I love good monster movies. Notice how I say good monster movies. Since I first saw Jurassic Park as a kid, I’ve been hungry for monster movies that add an extra reminder to lock my doors at night and have found some real gems, but mostly disappointment over the past 20 years. Recently, however, I can put that opinion to bed since the rest of me won’t be able to sleep well since I’ve found a new subject for my nightmares. Sometimes the scariest monsters we face are the ones who reside within us. Australian-Canadian film, The Babadook explores the effects of festering grief through presenting a monster so chilling and scary, not even the skeletons will stay in the closet.
The story revolves around single mother and nursing home worker Amelia, and her six-year-old son Samuel whose obsession with magic and monsters constantly get him get him in trouble. Whether it’s throwing tantrums demanding attention, having night terrors every night, or bringing homemade crossbows and other weaponry to school, Samuel’s antics appear wear Amelia into pure exhaustion. However as the film progresses, what becomes more apparent is that Amelia faces her own monster–post-traumatic-stress-disorder.
Amelia’s husband, Oskar, was killed in an accident before Amelia’s eyes as he was driving her to the hospital to give birth. She spends the next six years locking the basement, where his things are, refusing to talk about or mention his name, or celebrating Samuel’s birthday on the day itself. It’s when Samuel asks Amelia to read a disturbing storybook he finds on his shelf about a closet monster named Mr. Babadook, whom once you let him in, he’ll never go away, that she is forced to face the demons in her home–the one in the closet, and the one in her mind.
From a critical standpoint, this film is bloody brilliant. I’ve watched it twice now and it still gives me chills whether through the monster’s shadow in the back of a frame, his hat and boots appearing in unexpected places, or his appearance in a silent film a la Georges Méliès. The film relies on practical effects for the most part, taking care to put the audience into Amelia’s head through the usage of unsettling sounds and cinematography. We watch and experience the mother’s torment through this metaphor for mental illness. Amelia deals with the Babadook very much like she does the grief for her husband – denying it’s existence and avoiding it. In the meantime, everyone around her demands that she forget, let go and move on from her grief–illustrating how society tends to treat mental health disorders. Director and writer Jennifer Kent unfolds a stunning reality in the film’s conclusion — that you can never escape, avoid, let go, or be cured of the Babadook forever. You can only learn to face it and maintain it so it doesn’t control you.
The Babadook is currently one of the delightful acquisitions from down under on Netflix, also for rent on Amazon Prime. Though you can also purchase it on DVD and Blueray from my Amazon store. If you’re a fan of creepy and suspenseful horror done right, it is worth every penny. So today’s inspired dish is made from the stuff of your childhood nightmares, brought under control with a solid dose of flavor and two shots of liquid courage. This dish of creamy, mashed turnips, topped with brussels sprouts and mushrooms will knock you out into food coma land so you can finally sleep, all thanks to the help of some bacon, a fried egg, and some whisky-butter sauce.
A Meal to Conquer Your Childhood Nightmares
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Equipment: Stovetop, 1 large saucepan, 1 medium skillet and 1 small skillet
- 3 Large Turnips
- 3 1/2 cups of Skim Milk
- 3-5 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, cut into tablespoons.
- 2 tsp. Minced Garlic
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Cooking Spray
- 4 Strips of Bacon
- 12 Brussels Sprouts
- 6 Large Button Mushrooms
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 shot of Whiskey
- 4 eggs
- 1 shot plus a splash Whiskey
- 1/8 tsp. plus a few dashes to taste Salt
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Thyme
- 1 tsp Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter
Reserved milk from cooking turnips
- Peel and chop turnips into proportionate sizes. Heat turnips, milk and thyme sprigs in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
- While waiting for the milk to boil, prep toppings- cut Brussels sprouts in half length-wise. To make mini mushroom hats, carefully cut the underside of a mushroom around the stem, without cutting into the stem. Then cut a sliver off the bottom of the cap and the top of the stem to even them out. Make one for each plate. Chop bacon into half-inch pieces.
- By this point the Turnips should be boiling. Reduce the heat to low and set a timer for 20-25 minutes.
- Put the medium-skillet on medium-high heat, add cooking spray and bacon. When the bacon gets crispy, remove without draining the grease and put into another bowl. Add the sprouts to the grease.
- When the sprouts are softened up with a little bit of brown, add the garlic, mushrooms, and half shot of whiskey. Keep the mushroom hat garnishes separate from the mixture. To cook place each hat on the pan, large part down, then flip after about 10-15 seconds to the other side, tilting it carefully on each edge to cook without breaking the brim.
- When timer has gone off, remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the milk into another bowl. Remove the sprigs of thyme, add butter and garlic to the turnips and mash with a potato masher. Add the reserved cooking milk, salt, and pepper until you get the flavor and consistency you prefer.
- Remove the sprouts and mushrooms from skillet without draining. Add the rest of the whiskey, butter, seasonings a splash or two of the reserved cooking milk and heat on low while heating up the small skillet on another burner.
- As the small skillet heats. Make a bed of mashed turnips in each serving bowl. Distribute the sprout and mushroom mixture and some of the bacon. Remember to stir the sauce so it doesn’t develop a skin or burn.
- Fry up the eggs one at a time over easy and place the cooked egg on the center of each bowl. Top each egg with a mushroom hat and distribute a few spoonfulls of the sauce on top when all the eggs are placed.
- Serve. A light, citrusy beverage pairs well with this dish, expect to get plenty of sleep afterwards.