“Life is very long.”
—from “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot (as quoted by Beverly Weston in August: Osage County)
Maybe this is why I love this film so much—it begins with a quote by T.S. Eliot, my favorite author, or maybe it is the vast vistas and scenery of the beautiful Oklahoma prairie, so truthfully shot on location in Osage and Washington Counties.
Maybe it is the cast of truly memorable characters (played by some extremely famous and talented actors) that make up the Weston clan, starting with the absent-by-suicide Beverly, the patriarch of the family and a truly tormented artist. Some of the other characters could be seen as stereotypes as well: the dutiful daughter, the prodigal daughter, the child-like adult daughter. Dig a little deeper, however, and there is a lot going on in those psyches. Most of the turmoil is rooted with the matriarch of the family, the violent Violet Weston, suffering with cancer of the mouth like some ironic sick joke.
Then there’s the deep, dark family secret that will leave two of the most innocent members of this family crushed.
Really sounds like a typical Food ‘n Flix feature, right?
I am hosting this month and as a rationalization as to why I chose this film for August’s feature, I present a list of food and food-like references in order of appearance in the film.
- “Simple pleasures, like finding wild onions by the side of the road, or requited love.” (Beverly)
- “Here we go round the prickly pear/Prickly pear…” (Beverly quoting Eliot again.)
- Johhna peeling potatoes on the screened-in porch as the family begins to be alerted to Beverly’s disappearance.
- Mattie Fae wagging in her store-bought bundt cake as Charlie totes in beer.
- Mattie Fae’s “classy cocktail” (straight whiskey).
- Biscuits and Gravy, apparently Beverly’s last meal
- Apple pie and ice tea served to Barbara and Bill on the screened-in porch
- California Merlot—everyone’s saving grace at that funeral dinner.
- Mattie Fae’s casserole (which looked more like a cranberry salad after Little Charles dropped it on the floor.)
- The funeral dinner: I think I see scalloped potatoes, fried chicken, green salad, rolls, a gravy boat, and pies for dessert.
- The discussion of Jean’s beliefs about eating meat and ingesting an animal’s fear.
- “Where’s the meat?” This starts out as a joke shared by Violet and her sister, Mattie Fae, but soon morphs into an opportunity to demean Karen.
- Barbara teases Jean about catching her sneaking a “double cheeseburger with bacon , extra fear” every now and again.
- Sisters “bonding” over wine in the gazebo.
- “Catfish—bottom feeders….My favorite.” Barbara is her mother’s daughter. (Notice the green Frankoma on the table in this scene? Did you catch it before it hit the floor? )
- Green beans and cornbread to accompany that “f-ing fish.”
Not finding food inspiration? Let’s look at the official state meal of Oklahoma: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas. Now that is a table full of grub, almost too full.
One line struck me as I re-watched the film for Food ‘n Flix this month: “crux of the biscuit.” I think I was taken aback because I have never heard this phrase (and I had no idea it was also a Frank Zappa song). I initially thought it was a made-up phrase from Violet’s drug-ridden state.
Violet utters (or screams) this phrase as she attempts to make her ungrateful offspring know the sacrifices she has made for them during her “truths” outburst: “Just time we had some truths ’round here’s all. Damn fine day, tell the truth.”
That’s the crux of the biscuit: we lived too hard, then rose too high. We sacrificed everything and we did it all for you. Your father and I were the first in our families to graduate high school and he wound up an award-winning poet. You girls, given a college education, taken for granted no doubt and where’d you wind up?…Jesus, you worked as hard as us, you’d all be president. You never had real problems so you got to make all your problems yourselves.
Soon, Violet’s truth-telling will create even more chaos and pain in this dysfunctional dynamic. Maybe some truths are better left untold.
Here is a biscuit that I imagine Johnna would have made, full of butter and fresh buttermilk.
Truth Telling Biscuits
Based on Artisan Bisquet from San Antonio Magazine, March 2015
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
6 1/2 oz. butter, cold (cut in small chunks)
12 1/2 oz. buttermilk, cold
handful of all-purpose flour for rolling dough
melted butter for tops of biscuits
In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix in butter, until the mixture looks crumbly. Mix in buttermilk.
On a flat surface covered with flour, roll out dough to 1-inch thick. Dough can be cut into squares or a round biscuit cutter can be used.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.
These biscuits have a hefty dose of sugar in them. Lord knows, the Weston clan could use some sweetness.
Violet, I hope that the “crux of the biscuit,” those truths that you brought to the table, were worth it in the end.
As the Food ‘n Flix host this August, I cordially invite you to join us. Submissions are due by August 27 so you will have to be quick. For more information, see my announcement post. Look for the round-up here during the first of September.