22 Jun

10 Cloverfield Lane

“People are strange creatures. You can’t always convince them that safety is in their best interest.”

– Howard

We’re back for another movie and meal served in lockdown (still from the safety of our separate homes). This time, we watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie we’d all seen together when it first came out in theaters. Fun fact, Leanna was so hyped about the Cloverfield universe after watching it for Munch that she convinced herself, André, and Ben that they needed to get to the premier of 10 Cloverfield Lane an hour early to make sure they got good seats at the IMAX theater… They were the only people who showed up early.

Still, this was a good movie to have good seats in a movie theater setting. (Remember movie theaters? What a time.) It’s suspenseful, thrilling, and visually compelling. Do you know what wasn’t thrilling and visually compelling? The meal we cooked for this movie, though through no fault of our own.

10 Cloverfield Lane takes place almost entirely in an underground bunker. The three inhabitants are quarantined there to escape the potential threat of an alien attack above that has supposedly rendered the air unbreathable. All of this is according to Howard (John Goodman), the owner of the bunker, who insists his new roommates, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), get used to it because it’s likely they’ll be stuck here for at least two years.

Howard stocked his bunker with all manner of nonperishables (or at the very least, foods with an extended “best by” date), and we drew inspiration from his pantry for our menu. Goodbye fresh vegetables, goodbye cheese, goodbye to most of the ingredients that make food taste good. We only wanted food that can be made from shelf-stable ingredients for this meal.

Thanks to the simple ingredients, all you quarantine bread-makers out there will be happy to know that, should there be an alien attack and you’re stuck inside even longer, you can keep baking. Worst case, your yeast isn’t going to be quite as effective. But the important thing is that you’re alive, right?

We made some focaccia using a recipe that took a very long time. (Quick but important side note: given that is a Bon Appétit recipe, it is worth reading up on what is happening over at BA.) But friends, we have nothing but time. And this focaccia was worth every minute. Although, a warning for our readers with small fridges: you WILL have to get creative at one point.

This focaccia had just the right amount of chew, crunch, and oily-ness. We cracked open some tins of sardines and jars of artichokes and enjoyed a nice snack before our main course.

Next up, pasta with tuna and capers. To stay true to our theme, we had to eliminate the fresh ingredients and try and use their dried counterparts. The result? It was… fine. We can only imagine that the fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon would have gone a long way in improving the dish. Dried parsley and garlic just don’t have the same punch to them.

We closed out the meal with soda cake. It is exactly that: a cake made from soda. All you need is a box of cake mix and the soda of your choosing. We went with a Coke + chocolate cake mix, and we dressed it up a bit by adding some canned pie cherries on the bottom before pouring in the cake mix to upgrade the cake to the upside-down variety. Pop that in the oven for a bit and you are good to go.

We served it with a dollop of marshmallow fluff, lightly torched and it was… not bad? Not the best cake we’d ever had but if your ingredients are limited and you need something sweet, it would work. If you have any interest in making this (there are better cakes out there) the quality of your jarred pie cherries is extremely important. Splurge!

The meal definitely made us happy our experience with lockdown still allows us fresh groceries and modified contact with the outside world. And given the doomsday prep cookbooks that we looked over when considering the menu, we are glad that we, hopefully, aren’t looking at a future filled with solely shelf-stable foods.

One thing we did notice was that a lot of the prepper cookbooks and lists recommend collecting vodka. It apparently has many uses, and we are going to take a strong stance and say none of them are for its use in cocktails. Ben is a staunch believer that vodka is an F-tier spirit, so we used alternative (read: better) liquors, and felt that it was just as appropriate.

Now, there is quite the collection of cocktails that use fresh juices in their recipes, and we felt like it was important to figure out how to craft a cocktail without fresh fruit on hand. We made the cocktail Light and Day, which is a combination of gin, yellow chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. This drink probably would have been better with fresh orange juice, but those weren’t the rules we were playing by. So we forged ahead with Sunny D. Was it the right choice? No. But no one said living in lockdown would be easy.

The quarantine shown in 10 Cloverfield Lane is obviously more strict than what we’ve all been experiencing here in the U.S., but the movie still has some dialogue that is just so on the nose it hurts. For example, Howard notes that “Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come.” Remember when the Trump administration fired the pandemic response team in 2018? Or its continued attempts to slash funding for the CDC? Or the fact that we spend 100 times as much on counterterrorism than we do on pandemic preparedness? By the time the government finally accepted the threat of COVID-19, the downpour was in full swing and most of us were already barely keeping our heads above water. And things don’t look great as states see an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases while easing restrictions.

We’re not advocating we all spend the rest of lockdown building bunkers in our backyards (although if that’s your thing, you may be interested in buying the Las Vegas Underground House which is still for sale). And, it can be hard to know exactly what threats you might face in the future (although TBH we definitely should have seen a deadly flu pandemic on the horizon). But in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Michelle accepts her fate of being stuck in the bunker with Howard and Emmett only to slowly realize that the real threat is inside the bunker (an experience that is not unique to lockdown during alien invasions, and for those experiencing abuse during this lockdown here is a link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline).

Howard is a textbook abuser in the way he vies to maintain power in the bunk and control its inhabitants. Signs of his sinister nature are on display early on, although you might overlook them if you are distracted by the mystery of what’s actually lurking outside and whether it’s a real threat. The majority of 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t about surviving an alien invasion but about overcoming and escaping an abusive relationship. And when Michelle does escape, and the movie does become about surviving an alien invasion, the metaphor continues by showing how just because you’re free from the most immediate threat, escape doesn’t guarantee support or safety.

In those final scenes, 10 Cloverfield Lane drops a few lessons for us as we live through this pandemic and fight for justice in the U.S. The first is: if you must go outside, take the proper precautions. Michelle suits up in a homemade suit and gas mask before venturing outside. You don’t need this level of precaution for COVID-19 (but we won’t stop you if you take them), but you should wear a mask. Seriously, wear a mask. Over your nose and your mouth. And don’t touch your mask or move it down when you’re talking to someone. That defeats the whole purpose.

The second occurs as Michelle drives away from the compound. Over the radio, there is a call for survivors to evacuate to Baton Rouge and others who are willing to join the resistance to head to Houston. Michelle makes the decision to head towards Houston thus completing the arc for the character but also culminating in a strong call towards direct action: fighting for what you believe in and the world you want to live in.

We believe that world should unequivocally be one in which Black lives matter; housing, education, medical coverage, and food needs are met for everyone; and all white people are active in promoting anti-racism to begin undoing centuries of damage and abuse to human beings and the land we live on. And that is just a few off the top of our heads and based on what feelings this movie made most apparent to us.

To close out, here are a few of the organizations we are donating to make our contributions to the fight for justice:

  • The Loveland Foundation, which funds therapy for Black women and girls.
  • Brooklyn Bail Fund, Minnesota Freedom Fund, and Northwest Community Bail Fund, all of which are dedicated to challenging the racism, inequality, and injustice of the criminal legal system.
  • The Okra Project, which is working to provide free, delicious, and nutritious meals to Black Trans people experiencing food insecurity by Black Trans chefs.
  • G.L.I.T.S., which provides wide-ranging services from career training and housing referrals for Black transgender people with one of the main focus being providing services for those previously incarcerated.
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which works to fight in landmark legal battles, protect voters, and advance the cause of racial justice and equality.
  • Fair Fight, a foundation founded by Stacey Abrams to fight voter suppression.