Yesterday morning, I got an email that really sparked my imagination from my favorite spice vendor––Bill, the founder and CEO of Penzeys Spices (a wonderful spice company that also vehemently and publicly advocates for progressive politics). He was urging people to watch the television show Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston, who, as I mentioned yesterday, is one of my favorite actors. I’ll give you an excerpt of his email, which starts with Bill first encountering Tom Hiddleston in an English TV series called Wallander (which I have never seen and know nothing about).
Somewhere watching the show, towards the end of the first season or beginning of the second, I actually paused the show and said to Jeri, “That guy.” As I pointed to one of the junior detectives in the back of the scene. “Why won’t someone give that guy a show? I could watch him read the phone book.” With the way he almost never got any lines this would mean him reading the phone book silently to himself, but I was okay with that. In the bleakest of shows he somehow managed to deliver humanity with just the look upon his face. Most every scene he was in became something better, something more decent just because he was there.
The actor he is talking about is, of course, Tom Hiddleston. For me, the first time I saw Tom Hiddleston was in the original Thor movie. Now, I’m not a big super hero movie watcher. The whole Marvel Universe thing is way too complicated for me to spend much of my time and attention on. The only series that has really captivated me, other than Black Panther (which is only one movie, so not a series, but I LOVED that one…so sad that Chadwich Boseman won’t be able to follow up in that fantastic role), has been the Thor series. And my enjoyment of that series is almost entirely based on my affection for the two leads, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Hemsworth, the big, blond, hunky, powerful, extraverted, energetic, impulsive Aussie as Thor, and Hiddleston, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts-educated, darker, introverted, intellectual, calculating, deep, subtle Brit as Loki, make the greatest dramatic team in the Marvel movies, at least as I am concerned.
So when the limited series Loki became available, I signed up for Disney + for a month or two, just to watch it. I’ll also watch Hamilton and Soul again before I cancel, but really, I’m here for Hiddleston.
And so, it appears, is Penzey’s Bill. He continued:
Flash forward 10-12 years and that actor, Tom Hiddleston, now does have his own show, Loki, on Disney+ and since the universe responded to my request, I feel obliged to put in a plug for it. Plus, it’s starting to cook. New episodes air every Wednesday. Last week’s episode was a breakthrough and in many ways was a retelling of the Grinch story where Loki’s heart grows not one, not two, but three times larger simply by coming to understand firsthand he is someone worth loving. In some ways it reminded me of the also very worthwhile Elton John biopic Rocketman. Good stuff all around.
As a literature teacher, I love Loki as a character from the original myths because he is such a complicated character––neither obviously good nor irretrievably bad (well, until the end, maybe). And Marvel has done a good job in capturing that through their movies, I think. This series focused on Loki really has a lot more psychological character development, in my opinion, than the typical action movie fight scenes. So I’ve really been enjoying it, and join Bill in recommending that you watch the series. Owen Wilson, for whom I also have a soft spot in my heart, has been doing an incredible job in these shows as well.
But what really grabbed my attention in the email was that he was inspired by events in the show to make some potato skins, which he claims he has never made for his wife. He included his recipe, which was a good one for potato skins, but I’m just not that into potato skins. But that sparked me into thinking about what I could fix to eat as I watched the penultimate episode of the Loki series.
I did some research, and at least the Asatru or Northern Paganists (people who worship the Norse gods and goddesses in modern times) associated Loki with sweet foods, spicy foods, red foods (including strawberries), and, of course, alcohol (I think all the Norse gods are pretty much associated with alcohol). That doesn’t narrow things down a whole lot, but it gave me something to work with.
Finally, I had an inspiration. While I won’t give away any spoilers, there was something in the 4th episode that included a reference to New York City…and the series began in New York City, where Loki had been caught and chained after his defeat but managed to snag a Tesseract and escape, which set off the whole new timeline that is covered in this series. So I thought I would make a New York City-specific meal. Going with the red idea, I thought I would make corned beef (one of my son’s favorite dishes, although we don’t have it often because we only eat beef about once a month) and serve it on a bagel!
I was going to the grocery store anyway to get food and supplies before tropical storm Elsa hit, so I got a brisket to cook in my Instant Pot. I made a special stop at a real New York Bagel place to get authentic New York bagels. I made my son the full Reuben sandwich-on-a-bagel, which he likes, but I just had corned beef with a schmear of chive cream cheese. (My husband has a boat down in New Bern, NC, so he was down dealing with that since the hurricane/tropical storm was expected to hit NC Wednesday night or Thursday morning.) I sliced one multigrain bagel and one pumpernickel and used half of each on both of our sandwiches to represent Loki’s character, as he is always struggling with whether he should operate from his better half or his dark side.
We also had just a regular salad…not necessarily very New York-y, but, you know, vegetables. I also bought some cannoli for dessert. Once again, I got chocolate-covered shells with white cream to represent Loki’s complex personality.
Anyway, that was a fun, spur-of-the-moment project to come up with a special meal to go with Loki. Now I have a week to decide what to make for the last show of this intriguing short series. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.
If you are not familiar with Penzeys Spice, check them out at: https://www.penzeys.com .
I like the emails I get from Bill, which are often provocative and get me thinking about different topics. In the end, he makes a connection between cooking and compassion, cooking and community, cooking and many other things that I care about…including Loki.
So thanks, Bill, for your spices and for your inspirations. I’m going to end with his final paragraphs from the email:
If you have access to Disney+ please consider giving Loki a try. To get people to cook they have to see the value in caring for one another. There’s not a lot of shows out there that radiate this. Ultimately as the show itself says: “Most things in history are kind of dumb and everything gets ruined eventually.” But for now we have Camelot quotes and DB Cooper and people caring about each other.
And if a segment of this year’s Emmys is to be Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson and Sophia Di Martino quietly reading the phone book to themselves I would be good with that. But Wilson has a whisper like no other. They probably should consider using that. And maybe if Wunmi Mosaku was up there with them as the one who isn’t getting many lines now but should have her own show ten years from now, that would be good as well. Progress matters.