Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Good Things about the Two Towers Movie

Gollum was good. A lot of the Sam and Frodo bits were good. Theoden at Theodred's grave, and the foretaste of Arwen at Aragorn's grave in Rath Dinen? Oh, very nice. But as for a lot of the other stuff? Don't get me started.

In an attempt to stay positive, here is my list of good things:

Very few spoilers for the book.

No pesky subtlety about the magic.

Exciting new character motivations. (Previous ones are 50 years old, after all.)

Frodo and Sam get to see more of Middle-Earth than in the original. A whole city more.

Acting like an impulsive idiot works again and again! So liberating.

Entish democracy exposed as much less effective than monarchy.

All other Rohan women retire their swords to give Eowyn more screentime. (Well, unless you count the little boy with a girl's name.)

Elves bravely sacrifice the defense of their own homelands so as to save the day. (The other orcish armies which will show up after burning Lorien are beside the point.)

Great dream sequence after Frodo and Sam are overcome by the Nazgul's Black Breath and taken to Mordor. (Either that, or the Nazgul was just being darned nice about holding his Black Breath....)

Eowyn made to look even more self-sacrificing by turning her future husband into a big fat jerk.

Helm's Deep turned into Thermopylae. I guess in the book, they just weren't outnumbered enough.

We learn that the horses of Rohan can defy the law of gravity and leap past pikes.

No need to write 'missing scene' fanfic; it's in the movie. In fact, only half of the book was filmed to allow for more fanfic time!

Here's hoping that The Return of the King will have a little more to do with Tolkien and less to do with somebody's huge crush on Aragorn.

Anise Cookies Just Like Great-Great-Grandma Used to Make!

Springerle (German/Swiss anise cookies, so called because the molded designs on them 'spring up' when baked) are a wonderful holiday treat. There's a good many springerle recipes up on the web, but none of them are this one. If you like your springerle hard on the outside but soft in the middle, follow this recipe. Please, don't overcook your springerle; they'll turn into charcoal briquettes!

What you'll need:

4 eggs

Half an eggshell of water

1 pound granulated sugar (=2 cups)

5 or 6 drops of anise oil

(or equivalent in anise seeds, etc.)

1 pound flour (=4 cups)

3 teaspoons baking powder

A really heavy-duty mixer! This dough is _stiff_.

Someplace cool for the cookies to sit overnight, or for at least 12 hours, while they rise.

-- Beat the eggs and water for 10 minutes.

(Those eggs are going to be _fluffy_.)

-- Add the sugar and the anise oil.

--Mix at medium speed for 15 minutes.

-- Slowly add in the flour and the baking powder
and beat until it's all mixed in.

-- Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick. (Flour it a lot -- this dough is sticky!)

-- Flour up your molds or molded rolling pin.

-- Press the molds into the dough gently. You want to leave a design, not cut through the dough.

-- Cut out the cookies and put them on a cookie sheet.

-- Let them sit overnight (or for at least 12 hours) in a cool place.

--Bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes. If your oven doesn't have that, you can try 350 degrees for 10 minutes, but _be careful_! The cookies should be a very light golden brown when done.

Makes 90-100 cookies really, but there's usually only 70 or so left by morning in my family. Keep the springerle in a tin with a slice of bread to keep them moist, and replace the slice of bread whenever it gets dried out. is worth visiting for the historical information and pictures of molds, as well as their understanding of the hardening overnight.

But their pottery molds are very different from the wooden ones my great-great-grandmother brought over from Baden-Baden. We have two molds of four, and one with two. The mold of two has a daisy and a cornucopia. The molds of four have fish, birds, carrots and turnips, and all sorts of other designs on them. They're nowhere near as elaborate as the wooden molds at, but I love them.

I should mention that some people use lemon rind or zest in their recipes. Whatever springs your le, I guess....

Other variations:

Separated yolks and whites!