Thursday, October 30, 2014

"She Came In Through the Kitchen Window - Recipes Inspired by the Beatles and Their Music" - Give Peas (and Pasta) a Chance

Date I made this recipe:  October 27, 2014

She Came in Through the Kitchen Window – Recipes Inspired by the Beatles and Their Music by Stephen J. Spignesi
Published by:  Citadel Press
ISBN:  0-8065-2359-X
Purchased at Half-Price Books, St. Louis Park
Recipe:  "Give (Pasta and) Peas a Chance ("Give Peace a Chance) – p. 143

So.  This is one of those long stories not made short.  And that's because we have to go backwards in time to August 9, 1969 and an awful event that played out in the national news that involved celebrities, famous families, a clan of murderers and even the subject of today's blog, The Beatles.  So buckle your seatbelts because try as I might, I cannot think of how to talk about this cookbook and this recipe without going long on the details of how I came to select this book.  Ready?

On August 9, 1969, actress Sharon Tate (Valley of the Dolls), wife of director Roman Polanski (Rosemary's Baby), her unborn baby (she was 8 months pregnant), and four others, including an heir to the Folgers coffee fortune, were brutally murdered at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, CA (north of Beverly Hills).  News of the event swept the nation and for months, eyes were glued to the set and to print news as we tried to make sense out of what happened.  I was 10 years old, my 11th birthday being just a few months away in October.

The day after the "Tate murder," in a seemingly unrelated event (it wasn't), Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were murdered in Los Angeles in similar fashion.  Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were successful business owners.  The two murders eventually became known as the "Tate-LaBianca Murders."

At both scenes, messages were written on the wall in the victim's blood:  "Pigs," "Piggies," and the now infamous "Helter Skelter" (misspelled by murderer Patricia Van Winkle as Healter Skelter with an extra "a").  "Helter Skelter" was the name of a song on the Beatle's White Album, along with "Revolution" and "Piggies."  This eventually becomes an important tidbit.

After quite the investigation and much piecing together of puzzle pieces, LA's police and sheriff's departments determined that cult leader, Charles Manson, a career criminal, and his followers known as "The Family" were behind these murders.  LA Deputy District Attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, finally brought this group to trial for the Tate-La Bianca murders.  He then wrote a book, Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders – which I read for the first time in 1974 when the book was released. (I was in 10th grade at the time, but what can I say – I was fascinated by this story.) In 1977, Bugliosi came to speak about the murders at my undergrad alma mater, Northern Michigan University – props to NMU for having him and okay, props to me for going. You might think that this is what eventually spurred me to start law school, but alas, kids, that didn't happen until 2001.  (PS—most of The Family was convicted although some made deals in exchange for testimony.)

So to fast forward just a bit here:  45 years have now gone by since the Tate-LaBianca murders.  (What would I do without People magazine reminding me of this?).  And that prompted me to re-read this 670 page tome.  And I have to tell you that this is one of the best "primers" for how to build a case and argue that case in court that I've ever read.  If we would have been assigned this book and this book alone in law school for my Criminal Law class instead of a boring case book, I would have been one, happy 1L (nickname for first year law students) camper!  Honestly, although the details of these murders are horrifying and the Manson family's capers were chilling, this was a riveting read.  That said, my husband chuckled at my whining:  "Oh My God!  I've been reading forever and I still have 400 pages to go!  I'll never finish!"  Then later on:  "Okay, only 300 pages to go.  I'm making progress!"  Still later:  "I'm within spitting distance – only 200 pages."  And once I got to the last 100, I was a woman on a mission, determined to finish this up ASAP.  It did not hurt that my book was due (second renewal, no less) two days after I turned the last page.  So I got 'er done just under the wire – whew.

At this point, I bet you're wondering when on earth I'll get to the point of this blog and this cookbook.  Patience, people, patience – we're almost there!

Over time, detectives and Bugliosi were able to make the connection to why Mason's Family attacked the people at 10050 Cielo Drive, particularly because none of "The Family" members had met any of the residents or their guests.  But Charles Manson did.   The person Charles met previously was Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son.  Terry was a record producer.  Terry previously rented 10050 Cielo Drive before Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski took over the lease.  Manson, thinking himself a man of considerable song-writing talent, yearned to make a but Melcher didn't concur and refused to record Manson.  Manson was more than a bit peeved.  And so to get back at Melcher, he ordered the attack (he didn't participate that night) on the people living at 10050 Cielo Drive. 

Also important to know:  Mason believed that "Helter Skelter," the name of the Beatles tune, signified the "revolution" of the black man rising up against the establishment.  Manson called the "establishment" (i.e. people who were better off than he was) "pigs" or "piggies."  (At the time, cops were often referred to as "pigs" and so the LAPD was understandably confused when the murders didn't have any connection to cops.)  And so that's what those words written in blood meant.  In Manson's mind, he planned to make it look like those killings were the acts of the black men who he would help with their revolution.  The only thing he accomplished was putting the fear of God into everyone in the Los Angeles area, particularly those in the movie or music industry.  And it didn't set too well with folks outside that LA area, either.

This brings us (at long last) to The Beatles. (Ta Da!) Manson worshipped The Beatles.  He thought that they were four angels (he was the fifth) and he pretty much ordered "The Family" to listen to their White Album for inspiration for all their soon-to-be criminal activities.  So when news reported all this, suddenly the White Album became the evil empire.  And while I was a little too young to be a die-hard Beatles fan, I also didn't see what all the fuss was about until this all erupted.  You'd have thought the Beatles were personally involved in the crimes for all the caterwauling that went on but you have to understand that people were very freaked out by this.  Actually, make that terrified.  In another ironic turn, Manson also happened to meet the Beach Boy's drummer, Dennis Wilson, while at a party attended by Terry Melcher.  So that tidbit hit the news as well.  And as a postscript, as hard as it might be to believe, Charles Manson songs were covered by several groups, most notably Guns and Roses.  I tell you what, I learn something every day.

So, the entire time I was re-reading Helter Skelter, I had an ear-worm going of many Beatles tunes including "Helter Skelter" (later covered by U2) and "Revolution," among others.  And OF COURSE I had a Beatles-related cookbook at the ready so I could tie the whole thing together.  Our author, Stephen J. Spignesi, took (mostly) Beatles tunes (or singles performed by Beatles members or by Paul McCartney's band, Wings) and fashioned them into recipes.  What I loved was his inclusion of Beatles songs that fell through my musical filter such as "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" (drink)," "Mean Mr. Mustard" (Mean Mr. Mustard Dip), or "Sun King" (cake).  Don't know as I ever heard those songs. 

Then there were songs that informed my childhood (in no particular order):  "Yellow Submarine" (Yellow Submarine Sandwich); "Come Together" (Crumb Together – cherry crumb cake); "Get Back" (Rosetta's Roaster Red Pepper Spread) (BTW, the author mentioned that Rosetta is only mentioned in the Let It Be LP. Loretta (make that "Sweet Loretta") is mentioned in all other versions), and "Lovely Rita" (Lovely Pita). 

And just like picking a favorite Beatles' song (I'm not sure I can), selecting a recipe proved to be a challenge.  Many items sounded good, some were eliminated because there wasn't much to the recipe and others were bounced because they weren't really Beatles tunes.  Like oh, say, the recipe we ended up making:  "Give Peace a Chance" was written and performed by John Lennon.  But my husband, Andy, liked the recipe (and the song) and that decided things so there you go.

Interesting tidbit:  John Lennon, his son, Sean, and I all share the same birthday – October 9th.  Sadly, John Lennon was killed on December 8, 1980 the day before my brother's birthday on December 9th.  Somehow, this felt like a death in the family.  And unbelievably, instead of – like the Manson murders – being "inspired" by Beatles music, Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, was inspired by J.D. Salinger's seminal book, The Catcher in the Rye.  Chapman apparently wanted to model his life like the main character, Holden Caulfield.  And in another one of those creepy moments somewhat emulating the Mason murders, Chapman stayed on the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye until the police came.  Makes you realize that while the vast majority of us are inspired to do good things due to reading a book or listening to music, a few whackadoodles (my friend, Ann's term) go in a very scary direction.

It is somewhat sadly ironic, then, that Lennon's anti-war/anti-killing song, "Give Peace a Chance," was the basis for today's featured recipe, "Give (Pasta and) Peas a Chance.
This recipe was easy to make but I can't say as I'd make it again, at least not without modifications, specifically, nixing the canned peas.  It's not that I hate canned peas; on the contrary, I love them.  But canned peas are super sweet and super mushy and I thought they overpowered the rest of the ingredients.  I was "this close" to using frozen peas but since I always remain true to the ingredients listed, I stuck with them this time around.

I was also not fond of using garlic powder, preferring instead to use garlic cloves but again, the recipe said to use powder so I did.

And finally, pancetta instead of Canadian bacon might have added more zip and been more traditional (to an Italian recipe for spaghetti carbonara) but again, pancetta wasn't called for so it wasn't used.

So we "gave peas a chance" and it was satisfying but I think I could – and probably you can – do better the next time around. 

BTW, was this cosmic, or what?  I was just on my way home from the grocery store, picking up these ingredients, when my favorite radio station – The Current (89.3—and you can and also should stream it online – played Siouxsie and the Banshees' cover of the Beatles song "Dear Prudence."  Dear Prudence was also on the White Album.  Then this morning, The Current played The Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There" as well as "Paperback Writer."  And finally, one of the local magazines featured several local recording artists in a recent article, one of whom was Nicholas David, who some of you will remember from Season 3 of The Voice (he was one of the three finalists) in 2012.  But prior to his appearance on that show, I heard Nicholas sing The Beatles "Across the Universe" on The Current as part of a feature on artists who participated in the Minnesota Beatle Project.  Nicholas was on the very first year's (Vol. 1) album and I loved his cover of this song. 

So folks, you have a lot to do:  read the book - Helter Skelter - listen to the White Album, listen to a lot of other Beatles tunes, and check out the Minnesota Beatles Project.  Oh—and cook, naturally!

Give (Pasta and) Pease a Chance ("Give Peace a Chance") – serves 4
1 large onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices Canadian bacon, cut up into bite-sized pieces (Ann's Note:  You might want to try pancetta)
1 14.9-ounce can of peas (retain water) (Ann's Note:  definitely try frozen peas, adding a little water to emulate the canned peas)
1 8-ounce can of peas (drain water) (Ann's Note:  use the same amount of frozen peas)
Garlic powder, salt, pepper and grated cheese to taste (Ann's Note:  Instead of garlic powder, mince a few garlic cloves and sauté along with the onion)
2 medium eggs, beaten
½ pound spaghetti (broken in half)

Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a covered skillet until it's soft.  Add the Canadian bacon to the pan and cook, uncovered, until bacon is tender.  Slowly add the 2 cans of peas, including the water from the larger can, to the onions and bacon.  In a small bowl, add salt, pepper, and grated cheese to taste to the 2 beaten eggs.  When the pea-and-onion mixture begins to boil, add the seasoned eggs to the skillet.  Add a dash of garlic powder to taste and cook this mixture for about 10 minutes.  While this is cooking, boil the spaghetti to al dente texture in a large deep pot.  Drain the spaghetti and add the peas-and-onion mixture to it.  Toss together and serve with more grated cheese and a green salad.

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