09 March 2008

Food and the Academy Awards

On the Thursday before Oscar night, the Taste Section of the StarTribune ran in item on food in the movies. The article singled out two movies with food-related themes that came out in 2007. they were Ratatouille and The Waitress.

So far, I haven’t seen either, and I probably won’t see The Waitress. From the Strib article and reviews I’ve read about the movie, I don’t think I’d like the plot. I also would quibble with the Strib about the food theme, which sounds pretty incidental to the plot of the movie.

Ratatouille, on the other hand, is on my list of movies that I’d still like to see someday (maybe when my granddaughter is old enough to watch a movie with me). It sounded like a clever story, and food certainly plays a central part of the plot. I love how when the movie came out, it inspired a (brief) renewal of interest in ratatouille as a dish. It began appearing on menus and recipes were published for people to try. I’m glad the movie picked up an Oscar for best animated feature film.

In our family, my wife used to make ratatouille quite often, back when we had a yard that was more suitable for a garden. We grew lots of zucchini and tomatoes and it was pretty simple to buy a few additional ingredients and cook up a batch. In our current house, we have too much shade and too many hungry critters to have a very successful vegetable garden. But my son and his family now have a house and a yard that will produce a beautiful garden. So perhaps he’ll share some of his bounty.

Back to the subject of food in the movies, I have three all-time favorite food-related movies.

Like Water for Chocolate: The main character in this movie must sublimate a burning passion for a man she cannot have, so she redirects her passion to food. I loved the Mexican imagery and mysticism of this movie.

Big Night: This is a sad and wonderful story of two brothers who share a vision for a restaurant that will serve authentic Italian cuisine. They are so dedicated to the purity of their vision that fail to recognize that it is not shared by their patrons, and they can’t understand why their business is failing.

Mostly Martha: The title character of this movie also is a chef who is driven by an uncompromising vision of the cuisine that she prepares. She is volatile and prone to confronting diners who fail to appreciate the exquisiteness of the food she prepares. Because her food enjoys wide acclaim, she is a success. But her personal life is a mess until she must deal with caring for a young niece and an Italian co-worker.

I’ve seen other good food movies. But these three are the ones that I keep coming back to.

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