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Amour (2012) – A spell-binding, unwavering look at the part of the happy love story we prefer not to see, when the promise of til-death-do-us-part is made real. Here we are at the inevitable parting inherent in any happy couple that has weathered life’s storms and grown old together. It’s the point at which most stories avert their gaze, and it’s where Haneke’s camera refuses to look away. We observe the old married couple, Georges and Anne, in their routines – in health and in its slow deterioration – and the patient camera forces us to see the pain and despair but also the deep love that binds and supports them both. Yes, it’s the untidiness of approaching death played out in full, and an unfolding of the comforts and terrors of intimacy, and finally a glimpse of the dark and discomfitting places love may lead us – but it is also strangely touching and hopeful. This is not an easy movie, and it demands much of you, but it is well worth it. You might even call it romantic. Well, if you like quiet, extremely intense foreign art house movies. About love, commitment and death.

Caveat: This is the first Haneke movie I’ve seen, so while I’m aware of his reputation for cruelty and manipulation, I have no history with it.

Meatless Meal Steakhouse Style

Asked for my least favorite, most hated food as a child, mushrooms would have topped my list. So, my nine-year-old self would have been horrified had she known that one day, I’d be happy to make a whole dish of nothing but mushrooms my Saturday night dinner. The key here is, as so often, butter. And garlic, I’d be remiss not to mention the garlic.

Now, while I have come around to liking mushrooms, they are not so high on my favorites list that I would make them the star of a one-ingredient show at dinner. I like them as the main meaty flavor in noodles Stroganoff, and as a great side for chicken, or maybe an appetizer on toast, which is to say that I like them best with something, not as the main attraction.  In this case though, Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for garlic butter roasted mushrooms has managed to do in pictures and words what my mother once achieved via the aroma of pan-fried mushrooms in wine and butter – namely, tempt me into craving mushrooms just for their own delicious sake.

This is an easy recipe, and it works very well as a main dish. As Deb (of Smitten Kitchen) points out, this preparation turns the roasted mushrooms into something reminiscent of those great steakhouse sides, the ones that can almost make you forget about the steak, or at least not miss it too much. As recommended, I served these mushrooms with good bread, for sopping up the delectable pan juices. I would also recommend a healthy dollop of good sour cream (make sure it is 100% cream, without thickeners or additives), to dip the mushrooms in.

I could not resist, and added a small side dish of tiny roasted red potatoes, halved, tossed with the same preparation of capers, garlic, and oil as the mushrooms, similarly topped with butter, and roasted alongside the main dish, with about an extra 5 minutes added to the oven time. Served in their own tiny dish next to the big baking dish of roasted mushrooms, the potatoes also go well with the sour cream. Steak? What steak?

Final tip: go for some good crusty white bread, like French or Italian country bread or baguette, which is just the best to soak up all that salty butter-garlic mushroom sauce. And try to get fresh flat-leaf parsley – it really makes a difference. Cocktail optional.