Monday, September 15, 2014

My Movie Debut with Lauren Bacall

The recent death of Lauren Bacall brings back memories of seeing almost all of her movies and reminds me of my movie debut.  The Portrait, a 1993 movie made for TV, was filmed in the Raleigh-Durham area, and when there was a call for extras I signed up.  I was hoping to see either Bacall or Gregory Peck who was her co-star.  I had forgotten about signing up when one Friday I got a call asking if I could show up on Saturday at the Governor's Mansion as an extra in the movie.   A room in the Mansion was supposed to be Peck's office on a college campus.

In the telephone call I was told to dress in something that wouldn't stand out in a crowd--not a bright color for example.  When we first arrived on Saturday we were sent to wardrobe.  I had dressed in a subtle rust colored shirt waist dress, and my outfit was approved.  Some folks had to choose a "costume" from those provided by the movie set.

The first scene in which I participated was a large group of us supposedly attending a concert.   The camera just panned across the group.  If you blink you won't see me.

Then the director, Arthur Penn, called about a dozen of us out and he looked us over and chose three of us.  We were supposed to be college professors---ironically I was the only one of the three that was.  I wondered, "Do I look like a college professor?"  (What does a college professor look like anyway---actually a pretty diverse group.) We were going to be doing a scene in the Governor's Mansion which was supposed to be the "office" of Gregory Peck who portrayed a college professor and the husband of the Lauren Bacall character.  I was so disappointed that Peck was off somewhere else filming and there was a stand in for him, because in the scene it only showed his back.

But sure enough Lauren Bacall was there, and I spent the afternoon filming with her.  I had no idea how long it took to film just a snippet of a film.  The three of us extras were supposed to be walking along outside of Peck's office and I was supposed to wave at a colleague across the way just as Bacall comes dashing out of the office and runs into the three of us.

 As soon as the director yelled "action" we were supposed to start across the hall and Bacall was supposed to dash out of her husband's office.  The director kept yelling "cut" and we kept repeating and repeating this scene.  There was only once when the three of us extras missed the cue, and it had to be repeated.  I'm not sure what happened the other numerous times. 

We had been told that we extras were not to talk with the actors, unless they first talked to us. At one point, they stopped filming and made some comment about the floor squeaking when Bacall rushed out of the office.  They brought in several moving blankets that movers use and taped them down on the floor to muffle the sound. (I would have thought they could have digitally removed the squeaky sound.)  At that point Lauren Bacall walked over to me and asked, "Do you think that is going to be safe for me to dash across?  Do you think I may trip?"  I couldn't believe I was standing there being asked a question by Lauren Bacall.  I told her I was pretty certain it would be safe.  That was in 1992 or 93, so she would have been about 67 or 68, but she was in great shape and looked to be no more than 50.  She was very beautiful.

When the movie was shown on television some months later, a friend of mine in Lattimore taped it and when I and some of my friends got together for a viewing, we had to stop the film and look at it in slow motion to see that I was really in the movie.  That was more fun than the actual filming.  I never see a movie now without thinking how tedious it is to film just a short scene.  So should you see The Portrait,  when Lauren Bacall comes rushing out of her husband's office,  it is I that she almost runs into. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good Eats in Cape Breton Summer 2014

Baked haddock over spinach, rice, French lentils and mushrooms.  (Photo by Anthony Benson)

One of the nicest things about vacationing in Cape Breton is the good food that we have there.  I'm listing a few of our favorites for this summer.

We usually head over to Whycogomagh for a bowl of seafood chowder at Chalene's Bay View Restaurant.  This is said to be the best seafood chowder in all of Nova Scotia.  We certainly would agree with that.  It is always chocked full of seafood and not dominated by potatoes as many chowders are. 
Charlene's famous seafood chowder.

Although the Ela Restaurant in Halifax isn't in Cape Breton, we usually have a meal there if we are in Halifax.  Alice tried the grilled octopus at my recommendation and she liked it as much as I do.
Alice enjoying grilled octopus. 

While we were over in St. Peter's we discovered a new little bistro, and the corn chowder and toasted pimento cheese sandwich were special.
Corn chowder with a pimento cheese sandwich on homemade bread.

The fresh Arctic Char that we bought at Masstown Market was a hit with the three of us.  We poached it just enough so that it separated from the bone nicely.  Dan is very discriminating when it comes to fish, and he declared it fresh and delicious.

We're always happy to see Laura and Anthony arrive.  Laura is an exceptional cook and the haddock dish she prepared was one of the best things we had during the three weeks.  She prepared a bed of rice, French lentils, and mushrooms, with steamed spinach and topped with baked haddock.  So scrumptious.
Laura's baked haddock. (Photo by Anthony Benson).

Laura made blueberry pancakes for breakfast several mornings.  Her pancakes are the best I have ever had.  They are made with a multigrain batter and loaded with fresh wild blueberries.  We ate lots with maple syrup and with grape jam.
Dan ready to devour Laura's blueberry pancakes. 

We did not have as many desserts as usual because Alice doesn't like desserts, and she was a good influence on me.  I did make a delicious Manitoba blueberry pie with fresh and cooked blueberries topped with whipped cream flavored with almond. 
Manitoba blueberry pie.

One of the best food at the birthday party for Michealette was the fruit kabobs.
Beautiful and tasty fruit kabobs at Michealette's birthday party.

We celebrated a belated birthday party for me at the Dundee Resort noted for its great restaurant.  Several of us enjoyed a half rack of lamb that was cooked to perfection and the spinach salad starter was good too.  
Spinach salad with strawberries, eggs, citrus and red onions. 
Half rack of lamb.
The last evening we were there Laura made steamed mussels.  She steamed the mussels in a broth of chicken stock, onions, chives, tomatoes and yellow squash.
Steamed mussels.

   Yes, we always enjoy eating when we are in Cape Breton, and this summer was no exception.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Manitoba Blueberry Pie

Manitoba Blueberry Pie

Our friend Frances was here the other day, and she mentioned the blueberry pie she had made recently, and she pronounced it the best blueberry pie she had ever eaten.  It is called Manitoba Blueberry Pie, and I looked up the recipe on the internet and proceeded to make one.  We had lots of fresh blueberries.  Here's the recipe. 
 Bake a 9 inch pie shell.
 Baked pie shell ready for the berries.
Cook1 cup of the berries according to directions and when cool mix in fresh berries.  Place berries in the prepared pie shell.
Cooked and fresh berries mixed together and placed in pie shell.

When filling has cooled, add whipped cream and refrigerate. 
Pie ready to refrigerate.
Ready to eat.

This is a good pie alright, and it is a bit unusual in that in combines cooked and uncooked berries. 

Note: I used about 3/4 cup of sugar in the berries and only 1 tbs in the whipped cream.  We don't like our pie too sweet.  It was perfect for us.  The almond flavoring in the whipped cream is quite good.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Marble Mountain Wine

White wine from the Marble Mountain winery.
It's quite surprising to many that grapes grow well here in the Marble Mountain region.  Just down the road from us is a vineyard and a winery.  Alice and I visited the other day, and although I'm a virtual teetotaler I did purchase a couple of bottles of their white wine to take back to North Carolina.
Alice and our friend Yvonne.  Yvonne works in the vineyard and winery.
The vineyard is on the mountain slope at the site of the old 200 acre MacPhail farm.
Red grapes.

White grapes.

The barn where the wine is made and sold.  The old MacPhail home can be seen off to the right in this photo.
Checking out the various wines for sale.

Alice and I chose a white wine to take home.

Why don't you check out their website.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Really Fresh Eggs for Breakfast

Chicken coop for free range hens. 
One of our neighbors has two flocks of chickens for laying eggs.

Hens graze during the day inside fence.
She was out of town recently and she invited us to go over and gather some of the eggs.  We went over on Sunday and her house sitter let the chicken out into their pen where they graze during the day.  Alice and I went to the nests and gathered the eggs.  There were nine in all---four from Saturday and five from Sunday.
Four fresh eggs in the nest.
Nine freshly laid eggs.

I can only remember once gathering eggs when I was a small child and my grandmother had some laying hens.  So this was a new experience and a fun one.

On Monday morning we ate four of the eggs.  The yolks were so bright yellow because the chickens are free range and eat a lot of plants during the day.
The yolks are so bright yellow.

I scrambled the eggs in a bit of butter---no  garnishes of any kind---just pure scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs.

We enjoyed the eggs with some Lunenburg pudding (the nearest thing they have here that resembles liver mush) and a fresh blueberry muffin made by our friend Michealette.  What a good breakfast.
Ready to eat.

My younger son upon seeing some of the photos asked if we could have a chicken coop at our house in Raleigh.  We could of course---one of close neighbors does.  So he said we've got to make that happen.  So once I get back to Raleigh I my end up with my very own chicken coop in the backyard.