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Burnt Rum Punch and Dracula 


Friday, January 05, 2007

Burnt Rum Punch & Dracula

Three months late, our little book club finally met tonight. The book for October had been Dracula. To celebrate the book, MaikoPunk, MaikoPunk's Husband, Matt and I held six commemorative activities:

1. We made a batch of mămăligă, which Jonathan Harker ate in Klausenburgh (or Cluj in northwestern Romania) a day before he met the count. Mămăligă is cornmeal (grits to southerners and polenta to Italians), which I served with sour cream and goaty feta cheese. If any had been left over, I could have eaten the rest with cold milk in the morning.

2. We made Bat Bites, a rum-and-cranberry concoction.

3. We made burnt rum punch. When Renfield meets Arthur Holmwood in chapter XVIII, he blurts out, of Arthur's father, "He was a man loved and honoured by all who knew him; and in his youth was, I have heard, the inventor of a burnt rum punch, much patronised on Derby night."

The Annotated Dracula provided a burnt rum punch recipe from The Art of British Cooking by Theodora FitzGibbon:
5 lemons
1/2 pound lump sugar
1 piece cinnamon stick
2 cups water
1 bottle rum

Rub lemons with the lumps of sugar until you have removed all the yellow zest. Put the lemony sugar into a saucepan with the lemon juice and the cinnamon stick; pour over the water and bring just to a boil. See that the lumps of sugar dissolve. Then add the rum, heat up, but do not boil, for fear of destroying the strength of the rum. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot.
I thought that, unlike paprika hendl (or paprika chicken) or impletata ("eggplant stuffed with forcemeat," or patlagele impulute, according to the Annotated Dracula), mentioned, with mămăligă, early in the novel, burnt rum punch sounded like something worth attempting.

No, it isn't. Burnt rum punch tastes like Vicks Cough Syrup.

4. We watched Nosferatu, the third-known film treatment of the novel. A 1920 Russian version and a 1921 Hungarian version by Karoly Lafthay called Drakula preceded the 1922 F. W. Murnau film. Most of us had seen this best of Dracula adapations numerous times; however, how can one not watch the classic again?

5. We watched Bela Lugosi's film White Zombie, which he filmed two years after he made Dracula. Tonight's crowd had all watched the 1931 film last October, so it was too soon for a re-viewing. White Zombie, however, was new to almost everybody except myself.

With Bela starring as zombie overlord 'Murder' Legendre, the Bela Lugosi school of acting is very much in evidence in this 1932 film. Lost until the 1960s, it is also currently the first known zombie film, albeit the zombies are of the voodoo variety and not the revenant ghouls.

6. We watched Freaks, directed by Tod Browning, the man who also did Dracula with Bela Lugosi. Of the treachery of trapeze artist Cleopatra, Matt said, "Seems like there's a special level of hell reserved for stealing a midget woman's man."

As for the real sideshow cast, in Cleopatra's words, "Great jumping Christmas!" Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton learned self-hypnosis from Harry Houdini so they could spend time alone; Mexican pinhead Schlitze (or Simon Metz) dressed as a girl for most of his career; despite having no arms or legs, Prince Randian could really roll and light his cigarettes as seen in the film (he could also shave and paint). We all marvelled at the Half-Boy's grace (played by Johnny Eck). Browning himself was once a circus contortionist. He made only four more movies after Freaks.

*****

I was not able to find any of Bela Lugosi's other landmark films, Murders in the Rue Morgue or The Raven. I even went through Matt's WC Fields DVDs to try and find the 1933 International House in which, as General Nicholas Petronovich, Bela finally had the chance to break out of stereotype and act in a comedic role. No luck.

I do regret not borrowing the Spanish Drácula from the library. In 1930, while Bela and Browning were shooting the familiar Dracula during the day, a Spanish-language version with Spanish actors used the same set by night. Starring Carlos Villarías (who looks like Bela himself or Nicholas Cage, depending on the source) in the title role, the film's director George Melford knew no Spanish whatsoever.

Oddly enough, tonight we never got to doing the usual book club thing. We ran out of time to discuss What elements of the gothic genre are found in Dracula?, What is the significance of blood in Dracula? and What are the ways Dracula remains an icon in today's popular culture?

Oh well.


Our next book is Peter Høeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. On with the crotch-grabbing!


*****

Our previous bookclub meetings and books:

June: Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman (and here)
July: Evelyne Lever's Marie Antoinette (not documented) with an initial foray into the attractiveness of Madame du Barry, some Zamor bashing, the deaths of Princesse de Lamballe and the Duc de Brissac, and the current vogue for Marie Antoinette.
August: Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down
September: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (not documented)
October: Bram Stoker's Dracula with literary surprises and a Halloween diatribe.


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Comments:
And, as I am sure all your readers know (but must make some use of my lost years as a Ramones' groupie), the chant of "We accept you, one of us, Gooble Gooble" from Freaks was adopted by the Ramones and turned into their rallying cry of "Gabba Gabba Hey" and also explains the whole pinhead obsession....

sounds like quite a nite was had by all at your literary event!
 
Awww, all this sounds like so much fun! I wish I lived in Vancouver so I could join your book club :(
By the way, I loved Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow -- well, I didn't care too much about the ending, but about 90% of the novel is simply wonderful.
 
Thanks for the Ramones info, Lyn! It's been years since I listened to the Ramones - I was about to sell the one album of theirs I own, but not before I do a little review!

D, you're right about the ending - I didn't get it, either. That's one of the reasons I want to reread. Our bookclub is pretty fun, too bad we rarely find time to analyze the books. :)
 
We really should discuss the books once in a while :)

I liked all the links you put up. I looked into the IMDB pages a little more on Freaks and found out that they had to tone down the romance between the two midgets because they were actually brother and sister?

D. I'm with you on the ending to Smilla. I've read the book 3 times now, and I still don't really get it.

I'll be making Scandinavian food for our next book discussion however. Maktaaq, I just had a brainwave - we should link our "meeting reports" to the Book Club wiki.
 
I thought they looked similar!

Now linking the wiki to this...will do...just have to edit some stuff. I added lots of crap to it and it's all unformatted so it needs tidying before the public sees it.
 
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