The View from Atherton Court, Part V

Mostly Introduction, But Also Mushroom Ketchup & Ginger Snaps (The Movie)

Well, April is over, but the quarantine thing is still quarantining away at Atherton Court (“our pretentious name for our unpretentious suburban dwelling” –Dept. of Re-Used Gags), and we are still more or less on our movie-a-day schedule. I say “more or less” because we, having finally succumbed to the blandishments of the TV show What We Do in the Shadows (and the increasingly shrill demands from our friends that we watch it), have spent a few evenings watching that instead of a movie. It is, we feel, pretty good, so far.

Have you ever noticed, by the way, how hard it is to convince people to watch things? This is also true for books, but with books, you can always take the last and most aggressive step, by presenting your victim with a copy—not that that always works, either, but at least you get a sense of closure. You have, you feel, left the book, and the matter, in their hands. The rest is up to them.

Of course, you can present friends with DVDs, too, but the increasingly relevant question there is, do they have the equipment required to play a DVD?

Anyway, I mention this because Alec and I have been ignoring recommendations concerning What We Do in the Shadows ever since the movie (which we still haven’t seen) came out in 2014. Then, three days ago, a friend of ours, desperate to introduce us to a thing she knew we’d like, made the ultimate move in the subtle game of recommending things: she promised to watch Spider Baby if we’d just try the show. Since Spider Baby (which I talk about in The View from Atherton Court, Part II) is our new thing that we want everyone to watch, and since we feel somewhat crusading about the matter, we closed with her offer and watched the pilot. It amused us. We watched another episode. That, too, was funny. Another episode—yes, still amusing. But my point here is that it took this mega-move on our friend’s part to get us to even try it. Which is, when you think about it, slightly weird.

Why should it take so much effort to get someone to watch something you know they would like?

Also, why does it matter so much to us that our friends take our recommendations?

I kind of have answers to these questions, but they don’t satisfy me. Or not completely.

Oh, but I was forgetting the thing I was getting around to saying in my opening paragraph. My point was that, though I originally only planned to do these posts through the month of April, I see no real reason to stop as long as this quarantine business means that I still have fresh things to tell you about.

Of course, we’re running out of things that we particularly want to see. In fact, a lot of the movies we’ve seen (I’m looking at you, Vampire Hookers!—which I discuss in The View from Atherton Court Part III) have been the scrapings from the bottoms of various barrels. Then we find new barrels and get the good stuff again. Or whatever. That metaphor went screwy on me. Still, I expect you know what I mean.

Anyway, on with the post! A short food-related update first, and then on to movies. Or, anyway, a movie. It is a very, very good movie about werewolves.


Mushroom Ketchup

I told you a couple of weeks back that Alec had brewed up some mushroom ketchup. What I haven’t so far mentioned is that we have been using it on almost everything ever since he made it. It is amazing. It is kind of like soy sauce, in that it is pretty much a liquid and fairly salty-tasting. I have, in fact, been using it instead of salting my food. Which fact would, I think, impress you, if you knew how much salt I generally put on my food. It is probably better for me than salting. I cannot imagine, anyway, that it is worse.

Seriously, on the subject of salting, I am a monster of salt-adding. Before this whole mushroom-ketchup thing, I’d been asking Alec to salt my food for me, because I just instinctively overdo. But really mushroom ketchup adds just the right dash of savory flavor to any dish. Maybe not right for ice cream?

Also, some of you will be interested to hear, we made Yorkshire pudding. Then we made it again. Yum. I like the crunchy bits. Also the less crunchy bits. Anyway, it seems an amazing way to use up the juices from a roast. Which we’ve been eating a lot of recently. Because you can cook it up one day and then live on it for 3-4 days. Which appeals to us and keeps us out of the grocery store for longer periods. So—huzzah roasts! Also, huzzah Yorkshire pudding!


Ginger Snaps (2000)

Today, I am only going to talk about one movie: Ginger Snaps. We have watched several other things this week, mostly old movies from the 30s, and I may cover some of them in future posts. But I want to talk about Ginger Snaps today.

It is a really wonderful movie. This was not the first time we’d seen it—it is an old favorite.

Ginger Snaps is a werewolf movie. But it is also (as many werewolf movies are) about the horrors of puberty. In fact, as a werewolf movie, it is pretty quiet and subdued. Not that there aren’t kills (mostly of the neighborhood dogs, at first), and there is plenty of gore. But! The real heart of this movie is the relationship between two sisters, Ginger (16) and Brigitte (15), and how their bond is tested by the fact that Ginger is now a werewolf.

The two sisters are amazing. They are charmingly morbid. We meet them at the beginning of the movie, vowing to die together and making a photographic art series of faked death-scenes. We learn that neither has had her period yet. Then Ginger gets her period and then is almost immediately bitten by a strange big mysterious dog-thing. She gets all the usual yucky puberty stuff: bleeding, cramps, mood swings, strange urges, weird hair growth, a tail…

Brigitte, a little uncomfortable with the intensity of her relationship with Ginger before all of this, now gets alternately pushed aside and screamed at by her increasingly erratic big sister. And yet—the love between them is real, and their bond matters. It is a very funny, and at the same time a very touching, movie.

The werewolf effect, by the way, is pretty terrible. I say that it barely matters. This movie is a werewolf movie, definitely and certainly. But it is also a character piece. Its focus is very tightly on the two sisters, and on that sisterly bond. Thus, it gives us a situation that many of us can relate to. Because Ginger is becoming both a woman and a monster. She is suddenly pursuing boys and experimenting with drugs and going to wild parties, as well as killing dogs (and eventually people). Brigitte is left behind, and can only watch in horror at what her sister is turning into. So, like many of the best horror movies, it speaks to the reality of an emotional situation, with monsters added in to heighten the tension and increase the stakes. I think lots of sisters have felt like Ginger or like Brigitte, at times. The werewolf story here just turns up the heat, underneath something that was already on the burner.

I won’t tell you more. I will merely urge you to watch it, if it sounds like the kind of movie you’d enjoy.

Atherton Signs Off

Right! That’s it for this week. I will (probably) be back next week with another post. For now, a few questions. Have you seen Ginger Snaps? Did you like it? If you haven’t seen it, does it sound interesting? Also, do you have any special technique that you employ to get your friends and family to take your book and movie recommendations? Also, have you ever tried mushroom ketchup?

Stay safe, stay sane, and stay healthy (and say hi in the Comments section)!


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  1. I have not seen Ginger Snaps, but it does sound interesting, partially because I have an older sister (as well as three younger ones), and I have a pretty clear idea how fraught those relationships can be even though none of my sisters is a werewolf. (It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: neither am I.) I’m not normally keen on werewolf stories unless they have a human component considerably more complex and nuanced than angst. It sounds like Ginger Snaps might.

    Have you seen Being Human? I’ve watched both the British and American series and think they are both commendable. If you haven’t and think you might, I recommend watching the British original first. The American version is bolder and, well… more American.

    The first I ever heard of Mushroom ketchup was your mention of Alec experimenting with the idea, so I have not had any experience of it. I imagine it has a savory earthiness to it that regular ketchup lacks.

    I have learned not to lend books to people I’ve recommended them to, but I have been known to give them as gifts. Sometimes, the giftee even reads it and lets me know if they’re glad I suggested it. Reading books most of your generation worldwide has read is a great way to build connection.

    • I am really glad that you decided to go full-disclosure about your non-werewolf status. It was brave, and I applaud you. You have inspired me. So, let me take this same step: I am not a werewolf, and neither is my sister. As far as I know.
      Ginger Snaps does have a very satisfying human component (I think). I really felt as if I knew the sisters personally by the end of the film.
      I have not seen Being Human, but I will look into it.
      Mushroom Ketchup is wonderful. We are almost out of the bottle that Alec brewed–and he made a lot of the stuff.
      I think you are onto something with this building connection thing. I am thinking of how I felt when I’d finally read the Harry Potter series. So much that had been mysterious about the culture around me (like what a muggle was, and all the sorting-hat jokes I’d seen in various web-comics) was suddenly comprehensible. And yeah, I felt more connected with the people around me, too.

  2. I have seen only the movie “What We Do in the Shadows,” but not the show.
    I have not seen the movie “Ginger Snaps,” and I do not have any sisters, but I do like the cookies!
    I have never had mushroom ketchup, but it sounds intriguing and full of umami.
    I am apparently a person of narrow experience!
    I guess I don’t usually try to convince people to read or watch things, with the exception of my children. They certainly do seem to resist my suggestions, much to my dismay, even though they should be thinking “Mother knows best” and eagerly leaping to take advantage of my wisdom. Sigh. I guess the other thing I do semi-professionally is try to convince people that they want to read *my* books, but alas, I’m not remarkably good at this, either!

    • Yes, it is frustrating when people don’t take one’s recommendations. I myself am always trying to get my parents to read various works of fiction that I believe they will enjoy. They have, though, this odd (and for “odd,” read “actually totally correct”) notion that I mainly like rather old-fashioned books, and, not having the same tastes themselves, they vigorously resist all of my recommendations. Which is probably fair enough, really. They will willingly read anything I myself have written, though, which is super-encouraging of them.
      And yes. Other than my parents, and Alec (who, since we live together, gets the job of Beta-Reader-in-Chief), it is often difficult to get people to read my stuff. Many of my best friends have never actually visited this site! They mean to, and it sounds, they say, really cool… but then they end up not doing it. Which is fine. Sometimes, though, I get aggressive, and bring my laptop over to a friend’s house, open it, announce that I will now be showing them my website, and do just that. Which is okay, for friends (who will generally forgive that kind of behavior), but one can’t do that to the general public. That would be house-breaking, and might be misunderstood.
      “No, I’m not after your silverware, I just want you to read this… oh, surely, there’s no need to get the police involved!”

  3. Hi Melanie:
    Yes, I’ve seen Ginger Snaps. A couple of times, since it is part of my DVD Uncle Scrooge gold mine. Minus the gold.
    I was on a horror kick and bought or sought out many film Werewolves. (there castle). Ginger Snaps 2 was not very good (IMO).
    I like GS because of the nature of the sisters. It was an interesting and involving concept. This now reminds me to watch it again, soon.
    Have you seen Brotherhood of the Wolf? Another take on arooooing around. A film I really like.

    Who’s that I see walking through these woods? Why it’s little Red Riding Hood…

    • I’m glad you’ve seen Ginger Snaps. And actually we own a copy, too, but we had to watch a streaming version anyway, because what we could find was the DVD case, not the actual DVD. Sigh…
      And now, help a lady out, willya? What is the (there castle) thing from, originally (if it is from anything specific)? I’ve heard it said, and I’ve said it myself, and I’ve seen it in, I think, a Harry Dresden novel, but I am pretty sure people were saying it before that series began. And your using it just now has made me realize that I just don’t know what the original source of it is. If there is an original source.
      I have never seen Ginger Snaps 2. I don’t even think I knew there was a Ginger Snaps 2 until I looked Ginger Snaps up on IMDB while writing this post. I cannot imagine that it is anywhere near as good as Ginger Snaps, and I will probably never watch it, unless I get really desperate.
      And yeah, the sisters make Ginger Snaps the movie that it is. Amazing look at a relationship.
      I have never seen Brotherhood of the Wolf, but I may check it out at some point.

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