Strudel

EMILY: So do you get your lunch at school or do you bring it with you? Because Rosa made a fabulous leg of lamb yesterday. I bet it’d make a wonderful sandwich.
RICHARD: Take her up on that. It is good. And demand a slice of strudel.

Strudel is a dish made from layers of thin pastry with a filling, usually (but not always) sweet. It became popular in the 18th century throughout the Hapsburg Empire, so is a dish originating in Austria, but also common throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Strudel pastry was heavily influenced by the filo pastry used in Turkish cuisine, such as baklava. It is very fine and elastic, and is supposed to be rolled so thin that you can read a newspaper through it.

The best known strudel is apple strudel, and the second best known is a strudel filled with a sweet soft cheese filling. However, almost any kind of fruit can be used, and so can jam, nuts, vegetables such as spinach, and meat fillings.

That Rosa makes both blintzes and strudel suggests she may be from somewhere in Eastern Europe, perhaps Hungary or the former Czechoslovakia. There is a chance that Rosa is meant to be an East European Jew, perhaps (for example) a Czech who was rescued as a child and sent to Allied countries during World War II. If so, she would be quite mature-aged, and probably older than Richard and Emily.

The Art of Fiction

MAX: If we read his works in order we can see his progression from a narrative of clear simplicity to one of one of rich complexity. Now this is not homework, but I strongly urge you, if you have not already read The Art of Fiction, read it. It’s a remarkable manifesto that contains basic truths that still apply to fiction in any form. All right, so Henry James, the man of the moment. Pick your book. Read it carefully. A full report on my desk one week from today.

The Art of Fiction is an essay by American-born British author Henry James, first published in his 1888 Partial Portraits, a book of literary criticism. In the essay, James argues for the greatest freedom possible in subject and style for the author.

Max has given his class their own choice of any Henry James novel to read. We don’t know which of James’ novels Rory might have chosen, but in a later season we learn that Rory has read the 1879 novella Daisy Miller by Henry James, so that might have been her choice for this assignment. As she’s tired and grumpy in this episode, a short book probably suited her.

Out of Africa

LORELAI: Okay, last week we were talking about Meryl Streep and the whole accent thing, and Rachel said that she loved Out of Africa, but she’d never read the book, remember?
LUKE: Nope.
LORELAI: Okay, so I was like, “Are you crazy? Isak Dinesen is amazing, I love her.” Which is kind of crap because I’d never read the book either, but Rory told me it was amazing, so I felt pretty confident in my recommendation of Out of Africa.

Out of Africa is a 1937 memoir by Isak Dinesen, the pen name of Danish author Karen Blixen. It describes the seventeen years that Blixen spent in Kenya, then called British East Africa. It is a meditation on her life on her coffee plantation, and some of the people she encountered there.

The book is non-chronological in structure, and is notable for its melancholic, poetic style that is above all a tribute to the Africa she knew, and a world that had changed irretrievably. That she helped change it did not seem to make a strong impression on her, although her notes on the African people are understanding and accepting, and they admired her as wise and trustworthy.

It seems appropriate that Rory would enjoy Out of Africa. We know that she admires women writers, books on travel, memoir and autobiography, and works with a certain lyrical sadness to them – she likes things that make her feel “gloomy”.

Out of Africa was adapted into film in 1985, directed by Sydney Pollack, and starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the lead roles. The film has several differences from the book, and focuses on Karen Blixen’s love affair with a hunter named Denys Finch Hatton (an Englishman, although Robert Redford plays him with an American accent). Meryl Streep spent a lot of time listening to tapes of Karen Blixen speaking, and chose an old-fashioned, aristocratic accent for her character, which Sydney Pollack thought excessive; Streep is well known for her mastery of different accents.

Out of Africa was the #5 film of 1985 and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Best Director. Despite this, it received mixed reviews from critics.

The fact that Luke can’t remember a word of a conversation with Rachel doesn’t seem very promising for their relationship. As Out of Africa is in part about a doomed love affair, it is possible that Rachel may read something into the gift that Luke has “chosen” for her.

Up With People

LORELAI: Okay, then just meet me in town around four, and we’ll get some Indian food, and spoil our dinner. What do you say to that?
RORY: Whatever.
LORELAI: Hey, love the enthusiasm. Hey, does Up With People know about you?

Up With People is an educational organisation founded in 1965, intended to inspire young people to make a difference. After training, each UWP group is sent on a tour of various communities to participate in service projects, learn about different cultures, and perform peppy musical stage show productions. They have been criticised for their right-wing politics and cult-like behaviour.

In a later season we learn that Lorelai actually can’t stand Indian food, although Rory loves it. It’s not clear if Lorelai offering to get Indian food is a continuity issue, or if Lorelai is making a huge concession for Rory in order to cheer her up. It’s notable that Lorelai plans to eat a second dinner though – possibly because she intends to eat as little Indian food as possible.

Lane and Dean

When she was with Rory, Lane told her that she had to meet her science partner to work on an assignment; now we learn that Dean is her science partner. They are studying spores, moulds, and fungi, which suggests a Biology class.

It is notable that Lane is able to work with Dean, and is reasonably polite and even friendly with him. She doesn’t treat Dean badly because he broke up with Rory, as others have done, or seem to have any problem with him.

From her observations of both, she may have decided it is quite likely that Rory and Dean will eventually get back together and she prudently doesn’t want to be the person who made an enemy of her best friend’s boyfriend. (She even raises the possibility with Dean, suggesting it is something she has thought about).

Another possibility is that Rory has told her, or at least hinted to her, that it isn’t entirely Dean’s fault that they broke up, and that he didn’t dump her on a whim, or do anything horribly cruel to her. Lane does seem to understand that Dean is not a monster, and perhaps knows that Rory has trouble with commitment.

Rory walks in on Lane and Dean studying together, and having a conversation about her behind her back. She didn’t know that it was Dean who was Lane’s science partner, and doesn’t cope well when she finds out this way.

Prince

LORELAI: I sat her [Emily] down to listen to a Prince song once, and she looked like she was having a stroke.

Prince, born Prince Nelson (1958-2016) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, previously mentioned. His first album, For You, was released in 1978, and his breakthrough was the 1982 double album, 1999, with hit singles such as his signature song 1999, and Little Red Corvette. His most successful album is the 1984 Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the musical film of the same name. When Doves Cry, the first single from the album, became his first #1 hit.

It is unclear which of Prince’s songs the teenaged Lorelai might have played for Emily, but it’s most likely one from 1999, which came out when Lorelai was fourteen (it was possibly the title track). By the time Purple Rain was released in late June 1984, Lorelai would have been six months pregnant, and probably past the point of trying to bond with Emily over pop music.

The incident is one based on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s own life – her mother was likewise horrified when Amy played a Prince song for her.

Rory Shows Emily the Potting Shed

(Rory opens the door and walks in. Emily looks in from the doorway.)
RORY: I know it’s looks small, but it’s really pretty. Come on. See, we had our bed right over there, and Mom put up this really pretty curtain around the tub so that it looked like a real bathroom. And we would just sit outside at night when the Inn would have parties, and we’d just listen to music and feed the ducks and . . . (Emily walks away) Grandma? Grandma wait, what’s the matter?

This is the potting shed next to the duck pond at the Independence Inn that Lorelai and Rory lived in when they first moved to Stars Hollow, as they had no money for accommodation (like the Holy Family, there was “no room at the inn”, and they were put in an outbuilding, so Baby Rory was just like Baby Jesus).

The shed is sturdy but rustic, and is stocked with gardening tools and plants, like any potting shed: it isn’t clear if those things were there while Lorelai and Rory lived there. Their bed is no longer there (they must have shared a single bed together), but the bath has been left, including the curtain that Lorelai put around it to serve as a bathroom wall. Lorelai mentioned that it has rosebud wallpaper, but the is shed painted white inside and doesn’t look as though it’s got the kind of walls that you could easily wallpaper.

It looks impractical for bringing up a baby, and we learn later that they moved to Stars Hollow in the autumn, so it would have been very cold as well (we don’t know what they used for heating). We don’t know how long they lived in this temporary accomodation, but long enough for Rory, who was only a baby when they came to Stars Hollow, to have some memories of it, and long enough that the weather became warm enough for them to sit outside at night. I would guess at least a year, and possibly two. Who looked after baby Rory while Lorelai was working is unknown.

This is the first time that Emily has ever seen the potting shed, and she is clearly distraught to discover the conditions her daughter and granddaughter lived in. Lorelai told Sookie that her parents visited them a few times at the inn while Rory was a baby, but they never saw where they slept at night. Lorelai was probably clever at keeping them away from the shed, but their lack of curiosity is surprising. Perhaps they were scared to push it in case Lorelai ran even further away.

In this case, it is Emily who runs away, too upset to spend any more with time with Rory or even say a proper goodbye to her. This incident serves as a device to keep Emily at a distance from Stars Hollow. Emily was having a good time with Rory, and was fitting in well with the townspeople, finding that she had things in common with Mrs. Kim and Michel. By showing her in the potting shed, it explains why Emily doesn’t visit Stars Hollow more often in the future.

Where they lived between the potting shed when Rory was a baby/toddler, and moving into their own house when Rory was eleven, is a complete mystery and never mentioned. Perhaps Lorelai saved up enough money to rent a cheap apartment for them, but renting would make it hard to save for a house. They could have lived in a friend’s house (with Sookie?), but if so, nobody ever refers to it.

In real life, it wouldn’t be legal for anyone to live in the potting shed under Connecticut zoning laws, but I’m not sure that would stop Lorelai anyway – rules were made for non-Gilmores!