Mad Men S4E01: Public Relations

Mad Men is back! And so is Mad Men blogging. Yay!

As I did last year, I will be blogging the food and drink of Mad Men. (In a departure from last year, I do not plan to be so overwhelmed by all the themed cooking and cocktails that I completely miss the last post of the season.)

This Week:

Today, there will be no pictures, because my TiVo and its associated server are being weird. No worries! We will survive this.

Update: Pictures added.

The first scene sets the tone for the entire episode. A reporter, writing a feature designed to showcase Don Draper’s sudden celebrity — he’s produced an attention-getting TV ad about floor polish — is interviewing Don in a restaurant, or, at least, trying to. Don ducks all the man’s questions, especially the pointed “Who is Don Draper?”

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Who IS Don Draper?

It’s a hilarious question if you’ve been watching the series from the beginning; Don Draper is either a dead man or a cipher Dick Whitman invented in Korea. Don Draper has never been a real person. It’s always fascinating when Jon Hamm allows the man who calls himself Don Draper to actually relax; usually when he is all alone, he stops projecting an aura of invulnerable suavity and just makes himself some corned beef hash or something.

These days, Don has relaxed that persona to such a degree that he’s picking up shades of his father, maintaining a standing date with a prostitute and bordering on abusive in his dealings with Peggy.

Don, himself, in the middle of a tanking client presentation, voices the question that drives the episode: “You need to decide what kind of company you want to be.” Sterling Cooper Draper Price is struggling, as their old clients fall away; Don realizes, in the midst of the presentation, that they can only compete by being perceived as flashy, daring, and edgy. That begins with kicking the clients out of the office — and with spinning a dazzling new SCDP origin myth for what will certainly be a successful Wall Street Journal profile.

Don also needs to decide what man he wants to be. Traditionally, he’s done best when he creates a new persona from scratch; one can assume Don is making himself into a new, flashy, confident Don Draper for the new ad marketplace. For the first time in at least a year, Don is remembering how to sell his most important product — himself.

Edibles:

In other news, what a juicy episode for food! First off, everyone is dealing with Thanksgiving, in particular the very modern problem of blended families vs. holiday arrangements. Betty’s Thanksgiving, chez new husband Henry’s mother, was tense at best. No one wants to eat: Henry’s daughter shows up, having already eaten elsewhere, and Sally actually throws up at the table after being force-fed sweet potatoes by her mother. Not subtle, that; Betty, in power for once, is shoving her new, perfect life down everyone else’s throat, and Sally, alone, refuses to toe the party line. Given that Kiernan Shipka has been bumped up to series regular, I’m guessing this power struggle is going to be a major story this season.

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Peggy fesses up to Don.

Peggy’s storyline was, in all seriousness, about ham. Creating an artificial demand for ham; selling ham; getting ham mentioned in the newspaper; who did and who did not receive a ham, and, I might even add, making fun of a hammy comedy routine. Ham ham ham. (I almost feel like this was some oblique reference to John Hamm’s Hamm & Buble SNL sketch.) Peggy gives Don the office’s sole canned ham because he will, presumably, be all alone on Thanksgiving (canned ham is for sad, lonely people), then interrupts his day with a prostitute (!!!) to get her ham actors bailed out of jail. Then Peggy rejoices because, this time, the delighted client has sent enough canned hams for everybody. Yay ham!

What does the sad canned ham represent? The cold sterility of “modern” industrially-produced food? The subjugation of a traditionally lovingly handmade food — the Virginia Ham — into a jellied product? I am sure Matthew Weiner has thought about this, but I am, frankly, drawing a blank. Ham.

On his date with Betty 2.0 (played by Anna Camp, the actress who portrayed Jason Stackhouse’s love interest to hilarious effect on True Blood last season), Don, on both his date’s and Roger’s advice, orders the Chicken Kiev. Roger, who always gets all the best lines, describes it thusly: “Get Chicken Kiev. Butter squirts everywhere.” Leave it to Roger to turn melted butter into sexual innuendo. (Depending on how you feel about butter, that may not be much of a challenge. See: this.)

Next week:

Next week, I think we will be having either ham (ham) or Chicken Kiev or Ham Kiev, and some sweet potatoes? (Poor Sally.) I will photograph it. Photographs will be placed ham.

Mad Men Foodcap: Episode 11, “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

The Best Thing happened.

I could watch this forever. DTMFA, Joan.

Last Week:

Last week, Betty found The Secret (Don’s) and read The Group (which I’ll blog about later). Don tried to make up for the past with his mistress’ brother and was feted for his general excellence. Peggy owned Kinsey and Kinsey accepted his ownedness. Everybody drank as if it was the Dark Ages and safe, reliable water sources were scarce. And nobody ate a damn thing except, and I quote: “soup.”

So we went with an alcohol theme (hat tip to Olivia) and, I think, we acquitted ourselves quite well.

My Brother-In-Law The Hero The Chef lit alcohol on fire and it BURNED.

This is what it looks like when a chef lights Irish Coffee on fire.
Flaming Irish Coffee
This is what it looks like when a chef, making a riff on Steak Diane, flambees Niman Ranch rib-eye pieces.
Flaming Steak Diane
This is what the steak looks like plated:
Steak Diane

We also had sauteed mixed peppers, red rice, and my version of Bloody Mary Shrimp, ie with crab and blue cheese crackers. Instead of Absolut Peppar, I marinated a sliced serrano pepper and some cracked black peppercorns in Skyy Vodka (If you want to see a grown man cry, badger him into drinking a single sip. It is fun.).
The Rest

Finally, I invented Lambrusco Sorbet.

Lambrusco Thyme Sorbet

(based on the generic Wine Sorbet recipe at FoodNetwork.com)

6 ounces water
4 ounces (dry weight) turbinado sugar
10 ounces Lambrusco
juice of 1/2 lime
a few branches of fresh thyme

Heat the water and sugar on low heat just until the sugar dissolves. Add the Lambrusco and remove from heat. Add lime juice and thyme fronds. Cool. Fish out thyme. Freeze in ice cream maker. Eat. Eat! You want I should die from worry?
Lambrusco Sorbet
We finished it up this morning and, yes, my offspring refused to stop eating the sorbet so I could take a picture. Which, frankly, was a compliment.

This Week

Quote of the week, as expressed by Mr. Greg Harris, right before getting beat down by the former Miss Holloway: “You don’t know what it’s like to want something your whole life, and to plan for it, and to count on it, and not get it.”

In this week’s episode, three women who were taught that that “something” should be marriage — and then married the wrong man — take center stage in three separate romantic relationships, and we learn what happens when you are finally confronted with the thing you wanted your whole life, and don’t get it.

Roger’s one-that-got-away, Annabelle Mathis,  returns to try to rekindle their failed romance, under the pretext of offering Sterling Cooper a dog food account. Apparently, long ago in Paris, Annabelle threw over Roger, who was a gadabout, for a man who was more settled. Apparently, she’s been pining for Roger ever since.
Ep11-Annabelle
There are shadows of the Sal-Lee Garner interaction here — widowed Annabelle tries to seduce Roger — but Roger doesn’t see the need to take one for the team. “It’s different with this girl,” he explains — meaning Jane — but it’s really not, is it? Annabelle is nothing if not a grown-up Jane. Roger has finally gotten over their affair by simply marrying a stand-in for Annabelle. And, suddenly, Roger’s completely baffling obsession with Jane makes perfect sense.

In a way, neither Roger nor Annabelle get what they want. Annabelle married someone else, and will never be able to rectify the mistake; Roger thinks he’s happy with Jane (though Jane hasn’t looked happy for a single second this season), but he can never really have young Annabelle again. One day, it’s clear, Jane will realize Roger’s reasons for marrying her have absolutely nothing to do with her — if she hasn’t already.

Meanwhile, Joan is stuck in a bad marriage, herself. Greg, the rapist/failed surgeon, tanks an interview and has the nerve to imply Joan has no idea how he feels, causing him to get a vase cracked over his head. Though the beatdown is richly deserved, the exchange simply underscores how ill-suited Joan and Greg are to one another. Even after leaving Sterling Cooper, Joan has immediately found a job; Greg can’t — or won’t — find a position outside the operating room. Joan has gone from a working girl waiting for Mr. Right to a working woman supporting Mr. Right.

And then Greg goes and joins the Army, because it’s more important, to him, to be a surgeon than it is to make Joan happy. It’s a decision that would have had a devastating effect on Joan’s life — if she had been the stay-at-home wife she wanted to be. Luckily, Joan is in a surprisingly independent position.

Ep11-Joan

Joan doesn't really see herself in fatigues.

Joan wanted, more than anything, to be “saved” from a fate as a working spinster secretary. She effectively transferred her ambition to her husband. But, in reality, she’s far from getting the life she wanted as a well-to-do housewife in the suburbs. Worse, it’s not even clear she would have liked that life in the first place.

Betty has that life, or, at least, she thought she did, until she uncovered Don’s Dick Whitman box. For the first time, Betty confronts what Don really is: not a strong-jawed Cary Grant type, not a dashing lover with a mysterious past, but Dick Whitman, son of Archie Whitman, sitting on the edge of their double bed, crying like a lost child. Underneath the Don Draper facade, Dick Whitman is emotional, wracked with survivor’s guilt, and scared to death the life he built is going to explode.

The truth about Don seems to deflate Betty. I don’t think she expected Don to be stammering “I can explain” or shaking so hard that he can’t light a cigarette. This is honest emotion, and the man she thought she was marrying doesn’t do emotion. When Betty reaches out her hand, so tentatively, to pat Don’s shoulder when he’s crying, it’s as if she’s trying to console a stranger in distress.
Ep11-Cry
All three women — four, if you count absent Jane — married men who appeared to be good providers. They assumed that was all they needed to be happy. No one taught them to look for anything else in a man. But this way of choosing ensured that they had no real role outside their husbands’ identities. This especially holds true for Joan and Betty. If Joan is a doctor’s wife, what does that mean if her husband isn’t a doctor? How can Betty be Mrs. Draper if her husband wasn’t Don Draper in the first place? And Roger has projected an identity onto Jane that is no less dependent on how her husband defines himself.

The episode’s Halloween ending underscores this idea. Though society defines gypsies and hoboes as worthless outcasts, they embrace their exclusion, creating their own societies with their own norms and rules. Will Joan or Betty finally break from their rigid roles?

For this episode, at least, Joan shows real anger, and Betty demands — and receives — real, truthful answers. By the end, each woman appears to submit, for the moment, to the fate she’s married, but clearly the masks are starting to slip.

Ep11-Hobo

“Who are you supposed to be?” a neighbor asks Mr. and Mrs. Draper. For the moment, no one has any idea.

Next week:

Lordy, did somebody eat something that wasn’t horsemeat or candy, or drink something that wasn’t alcoholic? Why don’t these people eat anymore? I’m going to get cirrhosis and the sugar diabeetus.

Mad Men Foodcap: Episode 10, “The Color Blue”

Don Draper, life as you know it is about to end, and you have no idea.

Ep10-Betty

A woman wears this expression when she is not trying to decide WHETHER to destroy her husband, but WHEN.

Last Week:

Henry made Betty sad. Conrad Hilton made Don sad. Lee Garner, Jr. made Sal sad. Don made Sal really sad. That episode was very sad.

Luckily, during his evisceration of Don’s perfectly fine ad campaign, Conrad Hilton expressed a desire for fried chicken (oh, and also the moon), or else this week’s foodcap would have just consisted of my crying-in-the-shower Flickr photostream.

I am very, very glad Connie likes fried chicken. Because, you see, I like fried chicken, too.

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I don’t care how much of a stereotype it is, I could eat fried chicken every day. Usually, I don’t, because it is a) a hassle and b) deadly. But what Connie wants, Connie gets.

I brined the chicken drumsticks first, in buttermilk, kosher salt, a load of pepper, cayenne, and several crushed (not minced) garlic cloves. I left them in a ziplock bag with the brine for around four hours. Then I mixed flour, polenta, salt, pepper, ground sage, ground oregano, and baking powder, dredged the chicken pieces in that, and fried them in LARD. (My justification is that if I am going to fry chicken once a year, it had better be the best fried chicken on earth.)

To my surprise, the same thing happened to me that happened to Cook’s Illustrated when they made fried chicken: the pieces that sat around coated with flour — the second fried batch — were way better than the first (they are the pretty golden pieces in the photograph). So next time I’ll dredge the pieces and let them hang out for a while. Sidebar: I still have a bag full of brining chicken pieces in the fridge, so I think I will make Cook’s Illustrated’s oven fried chicken recipe for dinner.

A professional chef who is a member of my family by marriage came over and made fried green tomatoes.
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While he was here he also made shoestring potatoes dusted in cumin, mostly because he’s cool that way.
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I had the idea to make guanciale cornbread with chive butter. I am glad I had this idea.
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It tasted exactly like cracklin’ bread, which is by no means a complaint.

And, finally, because I felt so bad for putting fat food on my family, I marinated feta with olives, red onions, olive oil, and mint, then tossed it with arugula and watermelon.
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Everything was great. Nothing failed. No one made aspic. The appelkaka is forgotten.

This week:

The title of the episode, “The Color Blue,” stems from a conversation Don and his new mistress Miss Farrell have in bed. Essentially, Miss Farrell believes that no one can truly understand anyone else’s perspective. Don, meanwhile, ever the (m)adman, isn’t concerned with people’s individual perspectives so much as how people can be convinced to see the same things. He delivers the episode’s thesis statement: “people may see things differently, but they don’t really want to.”

This episode’s subplot, where Kinsey tries to best Peggy by finding a great Western Union slogan, actually offers perspective on the main plot: Kinsey, getting drunk in his office, staggers out to chat with a janitor named Achilles. In the middle of their conversation, Kinsey suddenly gets a flash of inspiration, staggers back into his office, and, promptly, passes out. In the morning, Kinsey cannot, for the life of him, remember what the excellent idea might have been.

Kinsey tries to recreate the conditions that led up to the idea — even having a second conversation with Achilles — without success. In other words, he tries to return to whatever perspective allowed him to have the brilliant idea, but it’s gone. Not only are we unable to fully understand other people’s perspectives and thoughts, sometimes we are even unable to understand our own.

Amazingly, Peggy and Don take this situation — in which Kinsey can’t communicate with his own unconscious — and create an excellent ad about communication, selling Western Union with the line “you can’t frame a phone call.” A written communication, in their opinion, is a permanent statement of perspective, just as a work of art or a novel might be. In doing so, they convince Kinsey that their way of advertising — their perspective — is better than his. We actually see the moment where Kinsey “sees things differently.”
Ep10-Kinsey

Peggy is a better ad writer. Kinsey finally gets it.

Betty gets it, too, where “it” is “Don Draper’s biggest secret.”
Ep10-Drawer

The same “perspective” conversation is carried out, one-sided, by Betty herself. Don, a bit overstretched with all the lying, accidentally leaves the keys to his Drawer of Secrets in his pocket. Betty immediately knows what the key is for, and promptly discovers that everything she thought she knew about Don — everything she saw when she looked at him — is completely wrong. It’s important to remember that, while Don is crafting an ad campaign about communication, one that will culminate in the statement that the telephone is ephemeral while paper communications are forever, Betty is finding an entire box full of paper communications — photos, deeds, letters — that tell Don’s real story.

Ironically, prior to this, Miss Farrell has made a hang-up call at the Drapers’ house. I think that, for much of the episode, Betty thinks this is the real secret Don is carrying around — that he’s cheating. But the phone is useless (just ask Conrad Hilton, who doesn’t appear onscreen but calls Don’s answering service; Don is not dancing attendance on him anymore). The papers tell the real story. As long as those papers exist, Don can never be the real Don Draper.

Meanwhile, Don carries on as if everything’s fine, probably assuming Betty’s coldness is about his affair. We’ve always known that Don doesn’t understand Betty, but, clearly, he seems to think he understands her perspective. In an effort to draw her out, he flatters her repeatedly, but he has absolutely no idea what she is really thinking, what she really knows.

Don said, at the beginning of the episode, that “people may see things differently, but they don’t want to.” He’s proven both right and wrong over the course of the story. Kinsey was able to get a new perspective on Peggy, and Betty certainly has a new perspective on Don. But, unlike Kinsey, Betty wanted to find out what was in the drawer. As the decade progresses, Don’s aphorisms about “what people want” are becoming untrue. People are beginning to want truth and answers. As Don becomes farther and farther removed from the new zeitgeist, his advertising is sure to suffer.

Betty just looks at Don, barely speaking. It’s as if she’s trying to see if he looks any different now that she knows a lot of the truth, or that she’s trying to imagine what the world looks like to a man who is now a complete stranger to her, or, maybe, that she is trying to figure out how to look at him. Who is Don? Who is Dick Whitman? What is she going to do now?

Based on next week’s previews, I think Betty’s new perspective is going to lead her right off the reservation.

Next week:

We were so busy stuffing our faces and gasping at this week’s reveals that we didn’t notice that no one ate anything. Miss Farrell offered to feed her brother “some soup.” Betty sits at the dinner table at least twice, but no one talks about what they are eating. Don carries around a slice of maybe cake while drinking coffee. Kinsey steals an apple out of someone’s lunch and gets black-out drunk.

C’mon, Mr. Weiner, give me something to work with. Drunken chicken, maybe? With…soup?

Mad Men Foodcap: Episode 9, “Wee Small Hours”

LOLdon

Baby's first LOLdon.

It was fun watching people take out their frustrations on each other this week. Just kidding, it was harrowing and depressing.

Last Week:

Don and Betty were a hot, sexytime couple for basically the first time ever, jet-setting in a vision of Rome that was very like the backdrop of a James Bond flick. Pete was the worst ever, and Trudy offered him concilatory cold salads.

There was mutiny in my household and among my guests. No one wants to play my Crazy Foods From The Sixties game anymore. The appelkaka was the last straw. These people feel that we have proved a point, which is that food from the sixties was largely terrible, and they do not feel obligated to join me in watching Mad Men if I continue to serve terrible things to eat.

I considered being a visionary, one who pushes her art on the masses, but, frankly, even I was getting tired of putting huge amounts of effort into things that were inedible. So! It was fun, but I think the food is going to look a lot more like contemporary spins on what the people of Mad Men were eating.

This week was the Delicious Food kick-off, and, I have to say, we went all out.

In honor of the demise of Gourmet, we prepared one of my very favorite Gourmet recipes ever: Tagliatelle with Chestnuts, Pancetta, and Sage. I had the brain flash to replace the pancetta with Boccalone guanciale I had lying around (by “lying around” I meant “was feverishly thinking up ways to use”). Sidebar: guanciale is better than bacon. Don’t worry, I’m not saying bacon is not the best ever. It is. Just if there were something better than the best ever it would be guanciale.
ChestnutPasta
So, if you are planning to replicate my efforts, replace the pancetta with guanciale, and also ask your brother-in-law, who is a CCA-trained professional chef, to make fresh tagliatelle.

Oh, your brother-in-law is not a professional chef? No fresh tagliatelle for you. A pity, since the leftover fresh pasta was delectable tossed in browned butter and sage.
SageBrownButter

You should be shopping for a higher-quality brother-in-law.

In other news, I also sent a shout-out to Trudy (someone ought to!) with two cold salads.
HeartsOfPalm

Hearts of palm marinated in white wine, red spring onion, and parsley. Trudy would have used mayonnaise.

I updated a recipe from the Hostess Cookbook that called for frozen limeade concentrate and, among other things, frozen blueberries:
FruitSalad
Composed fruit salad with a dressing of orange and lime juices, honey, ginger, black pepper, and orange flower water.

They will pry the Hostess Cookbook from my cold, dead, aspic-coated hands.

This Week:

Recurring themes: Demanding phone calls. Revealing secrets. Mean role models. Profound disappointments. Everyone was either :( or >:( .

It’s hard for me to even make jokes about this week’s episode. It was one of the most harrowing yet. Even Betty’s flirtation with Henry was poignant. Don’s interplay with Conrad Hilton was surprisingly heartbreaking. And Sal…oh, Sal.

All three storylines began on such buoyant notes. Watching the episode again (and again,) this really isn’t true. Now that I know what’s coming, all three storylines really began with sexual overtures in three illicit relationships in which one person is married. Lee Garner, Jr., the Lucky Strike heir, is, from the beginning, inventing excuses to interact with Sal — and they’re flustering Sal, and not in a good way. Don turns an early-morning trip to the office into a quasi-first date with Sally’s teacher, Miss Farrell. And Betty starts out writing mash notes to Henry.

Ep9-Note

if u like me check "yes" if you dont like me check "no"

All three relationships involve power imbalances. In both the Don/Miss Farrell and Betty/Henry relationships, the women temporarily hold the power. (Remember that the episode title derives from the song, “In the Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,” when a man waits for his female lover — who is holding all the strings — to call.) Miss Farrell has been seeking out Don’s attention, then deflecting it, for months, and he’s finally interested. In the same vein, Betty has been actively pursuing Henry by encouraging Henry to pursue her. Over the course of the episode, both men move in for the pounce — with different results. Don comes to Miss Farrell, and he is rewarded. Henry forces Betty to come to him, and Betty turns him down.

Clearly, in the world of Mad Men, the world is designed to facilitate married men’s affairs, while making it incredibly difficult for a married woman to have a discreet liaison. Don and Miss Farrell are rehearsing ancient roles, that of married man and mistress. Betty, having few examples before her, can’t come to a comfortable detente with Henry. And, meanwhile, for Sal, there is no example at all.

While Don and Betty are involved in affairs that at least hold the promise of romance, Sal finds himself propositioned by a man with no such illusions. Garner is looking for a quickie in an editing room. And not just looking for it — expecting it. In Don and Betty’s examples, the man is the aggressor, to be alternately enticed and repelled. Meanwhile, Sal is not interested in meekly acquiescing to Garner’s demands. He doesn’t put him off the way that Betty might (with a wall of cool reserve) — or Joan might (in a teasing way that bolsters the man’s dignity). Betty and Joan know the “rules,” but Sal is in uncharted waters.

Thus, when Don has the opportunity to stand up for Sal, Don tries to impose his own rules on Sal. Sal, as one of “those people” — it sounds so horrible when Don says it, and the look on Sal’s face is heartbreaking — should have just submitted to Garner, the way Joan did to her husband, the way Gudrun did to Pete. Don has no script for what two men should do in this situation: he simply slips Sal into what Don sees as the “female” role. Placate the client, by any means necessary. If it had been Peggy, he would have told her to do the same thing.

It’s such a betrayal, but especially in the Mad Men universe. In this episode, Sal is cast out of the boy’s club — the world he has tried, so hard, to belong to, the world where men flip through Playboy in business meetings and ogle actresses at casting calls. The world where the men hold all the power and the women jockey for glimpses of it.

When Peggy was “in trouble,” Don covered for her, mentored her, and ensured her success. When sex, or the possibility, gets Sal into trouble, Don, looking down his nose, tells Sal he has less power than Peggy, Betty, or even Miss Farrell. To be gay is, for Don, to be less than a woman.

Given how Don treats women, that means less than nothing.

In Sal’s final scene, Sal — the only person in this episode who hasn’t even considered cheating on his spouse — is, ironically, lying to his wife. Not about an affair, or his sexuality, but about having a job.
Ep9-Sal

Our opinions divided on this, but my conclusion, based on the shady young men pairing off in the background, was that Sal was off to pick a guy up in the park. In Sal’s new life, there’s no “Prelude to a Kiss” — the song that plays over the closing credits — only anonymous sex.

One final note:
Betty, sighing sadly, tells Carla, who has been listening to Martin Luther King’s sermon on the terrorist Birmingham Church Bombing — when four little girls were murdered — “it’s really made me wonder about Civil Rights. Maybe it’s not supposed to happen right now.”
Ep9-Carla
You can tell which two words Carla is thinking. Hint: One of them starts with the second letter of the alphabet, and the other one is please.

Sal and Carla reminded us that, while Betty and Don dither over romances and marital squabbles, the “real” sixties — where people are being murdered just because of who they are — are happening out there, somewhere. Even Betty and Don feel the societal malaise. They just can’t identify the source.

Next week, we will console ourselves with fried chicken, at Conrad Hilton’s request. And we will figure out what is in the black bottle — from the top of the kitchen cupboard — Don drinks from at least twice this episode.
Ep9-Moonshine
Some of Connie’s moonshine, perhaps? (Perhaps I will brew moonshine? Just kidding, ATF!)

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!
rtw cookbook

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.
Ep8-BettyCar

Landing in Rome allows Betty to fully realize the character:

Ep8-BettyCigarette

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.
Ep8-BettyTowel
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.
Ep8-BettyZiti
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:
Ep8-PeteTrudy
“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.