“Curtains” or: “7 Little Von Trapps and Then There Were None.”

jam dollopsHow do you solve a problem like Maria? In the United States, the answer would probably be “by lethal injection”. Austria, on the other hand, has done away with the death penalty. It might not be an appropriate solution for dealing with a flibbertigibbet or even a will-o’-the-wisp, but a serial child murder? Quite possibly.

I’m not implying that the real Maria Von Trapp was anything of the kind. And I have nothing against Julie Andrews in the least. It’s just that, lately, I can’t stop imagining The Sound of Music as an entirely different sort of entertainment.

As I sat down to eat breakfast with my coworkers several days ago, I remembered my friend Katie was performing in a stage show on the peninsula, so I asked her how it was going.

“What’s the name of it again?” I inquired between slurps of bone broth.

“It’s called ‘Curtains’”, she replied.

“I think that name would be a good title for a Sound of Music murder mystery or something.”

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“You know, Maria made play clothes for the children out of her old curtains. I was just thinking how fun it’d be if the kids started dropping off, you know… one by one.” I was just being an idiot, but idiotic thoughts have a way of staying with me.

It’s not that I don’t care for the movie—quite the opposite is true. It’s just that it would have been so much better had the Von Trapp children been even remotely interesting. Or had they been able to maintain their vaguely English accents from one line to the next. Or had they been able to act. When I hear that wearisome septet sing “Doh, a dee-ya, a female dee-ya,” it makes me want to cry, to quote the otherwise unquotable Marta.

I feel The Sound of Music would be a much more entertaining film if Maria was a sugar-and-spice novitiate on the outside, but a cold, ruthless murderess at her amoral core. She may claim to the Reverend Mother that she is unable to control what she thinks and feels, but in truth, she is in full control of her emotions, such as they are, and lays on the kind-and-loving shtick so brilliantly that she gains not only entry to the Von Trapp house but gains the trust of everyone residing within it.

In my version of the film, the only person who sees through Maria’s song and dance is the beautiful baroness. Unfortunately, Baroness Schrader misinterprets the deception as mere gold-diggery, and not cold-blooded serial murder. She does the decent thing and distances herself from Captain Von Trapp when she realizes he’s in love with his governess (whom he promptly marries). Tragically, it is not within her power to send the children to boarding school as she had intended, where they would be safely out of reach from the deadly machinations of Maria.

But how would they go, these seven hapless Von Trapps? What a good question. I have a few ideas, but if you, dear reader, can think of more appropriate endings for them, do write in. This is a work in progress.

Here’s a tentative list, in the order of their demise.

 Liesl— Maria convinces The Captain that his eldest is indeed old enough to stay and taste her first champagne. After consuming an entire bottle at Maria’s insistence, it is suggested that Liesl retire to the gazebo in order to finish off a second, which she does. Her body is found the next morning. She had been leaping from bench to bench without the assistance of a telegram messenger and crashed through the glass structure. In the fall, which rendered her unconscious, she suffered a thousand little cuts, from which she slowly bled to death.

Friedrich— Trained in the precise and deadly art of alpine medicine ball tossing, Maria “accidentally” hits the poor boy directly in the face at family playtime. He was struck with such force and at such an angle that his nasal bones pierced his brain, killing him instantly*.

Gretl—The heavy brocade material used to make Gretl’s bib overalls were made even heavier by Maria’s subtle and inspired addition of lead inserts. Out on the lake one afternoon with her remaining siblings and governess-cum-stiefmutter, the boat overturns and the youngest Von Trapp sinks like a stone in the deepest part of the lake.

Louisa— Known for keeping jars of arachnids on hand to terrorize governesses, the sturdy young blonde has the tables tragically turned upon her when Maria releases hundreds of dornfingerspinnen, or yellow sack spiders, under the unsuspecting girl’s counterpane. Though not killed outright by the dozens of venomous bites she incurs, the pain and discomfort are so pronounced that she quickly goes insane and is shipped to a clinic on the Dalmatian coast to convalesce, which mysteriously burns to the ground with her in it shortly after her arrival.

Marta becomes the first (and to date, the only) case of a person dying from a surfeit of ladybugs, which were reported to have been one of her favorite things.

Unable to cope without her sisters, Brigitta listens intently as Maria sings “Düsteren Sonntag”, otherwise known as “The Hungarian Suicide Song”. Inspired, Brigitta decides to leave a note for her father stating that she is “glad to go, [she] cannot tell a lie.” She then climbs to the rooftop where she flits and floats. Having read his sole surviving daughter’s last missive, her father races to the roof in order to talk her down, but she fleetly flees from him and flies over the edge, breaking her neck on the lawn very near where her eldest sister met her own end.

And poor, incorrigible Kurt is once again overlooked and dies of neglect. No one notices.

Maria, who has now successfully eliminated all physical evidence of Captain Von Trapp’s prior marriage, suggests to him that they start a family of their own together, offering herself to him on the floor of the ballroom directly in front of the puppet stage which had so recently been the scene of so much happiness. He breaks down and tells her that he couldn’t bear the thought of bringing another child into the world for fear of losing it. She cradles his head in her lap as he cries, consoling him with a chilling rendition of “So Long, Farewell” as she reaches for the nearest available marionette, the strings of which she could use to strangle her emotionally weakened husband and thus inherit his fortune and lovely lakeside home.

At that very moment, the baroness and her gay best friend Uncle Max burst in. With a powerful combination of bitchy comments, fabulous style, and superior breeding, they foil Maria’s attempt on Georg’s life and drive her from the house. The Captain realizes his mistake of choosing a homicidal-yet-alluringly-musical servant with no significant references over a world-weary sophisticate with a heart of gold. Elsa Schrader gets what she’s always wanted– a man who needs her, Uncle Max gets unlimited access to the Von Trapp wine cellar, and the three of them live happily ever after. Until the Nazis take over the country a few weeks later.

And what of Maria? She flees on foot over the mountains. But instead of heading west to Switzerland, she veers north into Germany, where she is allowed to ply her hideous talents on unruly children until the end of the war. She is later found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nürnberg trails and imprisoned.

Roll Credits.

nockerl

Salzburger Nockerl

How fortunate it is that there is a dessert which fits the above story like a murderous glove? It’s a frothy little conceit, just like the original film, and yet it hides a bloody secret– dollops of raspberry jam are buried beneath powdered sugar-dusted mountains of meringue. Three mountains, to be exact: Festungsberg, Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg, which are the mountains which happen to surround the charming Austrian city of Mozart and Sound of Music tour busses. I’ve added seven spoonfuls of jam– one for each Von Trapp child. Name them as you place them one by one into the luxurious lake of cream.

This recipe is a modified version of one found on Epicurious. All other recipes researched were  confusing and very horribly written.

Serves 7 6 5 4 3 2 Whoever is left to eat it. 

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup of heavy cream
• 7 generous dollops of raspberry jam
• 5 large egg whites (at room temperature– you don’t want eggs straight from the fridge.)
• 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
• 1/2 cup of white sugar
• 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
• 3 egg yolks (hopefully you are smart enough to have gotten them from 3 of the 5 eggs you’ve already abused for their whites)
• 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
• Powdered sugar for faking snow-capped peaks

Preparation:

1. Place your oven rack to the middle position in your oven. Heat this very same oven to 400°F.

2. In a 9-inch oval baking dish, pour the cream so that it shallowly covers the bottom. With a soup spoon or, if you don’t believe in soup, a similarly-sized one, place seven dollops of jam. I like to say the name of each Von Trapp child as I go, always placing Liesl in the center.

meringue3. Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form. At this point, continue beating as you add the sugar a little at a time until it is all gone and your egg whites have transformed into stiff, glossy peaks. Sprinkle the flour over your egg whites and fold in gently, but very thoroughly– streaks of flour in meringues are unpleasant, not to mention embarrassing.

4. Whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until they are frothy but not rabid-looking. Fold them into the whites with the same élan you so recently performed with the flour.

5. Spoon three enormous globs of meringue into the awaiting, jam-speckled cream, shaping them to look like distinct peaks of a mountain chain, but making certain that all of the cream base is covered.

6. Pop into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. When it is finished, it will still be a trifle jiggly, but do not become upset by this. If you want a less custardy sort of nockerl, turn the oven off, but leave the dish in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Or, you know, until you’re comfortable taking it out.

7. When you do remove it from the oven, dust it with powdered sugar to suggest snow– pure, innocent, cleansing snow.

Serve warm to the Austrian Navy Captain nearest you. If you are of a somewhat Shakespearean bent, you can pretend you’re Titus Andronicus and that he is Tamora, unsuspectingly eating her own children. It is an abrupt switch of gender to be certain, but I strongly believe your imagination can handle it.

Or you can just eat the whole damn thing by yourself and pretend none of this ever happened because no one is going to want to talk to you now that you’ve just hypothetically killed off all the children from their favorite movie, which they will never be able to watch in quite the same way again after reading this post.

So long, fare well for now,

Michael

* True fans of The Sound of Music will know that Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich, went on to portray “Doug Simpson”, who dissed Marcia after her own nose was broken (less fatally) by another type of ball.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Stage, Film, and Television, Sweets and the Like and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to “Curtains” or: “7 Little Von Trapps and Then There Were None.”

  1. Garrett says:

    THIS WAS AMAZING.

  2. Oh stop – you’re treading on my 11 year old dreams – that’s my dreams when I was 11 not… well, you know what I mean. The whole of my class went to see The Sound of Music and Arthur Butt asked if he could sit next to me on the bus on the way home. I said no: he’d been sick in the cinema from eating too many sweets. But I have to admit a smidgeon of disappointment when the credits to the movie first rolled and a plain blonde bobbed, ugly dressed woman appeared on the horizon: where was the pretty, lipsticked magician from Mary Poppins? And now you’ve given me Cruella de Ville!

    (Still loved the post though.)

  3. MaggieToo says:

    I’ll bet I would adore this dish. I’m mad for custards and meringues and all those nursery-room-type desserts. I’m trying it this weekend.

    However, I’ve managed to get through 50+ years of a cinema-loving life without ever seeing TSOM, and I plan to keep it that way. In fact, I’m thinking of having it memorialized on my tombstone.

    • I can see how this would be a source of pride. I went several years without seeing a Tom Cruise movie and was very proud of that fact. The Interview with A Vampire came out. I have regretted that decision ever since and feel quite sullied as a result.

  4. Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom) says:

    Excellent!

  5. MaggieToo says:

    One can watch an Austrian chef give that evil Maria a run for her money as he severely disciplines some egg whites into becoming a Nockerl, at about the 1:30 mark:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMoQsQZ6Cz8

    Very informative, even though the only words I could make out were “Karl Lagerfeld”, “Kofi Annan”, “Prince Charles” and “cranberries”.

  6. Becky says:

    This made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  7. You may be interested to know that that scheming chameleon came by her taste for disposing of Austria’s finest fair-haired marionette manipulators through her indoctrination into the fearsome all-female cult run by the nefarious Reverend Mother. If you listen to “Climb Every Mountain Backwards”, she totally killed Paul. That graveyard on the roof of the “convent” is full to the brim with the bones of unsuspecting parishioners and the occasional Nazi tourist on an automobile holiday. “I have sinned”, indeed.

  8. Christine says:

    Was graduating from Catholic grade school and the parish priest took us all to Los Angeles to see SOM for our graduation trip. These were the days when movies stayed in LA for months, taking forever to get out to the hinterlands (we were 60 miles east of LA on the I-10 corridor).

    I was the shortest in the class and was always paired off with the shortest boy who was a tad shorter than I was. He presented me with a gold compact while on this trip and I kinda sneered at him. I was 12 or 13 – who needs powder at that age? He went on to be 6’2″ and I think became a priest.

    The priest who gave us the trip went on to be a Monsignor, met a nun, and they left the church to get married. I remember he was sick when JFK was assassinated; when the school principal came into my class to give us bad news, I thought that this priest had died. Guess he had more life in him than I knew about at that age.

    Your piece was lovely, a surefire antidote to the saccharine sweetness of SOM. Of course Julie went on to flash her boobs (or her “boobies”) in “SOB” long before Drew Barrymore flashed Letterman. “SOB” would’ve been a great graduation trip movie, but it seemed to disappear from theaters rather quickly.

    • Christine,

      So sorry, your comment was sitting helpless awaiting moderation and I only just saw it.

      I like your story. Did you keep the compact or throw it back in his face? If you kept it, was it solid gold?

      Thank you for sharing that. And I agree with you about the saccharine levels of The Sound of Music. I much prefer Ms. Andrews in her more worldly roles (SOB and Victor/Victoria) and her slightly menacing ones, like Mary Poppins.

  9. Christine says:

    P.S. I am older than dirt and a master at stating the obvious.

  10. Kitchenbeard says:

    You may find this amusing…..

  11. Jenny says:

    I have no kitchen at the moment. I’m ready to take everyone out.
    What I would give just to make a piece of goddamn toast.

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