Greg and Zanna watch a documentary that could have been sweeter.
Quality of cakes: 5
Quality of film: 2
Quality of mansplaining: 0
I asked Zanna which of the elements of the title she believed were most attractive to viewers. Before she could answer, I said it's unlikely anyone's coming for "and", "the" or "of". She didn't laugh, didn't even acknowledge that I'd made a joke. When I told her I found that hurtful, she said she didn't realise I'd been making a joke, which made me wonder what she thought I'd been doing.
She said: "This is going to make me sound dumb but I liked the cakes; I didn't like the history of Versailles."
I agreed it made her sound dumb and said: "Here are some things I learned about Versailles." She got her phone out and told me she was going to take notes. I liked that. I told her I had learned it was a palace and the seat of power for the French monarchy and was an open court where people could get up close and personal with the King.
Later, picking up her phone, she said, "Oh, look at all the notes I took when you were talking. Her phone screen read: "Versailles."
I was in the middle of telling her I found the documentary dull when her phone buzzed and she not only looked down at it, not only picked it up, but started actively reading it. I stopped talking, stunned, not just by the act, but the fact it was being performed by someone who only a few years ago told me she couldn't see why she would ever need a smartphone. Far from expressing contrition at my slack-jawed indignation, she doubled down: "Nothing annoys you more than when I pick up my phone," she said.
"I don't have a problem with you picking up your phone," I said, "except when I'm in the middle of a sentence."
"You weren't in the middle of a sentence," she said.
But I had been in the middle of a sentence - deep in the middle; not even at a comma. How far back did this lack of listening go? The start of the conversation? The start of the relationship? At that point, I realised, with horror, the phone wasn't the problem - I was. Movie-making 101: Doesn't matter how much you have to say on a subject if the audience doesn't find you interesting.
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In my early 20s, I took a solo trip to Paris and opted to not visit the Palace of Versailles because it seemed like a lot of money to see a pretty garden. I realise that was ignorant and now, three kids deep, there are no trips, especially no solo trips, but actually no trips to Paris on the horizon for the next 10 to 20 years.
What I didn't learn about Versailles during that carefree trip-for-one to the romance capital of the world, I might've learned from Yotam Ottolenghi in his documentary about assembling the world's most innovative pastry chefs to put on a Versailles-themed event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Unfortunately, though, the history of Versailles as told by Ottolenghi, who I liked very much – warm face, twinkling eyes – was more boring than I had thought it would be in 2005.
When the film ended, Greg and I did the most despicable and arrogant thing critics can do: we discussed how we would've done it better. The creators of the film clearly wanted to do something more than an episode of Sugar Rush – not simply marvelling at the creations of these world-class pastry chefs, but weaving through historical context. Unfortunately, the "weaving through" just didn't work. The cakes, however, were incredible.
The storyline that engaged me the most was when Ukrainian pastry chef and former architect Dinara Kasko, who had spent weeks meticulously modelling her Versailles cake on a computer and building 3D moulds, couldn't get the right texture for her mousse because of the fat content in New York City cream. The Met pastry chef mansplained that she needed more fat. She knew she needed less. He insisted she was wrong. That story came to a satisfying end.
During the film, I had been desperately awaiting a text about potential childcare for my sick child, who wasn't going to be able to go to kindy the next day - a work day. The urgent text came later in the evening, during some of Greg's genius ramblings, so I've no idea how he felt about the film. I'll just read his review. It'll be in there.
Of course the history of Versailles is fascinating but Ottolenghi's conversations about it with historians and other chefs were not. I would've preferred an episode of Sugar Rush. Perhaps that makes me a philistine, but these incredible feats of food art deserved more.
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is available now on DocPlay.