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Got a Weekend? Get a Bag!

You may or may not consider yourself to be in a rut, but you have a free weekend night coming up and you want something different to do with a friend, the significant other/spouse, or a group of your friends. Maybe the gauntlet has been thrown down and you are the one who is responsible for planning this one—and your mind is blank. You have some time for preparation, since the nights are longer now--if only you could think of what to do...

We’re here! This fall, check out a date, a buddy or girls’ night in, or a whole party from the Portage District Library with our new weekend bags. They contain the core of an experience you can share with one or a group, or even keep for yourself. Though each kit may have a little something extra, at bedrock they are this:

* Video Component : one or more movies, or a season or more from a TV series

* Cookbooks : to make foods resonant with the setting or time of the show(s) you are watching. Beverage ideas and recipes are often included.

* Music : to play while guests are gathering or dinner is being prepared and served,should you decide to go that route.

We have tried to compile sets that cover a range of genres and types, from campy, to romantic, to travel. Later this year, we will have a contest where our patrons submit ideas for future kits to be decided on by votes on the Portage District Library Facebook page. The winning entry will be made up as one of our new weekend bags and the originating patron will win a prize.

And now….the bags:



Mad Men One (seasons 1 and 2)
Mad Men Two (seasons 3 and 4)
It’s been several seasons and you still have not managed to go back and start Mad Men so that you can figure out why all of your friends on Facebook seem to go into spasms when a new season is starting.
Here are some hints: Was any time as cool as the Sixties? And was any person as Sixties as an Ad exec? High priest of pop culture Marshall McCluhan may have stated that “the objective of advertising men is the manipulation,exploitation, and control of the individual,” but Mad Men’s Don Draper is the definition of smooth as he manipulates and exploits those around him, and therein lies the fascination—a shallowness so brilliantly executed that it becomes a kind of depth, selfishness so repellent that it draws you closer.Lauded for period authenticity, darkly glamorous in a way we are grateful yet regretful to have lost, Mad Men lets us be voyeurs on the sins of a brilliantly-depicted era.

Make an event of it with a group, and make vintage fashions de rigeur, along with the icy libations and rich foods of the time. Or sip martinis with afriend and dish afterwards. Your choice.

Hawaii Five-0
It was 1968 and we rushed in and turned on the television to hear the drummed beginning of the coolest TV theme song ever written as a huge wave broke across the screen and the camera panned to an exotic city right on the ocean. Close up on a balcony of the Ilikai Hotel and a guy in a sharp suit who turned around so that you were looking into the face of Steve McGarrett, head of Hawaii Governor Paul Jameson’s special police force and the yardstick by which many of us have judged subsequent TV cops.

For a night, discover or renew your fascination with a show which has broadcast continuously for 45 years—for a reason. Enjoy the cocktail recipes of Trader Vic’s, the swankiest restaurant group of a time when tiki heads and pineapple were a staple of armchair travel. Share your experience and great luau food from the recipes of an award-winning Honolulu chef with a buddy, a date, or afew friends. Recipes, beverages, mood music, and an epic TV series combine to make a gathering you’ll remember.

Book it, Danno.

The Sopranos
What is it that is so compelling about the Mob? The evil? The entrepreneurship? The accents? The food? Whatever it is, we are mesmerized and horrified by it and can’t get enough—from Al Capone to The Godfather to Wiseguy.And then came The Sopranos, one of the most successful series ever filmed in which James Gandolfini plays a crime boss in search of work-life balance, who tries to work through these issues and the causes of his panic attacks with his therapist:

“It wasn’t like it was (expletive) Cobain! It was just a little suicidalgesture, that’s all.”

The Sopranos won 21 Emmys, 5 Golden Globes, and was nominated for numerous awards every season it ran. Although admittedly not for everyone—it is rife with violence, and foul language and mature themes run rampant—it won those awards because it was solid: great acting, stellar use of music, writing with intelligence, and that mob theme. As Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano, Sr. says,“Sil, break it down for ‘em. What two businesses have traditionally been recession-proof since time immemorial?” to which Silvio Dante responds,“Certain aspects of show business and our thing.”

The Wise Guy Cookbook and the show’s stellar soundtracks provide culinary and terpsichorean accompaniment to interchanges like:
“Where the (expletive) have you been? You’re late!”
“Sorry, the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive.”

Moonstruck
“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amore…”

The New York skyline, unforgettable melodies, and Cher. The prudent choice of a less-than-impassioned fiancé who does not want to get his suit pants creased when he proposes and forgets the ring. And then, when said fiancé is visiting his dying mother, the bella luna makes everything crazy. Set in an Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, this movie has it all—a quirky family played to perfection by Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia , and Feodor Chaliapin, Jr., hear tstopping romance, and fabulous food that makes your mouth water as you stare at the screen.

It’s a perfect date night (hint, hint, guys). Or girls’ night. Or dinner for a couple of couples. Open a bottle of Chianti Reserva, serve up some of the dishes from Italian-American cooking doyenne Lidia Bastianich and enjoy yourself. After all, as Ronny Cammareri says, “We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.” Might as well have some good pasta first.

Bollywood Night
You have heard that India has the biggest film industry in the world (it’s true), and you see references to exotic actresses who are called the most beautiful women in the world. And, that film Slumdog Millionaire was something you have been meaning to look up. Maybe you have seen a few of these films, but it has been a while.

We have done it for you, by putting together that movie with a selection of others of the Bollywood (Bombay plus Hollywood) genre and rounding the package off with spicy curry recipes from Madhur Jaffrey, the most well-known Indian cooking authority between here and Delhi. If you do not know where to get some of the ingredients, we will include a local store which can help. Pickup some Kingfisher or mix up a mango lassi drink and see what the fuss is about.

A Trip to Tuscany
If you get stuck in traffic on Westnedge one more time you might just lose it. You want to go away. Far, far away. Lose yourself in the tale of someone else who shared some of those feelings, San Francisco writer Frances Mayes, whose airplane ticket given to her by a friend led to a trip to Tuscany and the purchase of a villa there, where olives grow on the property, the wine you drink may have been made just down the road, the sun is hot, and the pace is slower. We can’t provide the ticket, nor the house, but we have the film, music, food, and recommendations on the wine. Buon viaggio!

Like Water for Chocolate
Some of us at the PDL spend a lot of time thinking about food. A lot of time. So we adore food-related cinema, and this just might have our votefor the best ever. This film, from the eponymous novel by Laura Esquivel,follows the story of a young girl named Tita who longs to marry her love, Pedro,but cannot, since her mother upholds the family tradition of the youngest daughter not marrying but taking care of her mother until the day she dies.Tita thus expresses love, sadness, passion, and joy through the wonderful food she cooks. The smells and tastes of Texas/Mexico at the time of the Mexican Revolution seem to waft out of the screen as you laugh and cry with Tita.

We include the recipes of Diana Kennedy, long an authority on traditional Mexican cuisine, as well as music from both Mexico and Texas. A romantic evening or a fabulous girls’ night.

Long Live the King
From Wikipedia (yes,librarians sometimes use it too!):
“Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8,1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. A cultural icon, he is commonly known by the single name Elvis.1 One of the most popular musicians of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ or ‘the King.’”

Bigger than life, he was central to the cultural era in which he lived,and his songs, movies, influence live on decades after his death (though some say they have spotted him in the Mall of America more recently). Just a couple years ago many of us enjoyed Portage Central High School’s production of All Shook Up.

Sustain yourself with “the Elvis,”, a peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich, a cheeseburger or some of the other Southern or diner foods in the included cookbook as you watch a double feature of two of his most popular movies. The soundtrack of the evening is just what you’d imagine.

Thankyouverymuch.

Chocolat and Chocolate
France, chocolate, and star after star. Swoon. This might get you over that mess at work, or the fact that you truly believe that you are spending more time in the car than out of it. Sit back and watch Juliet Binoche, Alfred Molina, Carrie-Anne Moss, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp, in this story of a woman who comes from nowhere with her daughter to as mall village and opens a chocolate shop. Romantic, atmospheric, and rich and decadent as the candy that she sells. This one is a do-ahead, and perhaps the easiest of all of the bags to prepare for. Buy the chocolate or bake some of the desserts in the included cookbook, and you are set. A list of beverages that are recommended to sip with chocolate is also included. Mmmmmmmm.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
“In constant sorrow, all through his days….”

This down home retelling of Ulysses starring George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson enchanted audiences across the globe as its heroes escaped a prison work farm and went in quest of a cache of loot. The music of the film is as great as its story with music from the Stanley Brothers, Alison Krauss, and the Whites, among others. Since music figures so greatly in the film’s appeal, we include a video on the making of the music for the film, as well as an outstanding bluegrass documentary, Gather at the River. The cookbook we include is a personal favorite, which conveys the heart and soul of country cooking, as experienced by Ronni Lundy, the 2009 recipient of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. Her cornbread might cause you to have an epiphany right on the spot.

Fried Green Tomatoes
A long, tangled tale about an independent, sometimes ornery female Idgie Threadgood in Whistlestop, Alabama forms the centerpiece of this movie. The story, recounted by an irrepressible resident of a nursing home to a happenstance visitor not allowed to enter the room of her husband’s crochety aunt, has vignettes of family loyalty, friendship, tolerance, and amazing Southern food, including barbecue with a secret ingredient. Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and Mary Ellen Masterson star in this award-winning film. John Egerton’s Southern Food, a giant in the genre, and Fannie Flagg’s Original Whistle Stop Café Cookbook provide the guidance to fry up a mess of catfish or some down home barbecue to accompany your movie.

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