Food and film lovers share their favourite food scenes from the silver screen.
Ratatouille – ‘Confit Byaldi’
I’d assumed that Ratatouille would just be a standard Pixar family-pleasing flick, with great visuals, endearing characters, and an entertaining storyline. But it’s actually so much more – it’s a gastronomic masterclass; a realistic insight into the restaurant industry; and occasionally even borders on a cookery lesson!
Revered chef Thomas Keller was a consultant on Ratatouille and apparently their producer interned at the French Laundry, which explains the perfect detail in the kitchen scenes; from the collection of copper pans to the vast array of intricately-shaped herbs.
My favourite scene is the initial interaction between Remy the rat and Linguini the kitchen porter – Remy tinkering with the balance of herbs and spices consumed by the bubbling cauldron based on his instincts over the best flavour combination; and screaming at Linguini through the window for ruining the soup in the same way as I shout at the Masterchef contestants from my sofa for messing up a soufflé!
Feared critic Anton Ego’s nostalgic reaction to Remy’s “confit byaldi” (Thomas Keller’s adapted ratatouille recipe) highlights the intense connection between food and memory, and how the sensory experience of eating something can trigger our emotions. Indeed, watching Remy and Linguini conjuring up magical meals reminds me of some of my dream dining experiences, which brings an added level of enjoyment to this delightful foodie film.
Julia & Julia – Lobsters
So when asked for a memorable moment in a film where I get to “ooh” and “aah” and salivate at the glorious amounts of food on the screen, it does become quite a difficult one. With so many films that incorporate food into films like the classic royale with cheese scene in Pulp Fiction, Ratatouille the lovable rodent that cooks, to the orgasmic (I really do want to know what Meg Ryan is eating in When Harry Met Sally…)
The film that I remember watching the whole of recently is Julia & Julia, a film based on the famous cook Julia Childs and Julia Powell, the food blogger/writer with an idea of cooking the books… literally. Her account of cooking to cheer up her days, many can relate to that – burning a dish, blogging and wondering who in cyberspace is actually reading your writing.
But the likeable character is the ever so bubbly Julia Childs trying to make a difference in the art of mastering French cookery and occasionally her loveable moments of clumsiness in the kitchen. The memorable moments for me are when Meryl Streep is frantically practising her chopping of onions to keep up with the class, or when Amy Adams’ character is fretting over killing her first lobster. These are all things foodies can relate too!
So “Bon Appetit!” I am going to give that beef bourguignon a whirl…
Annie Hall – Lobsters
Woody Allen’s movies always have a tendency to soak his pseudo-intellectual characters in brimming sites of culture. This tradition also extends to his fictional lobsters. In one of the more anti-sentimental scenes of the non linear romance, Diane Keaton’s Annie and Woody Allen’s Alfie engage in a bit of light cooking when they decide to have an unapologetically large amount of live lobsters.
In The Notebook, such a scene would have descended into a simmering vat of schmaltz, but a traditional dinner scene was never going to be Allen’s style. Instead, the lobsters take chase around Annie’s kitchen, with Annie holding the lobsters aloft to a terrified Alfie casually, (“Talk to them! You speak shellfish!”) the scene’s chaos is what makes it one of the sweetest moments for the on/off couple, who certainly had their own share of boiling points throughout the film. With the common misconception that lobsters mate for life, Annie and Alfie’s own romance sadly melts into fallacy too.
Inglourious Basterds – Strudel
White tablecloths, silverware and an attentive waiter set the scene in Tarantino’s epic. It sounds like a glamourous affair, but the truth of the matter is here we have Shosanna sharing a table with Colonel Hans Landa – a Nazi who ordered the murder of her family on their dairy farm when she was a little girl. Shosanna escaped, and the beauty of this scene is whether Landa knowns who she really is, other than the woman who owns the cinema that he wants to hire.
When the white-gloved waiter approaches, Landa places the order: two strudels, an espresso for him, a glass of milk for her. The strudel, coffee and milk arrives. But, Landa forgot to order cream, the delectable finish for this sweet pastry. As he asks her to continue to talk, Shosanna picks up her fork. “Wait for the cream,” interrupts Landa, raising his eyebrows and smearing a smile in earnest. The silence as Landa adds two teaspoons of sugar to his espresso feels like a knife through butter.
The sharing of a table and thereafter, food, between two people who also share a brutal history is what makes this scene fascinating. The tension is intensified all along by this strudel: every moment Shosanna is to speak, the waiter arrives once more. When he brings the cream, we’re treated to a close up of the spooning, the dollop, and Shosanna spreading the cream on the pastry with her knife. She has only one bite. Landa eats just half of his strudel before he uses it as a stub for his cigarette.
Here there’s elegance at play in the lap of a monster, but reflects his character perfectly. His prima facie is of elegance and a gentlemanlike demeanor, but underneath is a very cruel intention.
– Laura Day
Adaptation – Coffee and a muffin
Sitting looking at a blank document on a computer – it’s a familiar picture for many of us – at school, university or maybe work. Charlie Kauffman (played by Nicolas Cage) is an incredible writer whose talents have led him to a commission to adapt an un-adaptable novel. And though we spend the rest of the film with him struggling not to write a career-ending screenplay (or equally career-ending lack of screenplay) this tiny 30 second scene has never escaped my memory.
The honesty in this scene won’t be lost on anyone who has ever spent time working for themselves. It takes a certain personal quality to push forward with work at home through the surrounding temptations. Beautifully simple – this scene takes food (and coffee) and sets it as currency in the negotiation Charlie has with himself.
Through a simple muffin, we meet Charlie the writer. He’s not what we think the best screenplay writer in the business should be – he’s flawed – he can’t even begin a script, and, minutes into his writing session he’s talked himself into coffee and a muffin. Hey, he’s even picked his flavour. OK, so this isn’t a scene about food – but it does beautifully show how food can illustrate human nature and its vulnerabilities. And there hasn’t been a time when I’ve been at the computer contemplating that chocolate digestive that I haven’t thought of this scene. I think I’ve just earned one, too.
– Dwayne Blee
Lady and the Tramp – Spaghetti and meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs shared by dogs under a moonlit sky was undoubtedly the picture of love every little girl dreamed possible. Disney owns sugar-spun romance, and its heartfelt attempts at selling impressionable young children the idea of love and sharing a plate of food is obscenely well executed. Quite possibly the scene Nat King Cole was singing about, this one has it all: moonlight, candles, Italian serenading, and of course, a big plate of hearty food. While Lady imbibes the atmosphere, Tramp snacks away on mouthfuls of spaghetti. Of course, when she does take a very ladylike bite, it’s one of the many strings also on their way to Tramp’s gnashers. Luckily for them both, it works out wonderfully, and ends in a touch of wet noses, or should I say, a doggy kiss. Oh, my heartstrings!
With just one meatball left (Tramp’s eaten the rest, he’s hungry after all) he rolls it over to Lady with his nose – it really must be love. This scene is simply full of butterflies, bashfulness and blossoming romance, all thanks to a steaming hot plate of Italian love.
Thanks to Disney, all of my romantic expectations have been based on this scene. Chewing down a shared plate of spaghetti in attempt to turn it into a kiss has never quite worked out so poetically. But starving or not, my man must always give up the last meatball.
– Laura Day
Hook – Dinner
For us, it is our much revered childhood bliss, for Steven Spielberg it was his much revered career low. But either way, the Robin Williams-fronted 1991 pirate fantasy epic Hook is embedded deep in the wells of all our hearts. With Peter Pan(ning) all grown up, Dustin Hoffman’s worryingly suicidal Hook (this was a kid’s film, right?) kidnaps his children, forcing Peter to return to Never Never-land and rediscover his magic, and indeed his penchant for terrible tights.
In a bonding scene with his pre-pubescent pals the Lost Boys, Peter finally gets back into the swing of things when everyone sits down for dinner in front of empty wooden plates. “Eat!” they chide. “Eat what? There’s no food.” Peter hisses. And then all of a sudden, as if by ‘magic’, and definitely not some sort of schizophrenic delusion, a cornucopia of grub appears before them. From succulent turkey legs to really badly designed cakes, because Peter ‘believes’, the food suddenly exists, and everyone jovially celebrates with a food fight. Well, I guess a bit of casual violence is what years of starving to death and pretending to eat thin air does to a kid.
What are your favourite food in film scenes? Share them with your fellow eaters and thinkers in the comments below.