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‘Dirty Money’ Digs Into the Maple Syrup Scam of the Century

A Netflix food documentary, a sitcom, and more recommendations on what to watch this weekend

Netflix/Dirty Money

This post originally appeared on February 2, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Happy Super Bowl weekend! It’s a time to consume food and drink with abandon while seated firmly on your sofa. Even if you don’t care about sports, you should still embrace your inner couch potato this weekend by eating something awesome while watching something else that’s good. Here are a few TV recommendations that fall into that “something else” category:

A sugary, sticky heist story

Netflix/Dirty Money

With its wintry setting and story of a criminal plot gone awry, “The Great Maple Syrup Heist” episode of Netflix’s new docu-series Dirty Money feels like a distant cousin to the movie Fargo. Thankfully, nobody gets killed in this story, but you do get a window into the surprisingly cutthroat world of maple syrup harvesting in Québec, where farmers must contend with not only a government organization that’s monitoring their every move, but also “barrel rollers” who are selling the sweet stuff on the black market.

A lot of the tension in this episode revolves around a government-sanctioned group called the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec (FPAQ for short), which changed the rules for how syrup was bought and sold in Canada three decades ago. The group set up a collective agreement with independent farmers wherein FPAQ would acquire all the syrup based on a quota system and put it on the market, with the excess being stored in a federal reserve.

As the title implies, “The Great Maple Syrup Heist” explores how these factors allowed two crooks and an accomplice to steal approximately $20 million worth of syrup from one of the federal reserve warehouses in 2011 and 2012. The criminals had such an intimate knowledge of the FPAQ system and the inner workings of the black market that they were able to move 9,000 barrels out of the reserve without anyone noticing. When they eventually got caught, it took investigators years to track down all the details.

In addition to telling a suspenseful crime story, Dirty Money does a good job of showing the lives of the people who produce a basic pantry staple and the bizarre ways that their work is exploited once it leaves the sugar bush. In that regard, it’s very similar to another new Netflix series, Rotten.

After watching this episode of Dirty Money, you’ll certainly never look at maple syrup the same way again.

Streaming recommendations du jour

Team Coco

“Conan in Haiti”
Watch it on: Team Coco

The gist: After President Trump called Haiti a “shithole,” Conan O’Brien and his crew went to the Caribbean nation to hang out with the people there and see what they love about their homeland.

In the hour-long special “Conan in Haiti,” the late night funnyman visits World Central Kitchen, the José Andrés-affiliated culinary organization that’s teaching low-income Haitians how to cook in professional environments. He also hits up D.O.T, an “artisan training center,” where a handful of women entrepreneurs are developing new products like bottled cocktails and instant cornflakes that rival the ones on available in America. And O’Brien also stops by the Prestige brewery, where Haiti’s most popular beer is made, to film an ad hoc commercial.

The late night host has a disarming sense of humor and a knack for making friends with complete strangers (on camera, at least). There are definitely a lot of funny sequences scattered throughout this special, but the most memorable moments, by far, are when the people on the streets of Port-au-Prince speak passionately about Trump, the American media gaze, and what they want for the future of Haiti.

Schitt’s Creek, “Wine & Roses,” “Bob’s Bagel,” and “Family Dinner”

Watch it on: Netflix, PopTV, YouTube
The gist: If you’re a fan of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, where the biggest laughs often come from tiny gestures and awkward exchanges, then Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek might very well be up your alley. It stars two of Guest’s best players, SCTV alums Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, as formerly rich people who are trying to build new lives for themselves in a podunk town along with their two spoiled adult children played by Annie Murphy and Dan Levy (he’s both the co-creator and son of Eugene IRL).

A few of the episodes have food and drink related plotlines, my favorite of which is “Wine and Roses,” in which O’Hara’s character, Moira, films a commercial for a god-awful fruit-based wine. “Family Dinner,” about a bungled attempt at cooking an ancient recipe, is also worth a spin, and so is “Bob’s Bagel,” in which the family patriarch explores the idea of opening a bagel shop.

Like many classic sitcoms, this show is episodic, so feel free to dive in anywhere you want.

And in other news...

Have a great weekend, and if you’re looking for something wild and crazy to cook this weekend, here’s a recipe for Guy Fieri’s bacon-jalapeno popcorn.

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