind, and Does the Thing after all, and it’s awesome.) The ocean helps them and sometimes outright saves them, but they have to do a lot more helping of themselves, by deciding to be who they are meant to be.

It felt, for an animated Polynesian myth, an awful lot like how life really works.

Just as Moana discovers that she can fulfill what her father has taught her while still disobeying his explicit command (like her ancestors, finding new islands while keeping her home in mind), she learns that her mission is somewhat different (and quite a bit harder) than she originally thought. She thought she just had to fulfill the letter of the law, act out the myth, and the rest would fall into place. Turns out she has to get a lot more involved than that. This, too, felt a lot like real life.

And if we’re going to talk about the message that young girls are receiving from their cartoon heroines, I thoroughly endorse this one: Yes, you have a vocation, and yes, you need to follow it. No, that doesn’t mean everything will automatically sail smoothly toward your happy ending. At one point, Maui is horrified to find that Moana doesn’t actually know how to sail. She draws herself up and says, with feeble bravado, “I . . . am self-taught.” Yeah, that’s not good enough. Following your heart will only take you so far. You have to not only know what your goal is, but you have to learn how to get there.

This theme of free will choices leads up very neatly to the astonishing and tremendously satisfying climax of the movie, when Moana confronts the great lava demon and reminds her that she, too, has a choice.

Hot damn! That scene is so good (the above clip is only a little bit of it). Best animation I’ve seen in a long time, and very moving.

Other things I liked:

The plot was coherent, and the several themes worked well together. The only messy, unnecessary part was the coconut pirate scene. Seemed like a blatant bid for toy sales; and my old brain couldn’t understand what it was seeing, with all that hopping around and things exploding. But it didn’t last too long.

The heroine had a very pleasant singing voice. Not too nasal or brazen. This almost never happens, and I was very grateful.

All of the characters were likeable and interesting. This almost never happens, and I was very grateful.

It was weird. I don’t know much about Polynesian mythology, but the story was odd and occasionally harsh enough that I suspect they didn’t mess with the myth too much.

There’s no love story, at all. It’s just not that kind of story. The kid is maybe fourteen years old, and she has a lot going on. No boys need apply at this juncture.

A few minor complaints: The pacing was a little off. Some scenes were rushed and cluttered, and others were a little repetitious; but overall, it moved along well.

The mother was incredibly bland. They might as well have done the traditional Disney Dead Mother thing. She does explain her husband’s motivation for cracking down on Moana, and she helps her pack for the voyage, but anyone could have done that. This is a minor complaint, and is probably me projecting.

Several scenes throughout the movie captured something so exhilarating and joyful, I was amazed. The vision of her ancestors is a thing of beauty:

It is a captivating and rejuvenating movie. See it!

Might be scary for younger kids, depending on how sensitive they are.