• The central thesis of former Veuve Clicquot executive Mireille Guiliano's 2004 bestseller, French Women Don't Get Fat, was debunked by a 2006 study showing that French women have gained, on average, one dress size since the 1970s. It was further debunked by studies showing that adult obesity in France could equal rates seen in America as soon as 2020. However, Guiliano's book has proven at least one thing: French women who make hyperbolic generalizations get rich. Variety reports that actress Hilary Swank's production company has recently acquired the movie rights to the book, which itself has sold over 2 million copies. The chameleon-like Swank, who kicked her way into America's heart in Karate Kid 3 before going on to Oscar-winning turns in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby, is reportedly looking to star in the adaptation. Word is that it will be a romantic comedy about the ups and downs of a Champagne executive's love life, which we think sounds a whole lot more palatable than a 90-minute how-to about starving yourself in the midst of exceptional pastries, cheese, chocolate and wine.
Turns out that monkfish were also repelled—fatally—by Child's recipe.
• A culinary icon with a secret identity? It may sound like something out of Hollywood, but it wasn't far from the truth for the late Julia Child, prolific cookbook author and star of PBS' The French Chef. Last week, more than 35,000 top-secret personnel files containing details about World War II-era spies (including Child) were released from the National Archives—a whopping 750,000 documents identifying the vast spy network managed by the Office of Strategic Services, which was the predecessor to the CIA. (That's Central Intelligence Agency, not Culinary Institute of America.) Child applied for the dangerous position after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. At the time, Child didn't cook—she didn't learn until age 32—but Unfiltered can't help but wonder if her spy activities helped to inspire her culinary career. As one of her assignments, Child helped to concoct a shark repellent that kept the big fish from bumping into underwater explosives, which would have alerted German U-Boats to their presence. We posthumously applaud Child's work on behalf of her cause, though we have a hard time imagining her making anything so terrible-tasting that it would repel a shark.
• A new dining establishment in Italy is a well-guarded secret for a good reason: They don't want the prisoners who serve dinner to escape.Fortezza Medicea, a high-security Tuscan prison, invites members of the public to take part in "Cene Galeotte," or convict's night, as part of its hospitality industry training program for inmates who aspire to gainful employment upon release. Inmates serve the food, which is prepared by chefs from restaurants in Florence, Siena and Pisa, and local wineries, including Fattoria Sorbaiano, supply the drink. Sorbaiano's managing director Grazia Picciolini, whose company currently supplies his 2007 house white and his 2005 Lucestraia as well as a 2002 Vin Santo to the prison, likens the winery's participation in the project to "raising money for charity." Of course, unlike an actual restaurant, guests must use plastic cutlery, for security reasons.
• Sometimes you have to take what you can get, and in Mahlabathini, South Africa, where the climate is unsuitable for grape cultivation, what you can get are beets, which are the staple ingredient in the wines that one nun has been making since 2002. According to South Africa's Pretoria News, Lydia Ngema, a 69-year old Sister of the Order of Saint Benedict who joined the mission when she was just 14, was taught how to make many things, including wine, by the German nuns who used run the mission. Fascinated by the taste of beetroot, she began experimenting with it as a base for wine, and today, she makes several different varieties of wine from it. Encouraged by positive reactions from those who have tasted it, Ngema has now enlisted the help of South Africa's department of agriculture to establish her hobby as a legitimate commercial wine business. What makes this story truly unusual, however, is that because members of the Order of Benedict are teetotalers, she has never actually tasted her own wine—truly putting her business ambitions into the category of "faith-based initiatives."
It's got some mangy scents, with hints of drool.
• For those wine lovers who like to flash photos of their pets the way others might show off pictures of their grandchildren, you can now put a photo of your dog or cat on a wine label. As part of its Dog and Cat Lovers Wine Club, Ballwin, Mo.-based Wine Necessities now offers members the option to personalize the bottles they receive each month with photos of their own pets. For those who can't get Fido of Fluffy to stand still long enough to pose for a photo, the club also offers such stock options as Puppy P-No (Italian Pinot Grigio), Retriever Red (Chilean Merlot) and Kitty Cat-bernet (Cabernet Sauvignon). A quarter of all proceeds from the wine club go to the Animal Protective Agency (APA) of Missouri, which shelters and finds homes for stray and abandoned pets. This isn't the first time we've recognized the natural pairing of pets and wine, though we're still waiting for one of them to pipe up about what wine goes best with kibble.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions