February 21, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out—February 21, 2006

With the outside temperature hovering around -7 degrees, and gusts of icy winds screeching through the streets, little has tempted me recently to go outdoors. Going to class has proven a challenge, and, when I do head to campus, I most certainly take the bus back and forth. And I am most certainly not making it to the grocery store, for the thought of carrying a load of groceries down 55th Street in the cold sounds about as fun as a trip to the dentist to get my wisdom teeth pulled.

So then, what exactly have I been doing while cooped up in my house? Watching food movies, of course. Most food films tend to be love-story dramas. Others are slightly darker or more about the food.

And what to eat while watching your food movie? Popcorn. However, most microwave popcorn that can be purchased at the supermarket is often too artificial-tasting, and can even be harmful, because the chemicals from the packaging seep into oil when cooking.

Alton Brown of the Food Network suggests placing a quarter cup of good quality popcorn in a standard brown paper lunch bag, mixing it with enough oil and seasoning to coat, sealing the bag with a single staple, and cooking it for two to three minutes in the microwave. It’s much more time-efficient than making homemade popcorn on the stove—and much tastier, too!

Below is a list of some favorite food movies I’ve been watching recently.

Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (Directed by Ted Kotcheff, 1978)

This is one of my favorite food films, a completely mindless yet extremely witty comedy about how the finest European chefs are being killed in the style of their specialties. (For example, the chef whose specialty is pressed duck has his head crushed in a duck press.) Jacqueline Bisset and George Segal star as a pastry chef and her husband, respectively, who embark on a quest all over Europe to find the killer and discover why all the chefs are dying.

Mostly Martha (Sandra Nettelbeck, 2001)

This German film recounts the tale of Martha, a stubborn chef whose life is suddenly altered when her sister dies in a car accident and she is forced to take in her niece, Lina. While this proves to be challenging for Martha, things intensify when Sergio, a carefree Italian, joins the kitchen staff at Martha’s restaurant. Little by little, both Lina and Sergio make their way into Martha’s heart, showing her, perhaps, that fusion cuisine is possible.

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (Ang Lee, 1994)

Chu is a renowned chef who lives in Taipei with his three unmarried daughters. Every Sunday, the family convenes for dinner, which Chu has labored over for hours. (Indeed, if there is a movie that is pure “food porn,” this is it.) However, life becomes more complicated when Chu begins to lose his taste buds, and his daughters eventually find love and begin moving out of the house. This is a story that beautifully captures how the simple pleasures of food can transcend generational differences.

Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)

The film version of the Isak Dinesen tale of the same name does not quite capture the intensity of the novella, but it comes close. The film tells the story of Babette, a French refugee who is taken in by two Protestant sisters in 19th-century Denmark. One day, Babette wants to show her thanks to the women and the other townsfolk and prepares a meal that they will never forget.

Chocolat (Lasse Hallström, 2000)

Juliette Binoche stars as Vianne Rocher, a determined woman who moves to a small town in France and opens a chocolate shop just as Lent is beginning. The film can be a little cheesy at times, but when you are looking for a feel-good film, this is the one.

Other Food Films to Consider: Tampopo, Big Night, Like Water for Chocolate, Tortilla Soup, Sideways, La Grande Bouffe, Super Size Me, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory