Enfield

LORELAI: When is it [the engagement party]?
SOOKIE: Tonight.
LORELAI: Uh, so your yen to hit the bingo parlour in Enfield was …?
SOOKIE: A vicious, vicious lie.

Enfield is a town in the Hartford region of Connecticut near the border with Massachusetts, with a population of around 40 000. Historically it was most famous for its carpet and gunpowder industries, and today is home to the US headquarters of Lego. It’s about an hour’s drive from the apparent location of Stars Hollow, and has three bingo halls.

Boca Burger

MICHEL: Go back to the cooking room.
SOOKIE: Not until you eat these and tell me what you think!
MICHEL: Sookie! I only eat fifteen hundred calories a day. If I eat that, I cannot have my Boca Burger later.

Boca Burger is a vegetarian burger patty made from soy protein and wheat gluten, first manufactured in 1979. Boca Burger products have been owned by Kraft Foods since 2000.

We learn here that Michel eats only 1500 calories a day. One Boca Burger has around 70 calories, while macaroon has over 400 calories and a chocolate praline cookie over 300. Clearly if Michel eats both cookies, as Sookie wants him to, he’s going to have to give up more than a Boca Burger – he will have eaten around half of his daily calorie intake on just two cookies!

Maybe he’s including the bread and salad to accompany the patty, although even that would only be around 400 calories. Or maybe he is calculating the calories of just one bite from each cookie, since he would only need a taste of each to decide which one he prefers.

1500 calories a day is about the lowest amount of food recommended for a man, and it probably wouldn’t be recommended long term, especially for someone who’s already a healthy weight. Even men on calorie restriction diets usually eat around 1800 calories a day, and still lose weight doing so. We never actually see Michel lose much weight on his strict diet, so maybe he’s having a few cheat days.

Lorelai seems to eat as much as she wants while remaining slim, while poor old Michel apparently starves himself just to maintain a normal weight.

Castro

EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These [Emily’s maids] are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008. He was also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 to 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, industry and business were nationalised, and socialist reforms implemented. Castro was the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than a million Cubans left their country to emigrate as political refugees, mostly to the United States, with Florida being the US state with the most Cuban-Americans. Lorelai suggests that at least a couple of Emily’s maids were Cuban-American, and there are more than 10 000 Cuban-Americans in Connecticut, with the highest number in Bridgeport.

Sunnyside

RORY: I called the Sunnyside home. Do they need any volunteers? And believe it or not, they don’t, but they do need an accordion player for their Friday night polka party.

Sunnyside Nursing Centers are a chain of aged care nursing and rehabilitation homes in the United States. In real life, there is more than one Sunnyside nursing home in the Wallingford area, where Stars Hollow appears to be located, although none of them are actually called The Sunnyside Home (that may just be what people in Stars Hollow call it, rather than its actual name).

Apart from trying the Fireflies and Sunnyside, Rory also calls the Stars Hollow library, which apparently only has twelve books (surely an exaggeration), and the Chilton tutoring program, who are just taking names at present.

Rory seems to have amassed an enormous amount of brochures for various organisations within a few hours, late in the day. How she managed to do this is something of a mystery

Fireflies

RORY: I called the Fireflies. Do they need troop leaders? Yes. Good, I’ll be a troop leader. Great. The only catch is, it’s summer. Camping season. I need wilderness skills. Why did you never take me camping?
LORELAI: Camping? Are you kidding? I couldn’t get you to step on wet grass until you were three.

The Fireflies are a fictional organisation, perhaps based on the Camp Fire Girls, founded in 1910 as a sister organisation to the Boy Scouts of America. In 1975 it became for both boys and girls, and is now just called Camp Fire. It teaches camping and wilderness skills, just like the Fireflies, and Lauren Graham was a member when she was young. In real life, there are no Camp Fire groups in Connecticut.

The 1997 black comedy film Wag the Dog , with screenplay by Amy Sherman-Palladino’s favourite playwright, David Mamet, uses The Firefly Girls as a replacement for the Camp Fire Girls. This could be an homage (and a slightly naughty one, as in the film the young Firefly Girl receives inappropriate advances from the President in the Oval Office).

If Rory would not step on wet grass until she was three, no doubt that’s from Lorelai’s example – she notoriously hates nature and the great outdoors..

Paris and Volunteering

PARIS: When you apply to an Ivy League school, you need more than good grades and test scores to get you in. Every person who applies to Harvard has a perfect GPA and great test scores. It’s the extras that put you over the top. The clubs, charities, volunteering. You know.
RORY: Oh yeah, I know.

Paris explains to Rory what she should already know – to get into a top university like Harvard, you need something to set you apart from all the other excellent candidates.

Paris has been volunteering since she was about nine, and began by handing out cookies at the local children’s hospital (possibly the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford). By the age of ten she was running a study group for teenagers, probably through Chilton. She has also been a counsellor for a children’s summer camp, organised a literacy program for seniors, worked at a suicide prevention hotline (a truly terrifying thought), and a residential centre for runaways and homeless youth.

She has also adopted dolphins (you just send money to an organisation like The Oceanic Society), taught American Sign Language (perhaps through the American School for the Deaf in Hartford), and trained guide dogs (volunteers raise puppies and give them socialisation and basic training before handing them back so they can be trained as guide dogs; Paris may have done this through Guiding Eyes in Hartford.) We know Paris likes dogs, because her dog Skippy is said to have had a litter of puppies on Lorelai’s mini-dress that she borrowed: weirdly (or perhaps lazily by the writers) her dog has the same name as Rory’s unfortunate hamster.

Paris has done an insane amount of volunteering for a 16-17 year old girl, but in fact choosing this as a good method of getting into Harvard is almost certainly wrong. Colleges don’t seem to be really be that impressed by you doing huge amounts of random volunteer work (probably because anyone with half a brain and no life can rack up hours of unpaid work fairly easily).

What they really want to see is how your extracurricular activities demonstrate the kind of person you are, and the unique skills and interests that you have. For example, Paris wants to work in medical research, so the children’s hospital was a great start, but she didn’t stick with it. It would have been better to continue volunteering with just one or two organisations, and demonstrate that she had gained a leadership role and given real help to the community – maybe even won an award of some kind. Paris’ volunteering CV looks as if she’s desperately taken any role offered (and sending money to dolphins doesn’t look impressive to anyone).

Furthermore, it depends on the university how highly they rank volunteer work when assessing applications. It doesn’t seem to be extremely important for Harvard, which makes Paris’ efforts even more pointless.

Speed Racer

RORY: You’re hungry.
LORELAI: No, I’m not.
RORY: Well, you didn’t eat any of your dinner.
LORELAI: Yeah, well, by the time I could get my jaw off the ground, Speed Racer had taken my plate.

Speed Racer (in Japanese, Mach Go Go Go!) is a Japanese animated media franchise based on a manga about car racing, which began showing on TV in 1967, and was one of the first Japanese cartoons to be localised in English for US television.

The eponymous Speed Racer is a young racing car driver with a deep love of family, and a dizzying array of gadgets to help him defeat the bad guys. It has a goofy over-the-top style and cornball dubbing which almost defined Japanese anime for an entire generation.

The original series was shown in reruns on MTV in 1993, when Rory was nine, and she and Lorelai may have watched it together. There was an American-made The New Adventures of Speed Racer the same year, but it was short-lived, and I feel Rory and Lorelai would have considered it greatly inferior to the 1960s original.