I know that what I'm about to say will shock many people. It may sever friendships. It may even mean I have to hand in my "I am a Woman" membership card and resign all rights to dresses, nail varnish and Stylist magazine on a Tuesday. But here goes. Love Actually really pissed me off.
I mean, I see why people liked it. Lots of different actors, lots of different stories, all basically happy and upbeat except for the sad Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman one which just illustrated for the umpteenth time that they are infinitely better actors than anyone else in the same film (and definitely better than Claudia Schiffer "acting"). There's snow! There's chirpy cockneys and so-called adorable children! Hair is shiny, houses are Christmassy and the Prime Minister is infinitely better looking than you'd ever get in real life. An hour and a half of casual, Christmassy fluff, not particularly demanding and all tied up with a big red bow. I mean that literally - didn't you see the poster?
But the thing that really pissed me off, beyond the shallowness of the storylines and Keira "I have a chin, that's as good as acting" Knightley, was that Richard Curtis just MADE UP a piece of Christmas mythology and everyone seems to have accepted it. The central tenet of most of the love stories in the film is that "it's Christmas, and that's when people tell people that they love them, so I'm going to make this big, dramatic declaration of love because it's Christmas and that's what you do".
That's not what you do! No one has ever said or thought that before! There are many cultural tropes around Christmas - and I won't list them here - but the idea that Christmas prompts gushy declarations of romantic love is just MADE UP. And everyone in the film pretends that it's as much part of Christmas as Santa or stockings, but it's not and it really bugs me. So there! Phew, I've carried that peeve around for a while.
Anyway, the other day was frosty and dark and we needed sustenance for decking the halls. We were craving butternut chilli but our fridge was full of all sorts of ingredients which needed using up, but which weren't chilli-ish at all. Bacon, chestnuts, parsnip...you get the drift. So we just made it anyway, and absolutely delicious it was too. I know that this can't really be called a chilli, not by any stretch of the imagination, but now I'm going to pretend that it's a perfectly normal thing to do. Because it's CHRISTMAS. Pfff.
Inauthentic Christmas Chilli
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- about a quarter of a butternut squash, washed and cut into chunks
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 rashers of bacon, chopped
- half a vacuum pack of chestnuts, roughly chopped
- cayenne pepper
- smoked paprika
- ground cumin
- 1 tin of kidney beans with their goop from the tin
- 1 tin of borlotti beans, also with their goop
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- a tablespoon of cocoa powder
- a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (for a bit of a twang)
As with the butternut chilli, boil the parsnip and carrot chunks for 20-30 minutes or until tender, while you fry the onion, garlic and bacon in a large saucepan. When they're golden, add in the spices and chestnuts and stir well for a minute or so to warm the spices. Then pour in the beans and tomatoes, stir in the cocoa and let the whole lot simmer for 15 mins or so.
Drain the parsnip and carrot once they're done and add them. At the end, stir through the vinegar and taste for hotness - you can always add a bit of tabasco if you want it more fiery. Merry Christmas!