There were three of us: Greg Maletic, Alex Pasco, and yours truly. And then there was the fourth, Cabel Sasser. We wanted to jokingly “catch him up” on movies we figured everyone should see, and he hadn’t. So we rented out a movie theater, kidnapped him from work (blindfold and all), popped him in a red velvet seat surrounded by his family and friends, and rolled the projector on two great movies previously unseen by him, and unknown to the rest of the audience. It was a blast.
It was such a blast that we couldn’t just leave it at this one bespoke, double-feature screening of secret movies. We wanted to recreate the experience for the rest of our friends—and a bunch of strangers, if possible. And thus was born Match Cut Movie Club, a quarterly (or so) screening of just such double features.
The three of us pick two great movies to show. They must be 1. genuinely good and enjoyable, so nothing too artsy or mopey, and 2. seldom seen in some sense, so they’re new to most of our audience. When choosing, we try to find a common thread for the two selections. In one case, it was “Kirk Douglas at his most dramatic, Kirk Douglas at his silliest.” We then post about the next screening, keeping the actual movies secret. Folks show up at the theater, sit down (no blindfold needed), and we play some short clips and trailers to set the mood. Then the first movie starts. What is it? Only three of us know. Whatever it is, we promise it’s good.
See, it’s all premised on trust. If you trust Greg, Alex, and me, we promise not to punk you or challenge you in an annoying way. These movies probably won’t be what you’d pick if you browsed Netflix at home, but they won’t be hipper-than-thou either. You’ll walk out thinking, “man, I’m glad I finally saw that!”
Take Forbidden Planet, for instance. It is, in my opinion, the quintessential 1950s sci-fi movie. It’s a genre we all know mostly via parody and regurgitation. That’s fair; most of those movies were kind of crummy. But not this one. It’s gorgeous, it’s cleverly written, it’s wonderfully inventive. You’re not going to forget it.
It’s a movie you should see, and we try to show it the way you should see it: on a big screen, with friends, no rush or pressure.
So, our next screening is tonight. The movies we’ve chosen are seriously good; the first is in my all-time top five, and the second is perhaps the single best in its category. I bet you haven’t seen both, and I also bet you’ll love at least one of them.
Look on this and despair, fans of street food. Look on it and realize that it may be ruining some of your favorite dishes.
It’s a three-section takeout container, a superbly convenient invention. The clever construction, wide availability, and relatively low price make it an obvious choice for many food trucks, food carts, food kiosks, or whatever your town calls quick and convenient food-grab businesses. I understand why this is popular—believe me, I do. But I’m here to say I wish it were a little less popular, because its design hurts some of my favorite dishes, even when they’re prepared well otherwise.
I’m writing this after eating a passable Indonesian lunch out of one of these containers. My meal included totally solid beef rendang, some pickles, and rice. Typically, a dish of this sort would be served something like this:
So, a small mound of rice, and a bunch of things around it. The banana leaf would typically be larger, and when taken to go (the above was served in my kitchen) it would all be folded into a convenient little portable bundle.
The bundle is handy, but it’s more than that. Using it also means that all your food is now packed together, steaming inside a fragrant banana leaf. You are continuing to cook it, letting no moisture escape, and melding the flavors together.
No such thing happens in our high-tech, plastic container. The three sections mandate the quantity of each ingredient, and it’s all way off-balance: you get nearly a pound of rice, laid flat so it dries out. Two smaller sections get awkwardly filled with some split of the other ingredients, and it’s all closed with a good 1.5” of headroom, letting all the moisture rise up and then drip back down. This isn’t “steaming”; it’s could be described as a weird dry-out-plus-spray cooling method.
The whole “wrapped bundle” thing isn’t some fancy fad. It’s a tradition that arose from dozens (if not hundreds) of years of food service in many different countries. It just makes sense. It’s also cheaper; banana leaves cost next to nothing. For compliance with US food-safety regulations, the banana bundle might have to be further wrapped in butcher paper, but that wouldn’t change things much. That’s how my favorite food cart in Portland, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, does things, and you can taste it—your chicken and rice stay juicy and warm for a very long time.
Imagine ordering a burrito and being handed that three-section takeout container filled with a mountain of rice, a side of pork, and a side of beans. You’d scratch your head, at the very least. It’s not the missing tortilla that’s the worst offense here; you probably don’t order burritos because you adore the (lack of) flavor of an industrial flour tortilla. You just recognize that these ingredients taste better when they’re tightly pressed together.
This, then, is my humble plea to Southeast-Asian food vendors all across Portland and the rest of the nation: don’t use plastic containers for foods that are normally served wrapped in some way. Wrap it, brother and sister, wrap it. You’ll save money, earn street creed, and serve tastier meals.