My TV Dinner
Every Friday The Social's digital correspondent, Jessica Allen, answers two questions we face every day. What should I eat? And what should I watch? The answer for one is frequently found in the other.
Grilled prawns are the perfect pairing to Chevalier
This Greek film about men on a boat challenging each other sparked a lively discussion between Jessica and Simon
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Give my partner Simon a bone, preferably one contained in a pork chop or, on rarer occasions, a rib eye, and he’s in heaven. But hand him a prawn to peel and he’s put out.
So, after securing 10 British Colombian spot prawns from our local fishmonger, I stripped them of their shells.
And let me tell you, I did it very carefully: their season lasts only about a month, and at just over two bucks a piece, I didn’t want to lose a sliver of their sweet meat.
It was a huge risk. I’d never eaten them, let alone cooked them. But I let intuition reign, grilling them on the barbecue for about 45 seconds a side after seasoning them simply with olive oil, lemon, and garlic.
I tore up some parsley from my pot of herbs to top the prawns off and, in true al fresco style, we ate them outside with our fingers. And they were perfect.
I won! Although I was competing only against myself. So we went inside to watch six grown men compete against each other in Chevalier, a film that’s performed well on the festival circuit and hits select theatres on June 3. On the last legs of a fishing trip on board a luxury yacht, the well-appointed Greek men set out to determine who is the best man via a series of challenges. How will they measure up?
It turns out their definition of manhood is varied: From cooking techniques and the speed at which they can assemble Ikea furniture to pain thresholds and cholesterol counts, they put each other to the test in this humorous and, at times, utterly odd odyssey.
But it’s their weaknesses and faults that are the most tender and endearing, perhaps because we don’t often see men judging themselves on screen in the same way that women do.
“Do you think my thighs are fat?” one of the men asks his wife during a ship-to-shore-talk.
“It might be out of place to say this,” Simon said when we finished, “but this is a male movie. It’s about a type of competition that only exists in men; a competition with the stated goal of being the absolute best, which — in a twist out of a Greek tragedy — you are disqualified from winning by virtue of taking part in the competition.”
“And it’s directed by a woman!” I said (Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari, to be precise.)
“Well, I’m shocked by that.” he said, “because it’s so exact! I don’t know if you could get a man to be that precise about the male ego; about the male psyche.”
“Maybe in the same way that Cassavetes was so good at writing female parts,” I said, thinking of A Woman Under the Influence.
“Yes! And I could be wrong, but I suspect that many men will have a hard time watching it.”
“Because it hits too close to home?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said. “So many of their impulses — the wounded vanity, being concerned with the way you look, the way you’re seen — are beneath some imagined Platonic form of maleness. But they’re the very root of the nature of the competition: you’re competing to show that you don’t have all these insecurities but the reason you’re competing in the first place is because, well, you’re insecure.”
We sat for a moment, while the credits — all in Greek, which neither of us can read — rolled. “Those prawns were really good, right?” I asked.
“They were like the butter of the sea,” he said.