Mad Men Foodcap: Episode 8, “Souvenir”

I’d just like to linger on this image for a moment.

Oh, Pete.

Pete also if you look in the back of Jet you can find out Ruby Dee's birthday!

Because that is the last time I’m going to say, “Oh, Pete,” in a gently mocking but still affectionate way.

Pete’s dead to me now.
Last Week:

Betty bought a couch that looks like upholstered lady-parts and blocked her hearth with it. Don had to sign a lucrative three-year contract ensuring 12% of the profits of a successful ad agency, which was much worse than slavery in the 1960s. But Don thought Lincoln freed the slaves! Peggy did the unthinkable with the unmentionable. Ugh.

Betty flirted without cease with her new pal Henry over an apple pie. I could have just baked a delicious apple pie that my guests would have enjoyed.

But I have a new cookbook!
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1954’s The Complete Round the World Cookbook! The author is late food writer Myra Waldo, who manages to come across as a fun, adventurous, casually racist diner:

“Concerning the culinary style of the cannibals who remain today in Africa, it is believed that little purpose would be served by furnishing their recipes.”  Ha! Ha! She is a pistol! Let’s take her to New Eritrea Restaurant and make her drink room-temperature water while we stuff our faces with injera.

Admittedly, any 445-page cookbook claiming to accurately represent the cuisines of 84 countries is going to be more notable for what it excludes than what it offers. But Waldo’s tendency to dismiss the food of entire continents as “not to our taste” (who is “our?”) or “strictly non-habit-forming,” while offensive and unintentionally hilarious, also represents the worldview of the denizens of Sterling Cooper, where Lane Cooper can view a transfer to Bombay as a humiliating exile, or Roger Sterling can perform in blackface to an uncomfortably giggling crowd.

Since last week apple pie was consumed, and a few weeks ago Peggy mentioned her Scandinavian heritage, I chose a Swedish recipe for Apple Cake With Vanilla Sauce (äpplekaka med vaniljsås, to be precise.) In the traditional version, apples are tossed with lemon juice and baked with a ground almond topping. In the 1954 housewife version, applesauce is layered with ground (Ritz) crackers.

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According to my audience, this is the first period dessert I’ve baked that was nearly edible, though still not very good to eat. The applesauce didn’t set in the middle; the texture of the rest was reminiscent of taro cake. The crumbs, browned in butter, were actually great. The sauce was definitely some kind of sauce.

Now we know why the social upheaval of the 1960s occurred: people wanted better food.

Our cocktail of the week, again from the Mad Men cocktail site, was the Old Fashioned, in honor of Peggy’s admission that she was “raised on whiskey.” It’s also, of course, Don’s signature drink, the one he prepares for Connie. Prepared as directed, it looks lovely:
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It tastes as if the Cuban Missile Crisis had escalated to war, only in your mouth. Sure, the tropical fruit trees of Havana are in there somewhere, but you can’t taste them very well because of the nuclear holocaust.

Saying “I’ll have an Old Fashioned” is a classy way of saying “I’ll have a lot of bourbon whiskey so that I may forget that my real name is Dick Whitman and I don’t belong in Don Draper’s life. You can add ice if you want but that is just to trick my liver into not exploding.” Everyone else liked it, but they are probably living double lives. I checked out of my drink early and had some rosé instead. My real name isn’t Dick Whitman.

This Week:

This week’s show was about power relationships, alter egos, and quid pro quos.

Betty tried on the new persona she’s been creating with her friend Henry, the space where she can remind people she went to Bryn Mawr and is, apparently, fluent in Italian. The persona —  sexually confident and unflappable — blossomed after a kiss from Henry. Henry has been helping Betty to save the reservoir, and we’ve been holding our breath waiting to see what he demands for his payment, his quid pro quo. For now, it’s just a kiss.
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Landing in Rome allows Betty to fully realize the character:

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Don is happy to play along, pretending he’s never met Betty before and “picking her up” in a hotel restaurant. Don, who pretends almost every second of the day, must see Betty’s playacting as her entering his world. Remember that Don is at his happiest with strangers; Betty pretending to be a stranger breaks down barriers between them.
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All the barriers.

When they return, Don is happy to continue the game. But Don’s regular life is much like his life in Rome — working, drinking, sleeping with a beautiful woman, even if, this one time, the woman was Betty. Betty’s home life, however, is radically different, a point brought home when she mentions, to her dull housewife friend, that the children refused to eat a probably Italian-inspired dinner she prepared.
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Is that real Parmesan cheese on the counter, and not the familiar green cannister of finely ground polyester? Betty tried! Betty never tries. The dish is probably baked Ziti or lasagna, and the kids’ rejection is clear: Betty’s Italian alter ego would not be caught dead in Ossining.

Don buys Betty a “Souvenir” of the trip, but Betty isn’t impressed. She doesn’t want to put away the excitement of Rome in a jewelry box, to remember her lone 48 hours of freedom. Not to mention the fact that the little Coliseum charm may remind Betty that, to Don, she is little more than a souvenir, a pretty trinket he acquired on his way to the apex of Sterling Cooper.

In other news, Pete is a rapist now. :(

You know, I’ve kind of liked Pete, despite his neuroses and none-too-subtle machinations and reprehensible treatment of Peggy. But, in this episode, he manipulates a teenaged German au-pair and then blackmails her into sex, arriving drunkenly at her door the way he came to Peggy’s door years ago. That’s rape, Pete, and you’re not a nice person.

From the beginning, it’s clear Pete is only pretending to be a nice guy because he wants to have a fling with the au-pair, Gudrun, who looks and sounds like Fraulein Maria in Manhattan. He buys an expensive dress to help her cover up a mistake, but, if Gudrun can’t figure out what Pete might want in return, the viewer knows right away.

The au-pair’s employer, Pete’s neighbor, comes to jokingly warn Pete off the nanny (the unspoken message is: rape’s awesome! Just don’t do it at my house anymore, k?). This serves to humiliate Pete into nearly confessing his affair to Trudy. Trudy and Pete are from the class that doesn’t say things outright, and Trudy gets the hint without being expressly told, storming off in tears.

They make up that night, over a dinner of cold salads that are most likely underseasoned and overcooked:
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“Cold salads, hearts of palm, tomatoes, olives,” Trudy blathers in the silence, adding a nervous chatter about fruit salad. I know it’s hot out, but it’s as if Trudy is consciously trying to cool down Pete’s libido — or put forth that she’s willing to pretend that maybe the heat lead to Pete’s transgression. But, when Pete’s apology consists of telling Trudy she can’t “go away without [him]” anymore, it’s clear Pete has shifted the blame — and responsibility — onto his wife. If she hadn’t left him alone, he wouldn’t have raped Gudrun; and as long as Trudy is vigilant, she can keep him from doing such a thing again.

Gross, Pete. Is mistake, any setback, any horrible and intentional action his fault? Ever?

Next week, to keep from being burned in effigy by my household, I will make a GOOD Italian red-sauce dish, but I will probably also make a terrible, terrible fruit salad appropriate to the era (Jello may be involved). And Betty ordering asti spumante made my whole week. Thanks, Betty! Not everyone drinks to forget.

Some drink to remember.