Cup-a-Soup and Slim Jims

RORY: Four people asked me when we were tenting, two people asked me if we were moving, and one person asked me if we were atheists.
LORELAI: See, we have to stop talking to people. We have to stay at home with the curtains drawn collecting stacks of old newspapers, muttering to each other, eating nothing but Cup-a-Soup and Slim Jims.

Cup-a-Soup [pictured]: an instant soup mix sold in sachets, added to boiling water and stirred in a cup or mug. Comes in minestrone, chicken noodle, tomato, and chicken and vegetable flavours. In North America, it is made and marketed by Unilever’s Lipton brand.

Slim Jim: a processed meat snack in stick form that is basically a fermented sausage, very popular in the US, manufactured and sold by Conagra. It was invented by Jack Cornella in Philadelphia in 1929, and developed for production in the 1940s.

Fritos

These are the chips that Louise and Madeline are eating in the school dining hall for lunch, counting each one to make sure they don’t go over their (obviously tiny) calorie limit. Fritos are a brand of corn chips created in Texas in 1932 by Charles Elmer Doolin and since 1961 produced by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo.

“What’s the white stuff?”

JESS: What’s the white stuff?
LUKE: I think it’s cheese – or cream.
JESS: And the green stuff?
LUKE: I think it’s … best picked off.

This is another “mirroring” scene for Jess and Luke, showing them side by side, dressed alike, and gazing at their soup with the same expression of confusion and distrust. It doesn’t make a lot of sense though. Luke runs a successful diner – surely he can tell the difference between cream cheese and cream? And why is he so horrified by fresh herbs? (I think it’s sage, but I’m not sure).

Luke is always telling Lorelai and Rory off for eating meat and junk food, advocating a healthy plant-based diet. It’s nonsensical that he would be unable to identify a herb and unwilling to eat it, or look disgusted by a bowl of butternut squash soup. I mean, if he hates meat, and he hates vegetarian food, what exactly does Luke eat?

“Your pod Grandpa is still happy as a clam”

LORELAI: Your pod Grandpa is still happy as a clam.

Pod Grandpa: A reference to the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers [pictured], previously discussed. Once again, Luke and Lorelai are shown using the same reference points.

Happy as a clam: American phrase meaning “happy and content”. It’s a shortened form of the 19th century simile, happy as a clam at high tide. It’s only at low tide that clams can be gathered for a meal, so at high tide they should be happy and safe.

Cotton Candy

EMILY: Fine. You go and I’ll wait and hold your cotton candy for you.

Cotton candy, otherwise known as candy floss or fairy floss, is a spun sugar confection, often coloured pink or blue and carried on a stick. The machine-made variety was invented by a dentist named William Morrison and a confectioner named John Wharton in 1897; it was first widely made available to the public at the World’s Fair in 1904. It’s a traditional treat sold at circuses, fairgrounds, and carnivals.

The Bracebridge Dinner Menu

The Bracebridge Dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel serves modern gourmet food, but with a slight nod to the Renaissance in how it is labelled. Sookie’s menu seems to resemble it very closely.

Soup – Butternut squash (pumpkin) soup topped with cream (?) and rosemary

Fish – Trout

Peacock Pie – not really peacock, usually duck, capon, or quail, or even small game like rabbit. It’s usually a breast fillet wrapped in pastry.

Baron of Beef – a mostly British term for what is otherwise known as a top sirloin roast (a double sirloin). The Ahwahnee seems to serve instead a beef steak of superior cut, and so does Sookie.

Salad – usually with some sort of festive addition, such as cranberries and walnuts

Plum Pudding – prune tart (Martha Stewart has a recipe for this, perhaps Sookie used it?)

Wassail – a traditional hot mulled punch, made with spiced apple cider

The Bracebridge Dinner

LORELAI: For the Bracebridge Dinner.
JACKSON: Geez, you guys are going crazy with this dinner.
SOOKIE: Jackson, I told you, this dinner is not just about food. We are recreating an authentic 19th century meal.
LORELAI: The servers are all gonna be in period clothing, they’re gonna speak period English. Here, look at the costumes.

The Bracebridge Dinner is an annual tradition which has been held at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California since 1927, when the hotel opened. The interior of the Ahwahnee was an inspiration for the hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining – a hint as to how Lorelai may have become interested in holding her own Bracebridge Dinner.

The Bracebridge Dinner is a seven-course formal gathering held in the Grand Dining Room and presented as a feast given by a Renaissance-era lord. It was inspired by the fictional Squire Bracebridge’s Yule celebration in a story from the 1820 work, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., by American author Washington Irving. Music and theatrical performances based on Irving’s story accompany the introduction of each course.

Tickets to the Bracebridge Dinner cost around $400 and are generally difficult to obtain, sometimes being awarded in a lottery system. In 1992, there were 60 000 applicants for the 1650 seats available. This could be the reason why the Trelling Paper Company from Chicago have decided to hold their own Bracebridge Dinner at the Independence Inn.

Sookie says they will be serving an authentic 19th century meal, but in fact it is a Renaissance-themed meal. There’s not that much authentic about the dinner really, however I’m pretty sure the 19th century one wasn’t either. It’s a bit of fun and frolic, not a history lesson.

Mushrooms

SOOKIE: You’ve got all the mushrooms? … The shiitake, the nameko, the chanterelle? The matsutake? The makeniya?

Shiitake: an East Asian mushroom commonly used in Chinese and Japanese cusisine, especially vegetarian dishes.

Nameko: a small amber-brown mushroom, very popular in both Japan and Russia for cooking. In America, sometimes called “butterscotch mushroom”.

Chanterelle [pictured]: one of the most popular of wild edible fungi, meaty and funnel-shaped with forked folds. They have a fruity aroma, rather like apricot, and a mildly peppery taste. There are several species native to North America.

Matsutake: a rare and luxurious mushroom which grows in East Asia, Europe, and North America. It has a distinctive odour that many find unpleasant, but is greatly prized in Japanese cuisine.

Makeniya: a mushroom variety that Sookie made up to test Jackson. He passed!

Altoid

[Paris comes back dressed as Romeo]
PARIS: What are you standing there for? Let’s go. You better start sucking on an Altoid.

Altoids are a brand of mints sold in metal tins. Created by the London business Smith & Company in the late 18th century, they became part of the Chicago-based firm Callard & Bowser in the 19th century. Their advertising slogan is “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints”. They are less widely available in the UK than in the US, although Marks & Spencer has an almost identical product called Curiously Strong Mints.

Why Rory had to suck on a breath mint when Paris didn’t even kiss her, I don’t know. Paris is very keen on hygiene though, and perhaps she wasn’t convinced Rory was clean enough.

(There is an odd sort of logic to Paris taking over as Romeo, because in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was meant to marry Count Paris).