Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Class: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Jailbird BBQ Chicken Wings
Pappy O'Daniel's Buttermilk Biscuits 'n' Honey Butter
Grilled Boneless Rib Eye Steak with “Gratinated” Potatoes
Sauteed Greens & Corn
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

First things first... Wow, what a great class. Full house. Thanks all who came and especially the staff and volunteers at Central Market for a great job in making it happen.

I'm gonna say it one more time, though I've said it in the last few posts, that if you've been following this adventure, you'll know I got myself a herniated disc at the end of February which pretty much put me out of commission for almost two months. After that, my life was pretty much focused on physical therapy and getting myself functional again. The biggest problem, and remains so, is that sitting for long periods of time is not beneficial for me (as if it ever was!). So I took a break from it all in for the sake of my health.

And as I have for the last half decade now, I hightailed it up to Montreal to get away from the Texas heat of summer. This summer, because being in Montreal affords me a lot of opportunity to walk, I decided to take a longer than usual trip. I also took on more work than I usually do which meant more sitting on my duff than I wanted, but everyone's gotta work and thankfully, so far, I haven't had any recurring issues, though I'm still not all back (in my back) yet.

Hopefully, you've been following me on either Facebook or Twitter as I've been posting some cool links, to try and keep you amused, of food and/or movie related articles, as well as some of the articles I've written over the summer. If not, here are some links to them (shameless self-promotion time) which I hope you will enjoy reading.

The first is an interview I did with Vieux Farka Toure, a great musician from Mali.

Then we have two film-related articles I wrote during Fantasia Fest. The first is my review of Chow Yun Fat's new film, The Last Tycoon. The second is an interview with a young Canadian filmmaker named Richie Mehta.

Here is another music-related article I did about the Afro-Quebec music scene. There are many musicians based in Montreal who are immigrants from African nations and this gives a nice overview of the some of the musicians, how and why they came to Montreal, and how living there has influenced their music.

I also did an interview with an old friend, documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner, about his new film, First Cousin, Once Removed.

So, don't go thinking I've been on vacation this whole time. Of course, part of the deal was I got to go to the Montreal Jazz Fest, the Nuits d'Afrique music festival, and of course, Fantasia Fest.

And here we are. Chef du Cinema time again. I chose this movie for many reasons. Certainly the main one is that it is an awesomely great movie. But it also affords a great opportunity to dish up a good ol' Southern style menu.

One of the many things I find interesting about the Coen Bros. movies are that they really run a gamut of genres but yet there is a consistent vision and personality to all of them. Some have been quirky films that seem only for those serious fans of their work (The Man Who Wasn't There), while other quirky films find a much larger audience (Fargo). Yet others are geared towards mainstream audience and don't find a large audience (Intolerable Cruelty), while others have (True Grit).

This is my second (or actually 2 1/2 - as I did offered a recipe for True Grit for an article in USA Today a few years ago) attempt at covering one of their films. Two years ago, I did a TV Bites on their first film, Blood Simple.

There's something about this film, which I hope to touch on below, that has made such a connection with so many people. And it wasn't just the movie, but also the soundtrack for the film which people took to like kittens to milk.

Finally, I need to offer myself a pat on the back. This marks the beginning of my fourth year teaching Chef du Cinema classes, as well as this here blog, and is the 20th Chef du Cinema class I've taught.

But let's get to it. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is available for streaming on YouTube, and for streaming and purchasing DVD/BluRay via Amazon.


"You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. And you will find a fortune - though it will not be the fortune you seek. But first, first you must travel a long and difficult road - a road fraught with peril, and pregnant with adventure. You shall see things wonderful to tell. You shall see a cow on the roof of a cottonhouse, and oh, so many startlements. I cannot say how long this road shall be. But fear not the obstacles in your path, for Fate has vouchsafed your reward. And though the road may wind, and yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow the way, even unto your salvation."

I guess the first thing you need to know here is that O Brother, Where Art Thou? is kinda, sorta based on the classic Greek epic poem, Homer's The Odyssey.

"It's very... selectively based on the Odyssey," said Ethan Coen, adding elsewhere, “On the face of it, it's an idiotic idea, isn't it?

"Whenever it’s convenient," said brother Joel, "we trot out the Odyssey."

"We didn't really start with Homer," Joel explained. "We started with the idea of these three fugitives escaping from the chain gang and Homer suggested itself later when we realised the movie was essentially about the main character trying to get home and having this series of adventures along the way."

"In terms of why we placed it in the Deep South," Ethan recalled, "early on the issue of music began to inform our thinking about it and that argued for a Southern setting. One other thing that conspired to make it Southern was the early idea of making the characters chain-gang refugees."

"The two things came together at the same time," Joel somewhat disagreed with himself elsewhere. "It all coalesced around the idea of doing a relatively contemporary version of 'The Odyssey' but in this region with bluegrass music."

Ethan (and Joel) have claimed in several interviews that they were barely familiar with Homers' original, but they also have a history of enjoying goofing on their fans. "We never actually read it," to pick one example where Ethan has stated this. "But we read the comic book version of The Odyssey and tarted the movie up with the Cyclops, etc."

Personally, and I'm not the only one to dispute this, it seems hard to believe considering how these two operate that they "only" read the comic book. Let us not ignore the fact that brother Ethan majored in philosophy at Princeton.

For more on the cultural, cinematic, and mythological references the Coens are playing with in the film, see Background & Context section below.

The Coens enjoy working with the same people over and over again both behind and in front of the screen because, as they've noted often, it puts them at ease. For instance, they've worked with cinematographer Roger Deakins since Barton Fink, and composer Carter Burwell has been with them since Blood Simple. Then there's their longtime film editor Roderkick Jaynes, who is actually a pseudonym for the Coens.

But in regards to casting, "We always do a combination of writing for specific actors and writing not knowing who's going to play the part," said Joel. "Sometimes mid-way through writing the screenplay it becomes clear who we want for a part so it ends up essentially being written for a specific actor."

"In this instance," added Ethan, "we wrote for John Goodman—we knew we wanted him to play the sort of the Cyclops equivalent... and the part of Penny for Holly. And we also wrote the Baby Face Nelson part for Michael Badalucco." They'd known Holly Hunter since before they even made Blood Simple. They'd wanted her to play the lead in their first film, but she wasn't available and had suggested her then roommate Francis McDormand, who would later become Joel's wife. Hunter eventually did get to work with them, costarring in their film Raising Arizona.

As for the character of Pappy O'Daniel, Joel explained, "We didn't write it with Charles Durning in mind, but after finishing it, he was the person we fixed on. Since we'd worked with him before and had such a great time, there wasn't any question in our mind. We didn't look around for the Pappy part. We knew we wanted Charles to do it."

Since O Brother, the Coens and George Clooney have worked twice more together, but back then they had only conversed about the posibility of someday working together. Then.... "I was on the set of Three Kings in Phoenix," Clooney recalled, "and they showed up, handed me the script and asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said yes. Then I took it back to my room and I couldn't wait to read it. When I saw it was Homer's Odyssey and I was going to play Ulysses, I couldn't believe my luck. I still can't. I can't believe I got to do this movie."

"The fact that they showed up and offered me this role and said, 'We think you can do this,' is an enormous amount of trust on their part in thinking I could pull it off," Clooney added elsewhere.

"George really seemed like a very logical choice to us," Joel said, "and we couldn't really think of anyone else. He was the first person we offered it to, and I think we would have been hard-pressed to have come up with an alternative."

"[H]e's also a goofball," added Ethan, "which sort of lent itself to the part as well. George is pretty funny, in spite of how he looks."

Although movie audiences had only considered Clooney until then as a good-looking, sophisticated Hollywood type (he played millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, after all), he, in fact, grew up in a small town in Kentucky. "Know 'em? I'm related to 'em", Clooney said in regards to the type of Southern characters depicted in the film. "I grew up in a town of 1500 people, right, and just moved out when I was 21, because I had to get to the city."

After signing on to play the role of Ulysses, Clooney got in touch with his Uncle Jack back in Kentucky. "He's a tobacco farmer, and I sent him a tape recorder with the script and asked him to read all of my lines, send it back, and I'll get him a credit in the movie," Clooney explained. "I just did my Uncle Jack through the whole thing." And he later flew his Uncle Jack, who'd never been on a plane before, to the movie's premiere.

For his role, Clooney needed to sing and dance, but his singing voice didn't make the cut, so they dubbed him. Even he admitted, "I can carry a tune but I'm not a very good singer." As for the dancing, Clooney explained, "They did have a choreographer there and these guys are very elegant and would say in this prim voice, 'We're going to talk to you about what you are going to do now.' Now I'm from Kentucky and so I tell these guys, 'I know this really bad chicken dance that I'd like to do,' then I'd do it and they sat there with their mouths open, while Joel and Ethan were in the background laughing. We did it, but those poor choreographers HATED it."

Now as for actor/director Tim Blake Nelson, he'd been a friend of the Coens but even when they sent him the script, it didn't occur to him that they wanted him to act in it. "O Brother, Where Art Thou? was this role that utterly fell into my lap and changed my life," Blake said. "I was making O as a director and Joel sent me the script along with a letter saying that he wanted me to read it and get some advice from me. And I thought, well maybe he wants to talk about the transposition from The Odyssey to this Depression-era story. Me, because I was a classics major. I read it, and then he offered me the role of Delmar and I was so surprised that I actually said that I needed a day to think about it because Joel and I were already friends and what I didn’t want to do was get on set without even auditioning for this role and disappoint him because he’d never heard me utter a word of the dialogue. And so I said let me make sure that I’m not going to disappoint you, let me try this on for a few days.... I quickly got off the phone and started figuring out in a very casual and shallow way an approach to the role and figured that I had an in. And I said I would do it and subsequently had one of the great summers of my life."

Nelson added elsewhere, "What Joel & Ethan managed to do [in the movie] is to really plum certain depths with comedy, and if I think they were to listen to me right now, they'd laugh at me and say I was a complete pretentious idiot."

To play the third member of the escapees, the Coens turned to one of their favorite actors, John Turturro. “We wrote [the role of Pete] not really thinking about who would play it,” recalled Ethan, "but when we were finished, we figured it would be fun to ask John Turturro to do it.”

"We like working with John and we like to mix it up with John," added Joel.

With these guys,” Turturro said, “I basically would do just about anything. Whether it's the lead or one scene, it doesn't matter to me.”

The Coens hadn't started working with the actors yet, but after sending Turturro to make-up and costuming Ethan recalled, "We got this message back that John loves his teeth. I think he got the whole character from his teeth."

The toughest role to cast was Tommy Johnson, the black blues singer the trio befriend along their journey. "We knew that the preference was a musician who could also act because we didn't want to have to fake the music since it's such an important part of the piece," Ethan said.

They interviewed many actors and musicians and weren't happy until Chris Thomas King walked in.

"First of all he read the scenes really well even though he hadn't acted before. He's a really good musician, a blues musician which was perfect, and he has the right kind of energy and attitude for the part," Joel said.

And Ethan noted, "Chris has not just a great voice, but a great voice in a high register. We knew we wanted that specific Skip James song that he ends up singing, which is really high pitched. We lucked out with Chris.”

Thomas hails from Baton Rouge where his father ran a blues club. He then relocated to Austin in his 20's, and now resides in New Orleans.

"[I]t was a lot of fun," King recalled. "But at the same time, it was a pretty big challenge for me. But I really did my homework."

King explained elsewhere that, "musicians from the 30's had a whole different guitar style. So I had to learn to play like them."

In fact, he did so much homework that while the movie was being filmed, he produced an album of songs, Legend of Tommy Johnson, in the legendary bluesman’s style.

And since we're on the subject of the music in the film, which could easily take up an entire post in and of itself, I'll note that the three washwomen (the Sireens) had their voices dubbed by three of the greatest living Country music singers - Gillian Welch, Allison Kraus, and Emmylou Harris. Welch also appears briefly in the film as the woman who goes to the record store to buy a copy of the Soggy Bottom Boys record but finds it's sold out.

I could go on, like I just said, to talk about the soundtrack, which became a huge sensation throughout the world, but I'm running out of space. The musicians who recorded the album went on several successful tours together which also had a successful documentary film, Down from the Mountain, made about it.

Also, I should quickly mention that the film was a first in film history as it was entirely color-corrected by digital means ("digital intermediate technology"), "giving the film a washed-out, sepia-tinted tone, to invoke the feeling of old or antique photographs."

Also the digital effects used at the time were so new that the Coens ran into problems with the Humane Society, of all people. Joel explained, "When you do a Screen Actors Guild movie that uses animals in any way you have to get the American Humane Society to sign off on it. We blew up a cow in O Brother, which meant we had to send the Human Society work tapes while the film was being shot. When they saw the cow scene they didn't believe it was computer generated, but I assure you it was."

The film did pretty well in the box office, just shy of hitting the top 50 films of the year. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for two Oscars, best cinematography and best adapted screenplay (it seems the Academy took the idea of them adapting the Odyssey very seriously - but more on that below....)


For those of you who'd like to read the Classics Illustrated comic book version the Coens claimed to have gotten all their Odyssey references from, here's a link. Also, if you feel like reading the complete version, you can find it here. Another really easy-to-read abridged version (actually there is an abridged and a mini-abridged version) with illustrations by cartoonist/animator Mark Fiore, can be found here.

This not the first nor only reimagining of the story on film; nor is it the only reimagining set in America, nor even are the Coens the only ones who thought of setting it in the American South. A classic version of the tale appeared as a 1997 TV miniseries, starring Armand Assante and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. There's Jean-Luc Goddard's Contempt wherein he has real-life director Fritz Lang making a modernized version of The Odyssey. There's Daniel Wallace's book Big Fish, set in the American South, which was inspired by The Odyssey and made in 2003 into a film by Tim Burton. Also, Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain which dips deeply into The Odyssey, set in the South at the end of the Civil War, which was also made in 2003 into a film, directed by Anthony Minghella. And let us not forget The Simpsons' version, dubbed D'Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

Now as for the Homeric references in the film, let's run 'em down. First off, we have Ulysses (Latin for Odysseus) and his estranged wife Penelope (Penny), as in The Odyssey. The Coens' Ulysses and Odysseus are both known for their gift of gab, and both are trying to journey home but must deal with many obstacles along their way to get there. This is all foretold to them by a blind seer. Homer came pretty close to describing Odysseus as "a man of constant sorrow" (and, perhaps coincidentally, the song was first recorded by blind singer Richard "Dick" Burnett). Of course, Big Dan is the Cyclops, the Sirens become the wash women (who are also representative of Nausicca's scene in Homer's tale). The Baptists are the Lotus Eaters, and the KKK sequence is the journey to Hades. Pete is turned into a horny toad, which correlates to Circe turning Odysseus' men into pigs. Ulysses must defeat a suitor for his wife, and has to disguise himself to get to his wife, where there is a big scene during a banquet, and finally must pass a final test from his wife to prove he is who he claims to be. Pappy O'Daniel's first name is Menelaus, the name of the King who declared war on Troy. Sheriff Cooley stands in for Poseidon. And both the Coens' Ulysses and Odysseus are saved from watery deaths by fate. Oh, they both have sacrificial cows too.

But there's more to it beyond Greek mythological references.... "We sort of combined the 3 Stooges with Homer's Odyssey," noted Joel. "[I]t's a 3 Stooges movie in a lot of ways. Sort of epic in scale, and hopefully sort of classic in its scope."

"Or put another way," Ethan said, "it's a Ma & Pa Kettle movie, but with really big production value." (Ma & Pa Kettle were hillbilly characters who starred in a series of extremely popular comedy films in the late 40s and early 50s - think The Beverly Hillbillies.)

Then I'll note that there are more than a few nods to Wizard of Oz during the KKK rally sequence, as well as the infamous Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will.

As well, movie genres themselves are being played with. Films like I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang and other "social problem" films of the 1930s, the gangster and screwball comedy films of that era, and even movie musicals (the film is often described as a musical).

The Coens also introduce and play with American cultural myths, as with the characters of Tommy Johnson and Baby Face Nelson.

Now the tale of a man selling his soul to the devil dates back to biblical times, and in legend, of course, there is the famous tale of Faust. Tommy Johnson was a real life blues guitarist born in the late 1890s. The story about Johnson selling his soul to the devil first appeared in a 1971 biography of Johnson. Johnson's brother told it to David Evans, the author of the biography. Since then, that story has often been mis-told as happening to Robert Johnson (no relation), who wrote a song called Crossroad Blues (though has no reference to meeting the devil therein). And in case you want to be a little more confused, in O Brother, Where Art Thou? the character of Tommy Johnson performs a song by neither Robert nor Tommy Johnson, but by Skip James, Hard Time Killing Floor Blues.

George "Baby Face" Nelson was a career criminal in the 1920s, having first gone to jail at the age of 13 for accidentally murdering a friend with a gun. His legacy is that he holds "the dubious distinction of having killed more FBI agents in the line of duty than any other person." He was apparently a devoted family man who traveled on his escapades often with his wife and children. As opposed to how his demise is depicted in O Brother, Where Art Thou? where he is captured alive, Nelson was killed in a gun battle with FBI agents, known as as "The Battle of Barrington." Nelson was most famously portrayed by Mickey Rooney in a 1957 movie.

Finally, Menalus "Pappy" O'Daniel is loosely based on former Texas Governor Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. The real life Governor O'Daniel in his early years worked for a flour company and ran their radio advertising. He hosted and produced a popular radio sponsored by the flour company which featured a group of hillbilly-esque musicians dubbed the Light Crust Doughboys (whose members at one time included Bob Wills). An article in the Houston Chronicle noted, quoting Texas historian George N. Green, that, "O’Daniel effectively “pos[ed] as a hillbilly … act[ing] under the professional direction of public-relations men.” O'Daniel went on to start his own flour company, named Hillbilly Flour. He took his band on the road and campaigned for office, much like the fictional Pappy O'Daniel does in the movie. The real O'Daniel was also known as "Pappy," from the phrase, "Pass the biscuits, Pappy," he'd utter on his radio show. The real life O'Daniel wrote music and performed with his band, but the campaign song used in the movie, “You Are My Sunshine," was most famously recorded by another real life musical governor, Louisiana Governor James Houston “Jimmie” Davis.

Before we leave this topic of myths and movies, there is one more really big reference, or shall we say message the Coens are clearly sending to clue us as to what O Brother, Where Art Thou? is partially about. And that is found in the film's title which is taken from Preston Sturges' 1941 film Sullivan's Travels. Certainly, if there is one filmmaker which the Coen Brothers are most sympatico with, it's Sturges. Both take great joy in sending up those who think of themselves as our betters, be they politicians, the well-to-do, etc. Both have wicked and dark senses of humor, work(ed) at the margins of the Hollywood establishment, and both share a love for the art and artifice of film.

Specifically, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the title of a film that fictitious director John L. Sullivan desperately wants to make in Sturges' classic. Much like the Coen Bros.' Barton Fink, "Sully" wants to make films "about something." But Sullivan is a naive and sheltered soul, which is maybe why he's been such a successful director of Hollywood blockbusters, like So Long Sarong, Hey-Hey in the Hay and Ants in Your Plants of 1939. Sullivan tells his producer that he wants to make a "social problem" film based on a book, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which he describes as, "a commentary on modern conditions. Stark realism. The problems that confront the average man! ... I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity! A true canvas of the suffering of humanity!" His producers reluctantly go along with this idea, as long as Sullivan promises to have "a little sex in it." Of course, the pampered Sullivan is clueless as the plight of the common man and decides to set off on a journey to find out first hand what it's like to be homeless. By the end of the film, Sullivan is presumed dead, but is in fact a prisoner in a rural labor prison camp. He eventually is exonerated and freed, but at one point while incarcerated (which is mirrored in the Coens' film), the prisoners are taken to see a movie. The pain and suffering of the prisoners is momentarily forgotten as they watch a cartoon. And it is there that Sturges teaches Sullivan (and the audience) the film's big lesson: "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh," Sullivan says upon his return to Hollywood. "Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." For more moments "borrowed" from Sullivan's Travels in the Coen Bros.' film, here's a little YouTube video which breaks it down.

Consider then how the Coen Bros. bounce back and forth between dark to light films and how so many critics are quick to dismiss theirs (or anyones') comedies for not having anything "important" to tell us (and how rarely an acting Oscar goes to a comedic performance, eh?). In general, the critics have always slighted the Coen Bros.' comedies while lauding their "serious" films. Roger Ebert said of O Brother that "I had the sense of invention set adrift; of a series of bright ideas wondering why they had all been invited to the same film." Michael Atkinson wrote, "For all its originality, O Brother doesn't seem to have a point, or enough spark to distract us from the lack thereof." And J. Hoberman said of it, "[T]his is a pop-up book that I was impatient to slam." I would say the Coens had just such people like this in mind when they decided to make this film.

"It's all stuff that to one extent or another we were aware of," Joel said in relation to all the myths, legends, and history. "It was all back there somewhere and filtered up into the script. We weren't going out and doing research and trying to apply it to a story, it's all much more haphazard. It wasn't like we were trying to create a realistic picture of the time and place so much as an imagined world where all those things intersect - real people and made-up people."

"We are very old-fashioned in terms of just our approach to story," said Ethan. "You want a good story with characters. You know, you want to laugh, you want to cry."


Okay, here we are at the meal. Let me run it down for you how I came up with the menu.

Let's start with the main course which is grilled steak with "gratinated" potatoes. Everett, Delmar, and Pete (in his horny toad incarnation), go to a fine restaurant where they wind up meeting Big Dan (John Goodman). Everett tells the waitress: "Well mamzel, I guess we'll have a couple a steaks and some gratinated potatoes and wash it down with your finest bubbly wine." Though after meeting Big Dan, they head off to eat their meal outdoors "picnic-style," as Big Dan suggests. Mind you, if you want to go another way, Big Dan remarks as they're finishing their meal under the tree, "Thankee boys for throwin' in that fricassee. I'm a man a large appetite and even with lunch under my belt I was feeling a mite peckish." But being I decided on the chicken wings (as opposed to other choices of delicacies eaten in the movie, including bbq gopher and horse meat stew), I opted to go with the steak over a chicken fricassee.

While at the picnic with Big Dan, we also see them eating corn on the cob. So I decided to gussy up that by doing a classic Southern side dish of corn sautéed with greens.

Next we got Pappy O'Daniels' Buttermilk biscuits. As we learn in the movie, besides running for governor, "Pappy" (Charles Durning) also owns a successful flour business, and so, as Junior says, "That's Governor Menelaus 'Pass the Biscuits, Pappy' O'Daniel." So we're making and passing and eating them biscuits.

At one point, Delmar steals a pie from a windowsill, for which he graciously leave a dollar bill in its place, and takes off with it. Unfortunately, we can't see what kind of pie it is but I felt since I'd recently made apple pie for the American Graffiti class, nor was in the mood for a pecan pie, I'd make something else appropriate for the locale of the film. And certainly, strawberry-rhubarb pie is geographically a popular item where our story takes place.

Now we'll backtrack to the appetizer. At one point early on, the trio try to steal a chicken from a yard then cuts to show them finishing eating the bird over a campfire. So, I decided, as noted above - as opposed to grilling a gopher - I'd go with the chicken. And I wanted to do a vinegar-based baste instead of a tomato-based one. In my search to find one, I stumbled on this recipe from country singer/Food Network personality Trisha Yearwood. While having a recipe from a country singer fits nicely in with the movie and its soundtrack... the connection goes one step deeper.

For most of 2001, the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack rested pretty comfortably as number one on the Billboard Country Music chart. From the time it first hit number one (the week of February 24th), only a small handful of releases bumped it down a notch. And one of thoses, but of course, just so happened to be Ms. Yearwood's album Inside Out. So that works, don't you think?

Now according to this article by Lake E. High, Jr., President of the South Carolina Barbeque Association:

"The Scottish families who settled primarily in Williamsburg County in present day South Carolina low country are the most famous South Carolina preparers of Vinegar and Pepper barbeque.... This simple Vinegar and Pepper sauce is the first, and therefore the oldest, of the South Carolina basting sauces."

And, according to this article by Robert F. Moss, author of Barbecue: the History of an American Institution:

"Regional sauce variations originated in the early 20th century with the rise of barbecue restaurants. Before then, barbecue sauce was pretty much the same from state to state. It was generally not a condiment applied at the table, but rather used to baste the meat just before it was served.

From Virginia to Texas, 19th century accounts of barbecues are remarkably similar in their descriptions of the sauce. In 1882, a reporter from the Baltimore Sun visited a Virginia barbecue and noted male cooks mopping the meat with 'a gravy of butter, salt, vinegar, and black pepper.' A guest at a San Antonio barbecue in 1883 recorded the sauce as, 'Butter, with a mixture of pepper, salt, and vinegar.' In 1884, the Telegraph and Messenger of Macon, Georgia, described the sauce of noted barbecue cook Berry Eubanks of Columbus as, 'made of homemade butter, seasoned with red pepper from the garden and apple vinegar.

So, I think that does it. Time to eat. And as always.... cook, watch, eat, and enjoy! See you soon!!

Jailbird BBQ Chicken Wings
Adapted from a recipe in Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood
Click Here for Printer-Friendly Version

Serves 6 (3 per person)

For the Chicken:
18 chicken wings and/or drumettes (about 2 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons Kosher salt

For the Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

oil for the grill

For the chicken: Put the wings and/or drumettes in a very large bowl or deep pot and cover with cold water. Sprinkle the salt in the water, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

For the BBQ sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter. When butter is half-melted, add remainder of the ingredients. Bring to boil, then lower heat and stir well for about 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Can be made previous day and refrigerated, but then allow to return to room temperature.

When ready, spray or mop charcoal or gas grill with a little oil to keep chicken from sticking. Heat grill until hot.

Drain chicken and pat dry. Baste with sauce. Continue to baste a couple of times. Check chicken – you want to see it get nice and crusty. Then flip the wings and/or drumettes and baste a few more times. Flip one final time to give another baste for a minute or two. Remove and give one final baste to give them a nice glisten. Serve.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Screenplay
BBC2 Documentary on the Coen Brothers - Behind the Scenes of O Brother (2000) @ YouTube
Coen Brothers Interview - O Brother, Where Art Thou? @ DarkHorizons (Dec 2000)
George Clooney Interview @ DarkHorizons (Dec 2000)
Coen Brothers Interview @ The Guardian UK (May 2000)
Brothers in Arms - Interview w/Coen Brothers @ Nashville Scene (May 2000)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Press Kit @ UCB CineFiles
The Coen Brothers - "You know, for Kids!" Website

O Brother, Where Art Thou? DVD/BluRay/Streaming
O Brother, Where Art Thou? OST CD/MP3/Vinyl/Cassette
Down from the Mountain (The "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Concert) DVD/VHS
Down from the Mountain: Live Concert Performances CD/Cassette
The Brothers Coen: Unique Characters of Violence (Modern Filmmakers), by Ryan P. Doom
The Coen Brothers: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers)by William Rodney Allen
Barbecue: the History of an American Institution, by Robert F. Moss

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