Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Our "Big Night"

Our editor for Cooking with the Movies, Kristi, lives in Denver, so she is unable to attend the "recipe testing" dinners we host in New York, unfortunately. We would love for her to join us at least one evening soon. In the meantime, to give her a sense of "what she's missing" (and to convince her that we are indeed making good progress toward completing our manuscript on time!), here are some photos of our most recent "big night"--the meal we prepared and presented based on the 1996 award-winning film Big Night. Many viewers consider this their favorite "food" movie of all time.

Setting the scene: it was a lovely evening as our guests began to arrive.

The appetizers included Caponata, Peperoni Arrosti, Focaccia Bread with Rosemary, Melanzane Fritte (Fried Eggplant), and Tre Crostini.

Our guests gathered on our back porch for this sumptuous dinner.

The co-authors serving "il primo"--Garganelli en brodo (a soup).

One of the dishes for "il secondo"--Pollo Arrosto (Baked Chicken).

This is the Timpano, the baked pasta creation for which the film is famous.

We wowed our guests with Maialino allo Spiedo (Roasted Pig).

I must say, by the end of the evening, after having cooked for two days, we were just too "destroyed" to clean up! But the food sure was good. In the words of Primo, “To eat good food is to be close to God.”

Big Night was released September 20, 1996.
Starring Tony Shalhoub as Primo, Stanley Tucci as Secondo, Minnie Driver as Phyllis, Isabella Rossellini as Gabriella, Ian Holm as Pascal, Campbell Scott as Bob, Allison Janney as Ann, Marc Anthony as Christiano, and Liev Schreiber as Leo
Directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott
Written by Stanley Tucci and Joseph TropianoAwards: 1996 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for Best New Filmmaker (Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott) and Best Screenplay (Stanley Tucci and Joseph Tropiano); 1997 Independent Spirits Award for Best Screenplay (Tucci and Tropiano); 1998 London Critics Circle Film Award for British Supporting Actress of the Year (Minnie Driver); 1996 National Board of Review, U.S.A. Special Recognition Award; National Society of Film Critics Awards, U.S.A. for Best Supporting Actor (Tony Shalhoub); 1996 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best New Director (Tucci and Scott); 1996 Sundance Film Festival Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Tucci and Tropiano)

(Thanks to Pete and Shirley Longshore for providing these photographs of the dinner we served.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Wedding Banquet

“Although you kids want to be modern, what is a wedding without a banquet?”
--Old Chen

As the name indicates, The Wedding Banquet features a large wedding reception dinner. In traditional Chinese style, the parents of the groom invite hundreds of guests to celebrate the nuptials of their only son. Little do the parents realize that the marriage is a matter of convenience, arranged so that the bride, Wei Wei, can get a green card to remain in the United States, and that their son the groom, Wai Tung, is not only gay but has been living with his partner, Simon, for many years. When the parents arrive from Taiwan to oversee the long-awaited wedding, the young trio are caught in a web of their own making that is at once agonizing and hilarious.

Wai Tung Gao: …we should have moved you out.
Simon: I’ll survive.
Wai Tung Gao: Not if Wei Wei keeps cooking.

Directed by Ang Lee, now known for his highly acclaimed films Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, and The Ice Storm, The Wedding Banquet puts keen emotions, complicated situations, and finely wrought characters on display—not to mention some glorious food! The banquet itself features fresh shrimp and lobster, perfectly steamed, and served on a bed of rice and greens to each guest, plus a four-tier wedding cake. Other scenes show Simon trying to teach Wei Wei how to cook fried eggs, the mother preparing freshly squeezed orange juice, the family eating dinners that include shredded tofu or sushi or breakfasts that combine American and Chinese foods, Simon treating the newlyweds to restaurant meal of General Tao chicken and pan-fried fish at the best Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. Interestingly for non-Chinese viewers, when the bride and groom present themselves to the groom’s parents, his mother feeds the bride a traditional lotus soup (to “help” the couple have a son quickly).

Does anyone enjoy this wedding banquet? We'll leave it to viewers to find out for themselves.

Fun Fact:
In the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, director Ang Lee makes a cameo appearance in this film, portraying a guest at the wedding banquet.

Released August 4, 1993 in the U.S.A.
Written by Ang Lee and Neil Peng
Directed by Ang Lee
Original title: Xi yan
Starring Winston Chao as Wai Tung Gao, May Chin as Wei Wei, Mitchell Lichtenstein as Simon, Ah Lei Gua as Mrs. Gao, and Sihung Lung as Mr. Gao
Awards: 1992 Asia-Pacific Film Festival Best Film Award; 1993 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Award; 1993 Deauville Film Festival Critics Award; 1994 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding (Independent) Film; 1993 Golden Horse Film Festival Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sihung Lung), and Best Supporting Actress (Ah Lei Gua); 1999 New York International Independent Film & Video Festival Director’s Choice Award; 1993 Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Director and Best Film