Thursday, February 11, 2016

chickpea soup for lazy people

"Chickpea soup" by Gail on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license. This is a nice photo of chickpea soup that looks a lot like the soup I made. Unfortunately, I ate my soup before I remembered I wanted to take a picture of it, so I'm using this photo instead. Thank you Gail for making it available through Creative Commons!

Serves two, or one hungry person who is OK with eating an entire tin of chickpeas in one sitting.


1 tin of chickpeas (540 mL)
1 clove garlic
1/3 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp herbes de Provence
2 cups water
chili flakes to taste

2 tsp lemon juice
 extra virgin olive oil to garnish


1. Drain and rinse chick peas. Put in a pot.
2. Add all other ingredients except lemon juice and olive oil.
3. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cook for at least 15 minutes.
4. Puree with immersion (stick) blender.
5. Stir in lemon juice. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
6. Serve topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Monday, February 08, 2016

movie review: Hungry Hearts

Hungry Hearts
(Italy, 2014)
directed by Saverio Costanzo
based on the novel Il Bambino Indaco (The Indigo Child) by Marco Franzoso

The opening scene of Hungry Hearts is charming and funny: two strangers, Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher), get stuck together in a horrible restaurant bathroom when the door won't open. Driver (who played Lena Dunham's boyfriend in Girls) and Rohrwacher make it work. They seem sweet and believable as a potential couple, so when the next scene shows the romantic aftermath of this coincidental meeting, we are not surprised.

In typical movie fashion--i.e., quickly enough to make one's head spin--Jude and Mina become a family, with a baby on the way. There is a happy wedding scene at Coney Island, with lots of dancing and singing. We meet Jude's mother (Roberta Maxwell), who urges Mina to consider her as family, since Mina is from Italy and does not have anyone in New York.

However, after this the tone veers sharply away from simple romantic drama. It turns out that Mina has developed an obsession with dreams, signs, and omens, along with disordered eating patterns and a deep distrust of doctors. This makes for a difficult pregnancy and childbirth, and soon after their son is born, she and Jude are at odds about how to care for him.

I will not spoil any of the rest of the film. Suffice it to say that Hungry Hearts becomes as tense and suspenseful as any thoughtful horror movie. I can honestly say I had no idea how the film would end, but afterward, I felt it ended the only way it possibly could. It is easy to think the film is about Mina and her obsessions with the medical establishment (I started out thinking, "I bet she doesn't believe in vaccinations" and ended up thinking, "I wish she were a run of the mill anti-vaxxer"), but really it is about Jude. He is an excellent example of the frog sitting in a pot, the water slowly heating up until it is almost too late to jump out.  

Hungry Hearts is not a perfect movie; it is a bit too long and drags a little bit. In some ways this draggy feeling works, because it allows the audience to feel the drawn-out dread that Jude and his mother feel as the days tick by. That said, although it doesn't ruin the film, a nearly two-hour running time is excessive. This is a tiny flaw, though, in the grand scheme of things, because the cinematography, acting, and writing are all outstanding.

Hungry Hearts is currently available to stream on Netflix Canada.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

movie review: Theeb

(United Arab Emirates/Qatar/Jordan/UK, 2014)
directed by Naji Abu Nowar
written by Naji Abu Nowar and Bassel Ghandour

In 1916, there were Bedouin tribes living in the Ottoman Empire who were so unconnected to the outside world that they had no idea World War I raged nearby. Theeb tells the story of one such fictional tribe and the results of contact with World War I through a British officer who needs a Bedouin guide.

Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hweitat) is a young boy, son of a late sheikh, who lives a sheltered life with his older brothers in the desert of Hijaz, in what is now Saudi Arabia. He is young and innocent, but also clever and observant. So when a British officer in search of a Bedouin guide (Jack Fox) is brought to their camp by an interpreter, Theeb is entranced with the visitor. He watches him shave, asking in Arabic, "Are you a prince?" He attempts to find out what is in the mysterious wooden box that the officer protects so fiercely.

When his brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen) agrees to act as guide, Theeb sets off after them, following at a distance and only revealing himself when it is too late for them to send him back. Thus the little boy gets his wish, to have an adventure--and maybe find out what is in the wooden box.

But the deserts of the Ottoman Empire are not a safe place in 1916. There are raiders and revolutionaries, and they are merciless. The journey to the officer's destination is tense and risky and soon everything goes sideways. At one point, Theeb is forced to rely on an unpleasant mercenary (Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh). Can he trust this stranger?

Most of the actors in this movie are amateurs who had never acted on film before. They do an excellent job, particularly Jacir Eid Al-Hweitat. He has a mobile, appealing face, and he does a great job of portraying the resourceful, tenacious main character. The Stranger is similarly tenacious, but far less sympathetic. The desert provides a beautiful but forbidding setting, with vast stretches of sand and deep canyons of stone. One is never sure who will survive in that setting. It is worth watching the movie to find out.