Part 1: the mussels
We bought the mussels at Costco. The blue mesh bag didn't look so big nestled in our cart with giant jars of artichoke hearts, a flat of coke, and half a garden of spinach. Not until it was time to cook did I realize my regular big pot wasn't big enough -- I needed the extra large pot from the top of the pantry, normally reserved for ... well, I can't remember actually using it before.
The other issue: I knew from my Provence class that Mussels are alive until they're cooked, that's why they're fresh, that's how they open up when cooked, and why you have to rinse them well and rip off their "beards." But I didn't actually participate in the debearding in class, and didn't grasp that alive meant actually living -- closing and opening in the fridge, and closing again when I took them out, making little squeaking and gasping noises. I dropped the bag in the sink, drew away in fear, approached it hesitantly, heard noises, ran away again, called Brian for help, Brian took pictures or my terrified attempts to tackle the little monsters, and eventually he took over while I went for the bottle of wine for cooking.
Eventually, many, many debearded mussels later, after sauteing and simmering, et cetera, Brian and I had 5 pounds of mussles between us, plus most of the Costco-size bottle of chardonnay left over. I definitely will invite friends next time.
Part 2: la Vie en Rose
Edith Piaf came to me via iTunes -- a cursory discovery, but the drama and emotion of her music was riveting despite my nonexistent knowledge of French.
I remembered a sophomore-year class on east German culture post- 1989, in which we discussed the attraction of music in languages we didn't understand. Beyond basic orientalism, we wore foreign lyrics like chameleon skin, interpreted them like all-purpose code for our own ideas. Edith Piaf, to me, was an articulate cacophony of feminism and revolution, history and culture, ruined romance. The trials of my own little affairs and college stresses magnified, via headphones on bus rides through the rain, to some operatic life where I got to wear fancier dresses and red lipstick.
The film was very different from my vicarious interest in Piaf. Her life spilled over two and a half hours, tragedy after tragedy, a hyperbole of hardship. It's an unbelievable story, and the film shows many events very quickly, sans chronology.
Although Marion Cotillard carries the film with a great performance, I don't feel particularly close to the Piaf. She comes across as both excessively emotional (good for her music) and selfishly heartless (bad for her friends). And despite her unparalleled success, she's also completely self-destructive. It's not the fame that's unbelievable -- we see an excess of celebrity every day -- but her fame, in the context of a personality and a life that should have made even minor success impossible.
Fortunately, I did not make the connection to our contemporary addict-celebrities until after the film. The thought of Lindsey Lohan stumbling toward rehab is not nearly as romantic as Piaf collapsing mid-gala.