The Help (AKA Be Careful Around the People Who Cook Your Food)
Rating: Chocolate Cake
There are male viewers who will enjoy The Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett’s novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt‘s Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she’s hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A‘s Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson’s domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret–after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen’s smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer’s protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can’t catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town–in a good way.
I knew that going into the movie version, I was going to be a tough critic. When I first saw the trailer, I was really upset. It seemed to…cutesy. The book handles such important issues that I was worried that Hollywood would simply gloss over them.
After experiencing the film, I think I reacted prematurely. The film is cutesy. That does not necessarily make it a bad choice. Instead, the playful music and bright colors play upon the great juxtaposition of the plot. One world is filled with laughter and light while the other world is more gritty and harsh.
Do I think the movie is better than the book? Probably not, but I do see why it is nominated for Best Picture. It deals with pressing societal problems while remaining enjoyable to watch. The acting was hysterical and I am an even bigger fan of Minnie’s than I was before (sometime soon I am going to attempt to make a Terrible Awful, sans one key ingredient…). You do learn a valuable lesson here. Be nice to the people you work with or who work for you. You never know exactly what might show up on your dinner table, in your purse, or on your front lawn ;)
All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on! It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night. I’ve already seen Moneyball and Hugo. Now on to the rest! Try these while you are waiting. You won’t regret it…
Read on for the recipe…
This is a re-post from my original entry on The Help.
In honor of Minnie, The Help, and the creatively maladjusted out there, I have created my version of Minnie’s famous Caramel Cake. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Caramel cupcakes!
Just like Minnie and the rest of the crew, these cupcakes seem normal enough on the outside, but only when you bite in do you realize how deliciously unique they truly are.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which was adapted from Gourmet, January 2008
For the cake
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
For caramel glaze
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Sea Salt (optional)
Equipment Needed: a candy thermometer
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- Butter a 12 count regular cupcake pan.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy.
- Beat in vanilla.
- Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Gently, beat in buttermilk until just combined.
- Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
- Fill each cupcake about ⅔ full. Then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
- Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 15-20 minutes.
- Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then place the cupcakes on a rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
- Bring cream, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
- Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes.
- Stir in vanilla.
- Put rack with cupcakes on top of a sheet of parchment paper.
- Pour hot glaze over top of cupcakes, allowing it to run down sides.
- Sprinkle tops with sea salt, if desired.
- Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.
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