Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview with the Authors

Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels with the authors: Rusty's sister, Sally Bishop, spent a weekend with us and filmed us as we were preparing and serving the fabulous meal from Babette's Feast. Delicious!

Click below to view the video.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Harry Met Sally...

Restaurant customer: “I’ll have what she’s having!”

Sometimes, it’s not the food itself that becomes famous but what accompanies the dining experience. Certainly, that’s the case in When Harry Met Sally…. Over the course of the film, Harry (Crystal) and Sally (Ryan) spend a lot of time discussing sex, and over lunch one afternoon Harry asserts that a man can always tell if a woman is having a real orgasm; Sally responds by leaning back and faking one, out loud, in the middle of the lunch rush, to the astonishment of Harry and the other patrons. Though the meal itself (Was she having a salad? Did he order a burger?) is forgettable, the performance is not.

Released 1989
Directed by Rob Reiner
Written by Nora Ephron

Starring Billy Crystal as Harry Burns, Meg Ryan as Sally Albright, Carrie Fisher as Marie, and Bruno Kirby as Jess

Awards: 1990 ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for Top Box Office Film; 1990 American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) (Crystal) and Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) (Ryan); 1990 BAFTA Film Award for Best Screenplay-Original

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Bill: The world tastes good ’cause the Candy Man thinks it should.

Although not a big box-office smash, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has become a classic of home entertainment on video and DVD. The film is a work of “Pure Imagination” (to borrow the name of the theme song sung by Gene Wilder) and features a child’s garden of candy delights, from chocolates to lollipops, and Scrumpdiddlyumptious Bars to Everlasting Gobstoppers.

Fun Facts:
The title of the film was changed from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was the name of Dahl’s book, to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because the Quaker Oats Company, one of the original backers, wanted the movie to help advertise its new Wonka chocolate bar. The movie was remade in 2005 as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

One of the songs from the movie, “The Candy Man,” became a signature hit for Sammy Davis, Jr.

Released 1971
Directed by Mel Stuart
Screenplay by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer, based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Music by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket, Roy Kinnear as Mr. Salt, Julie Dawn Cole as Veruca Salt, Leonard Stone as Mr. Beauregard, Denise Nickerson as Violet Beauregarde, Nora Denney as Mrs. Teevee, Paris Themmen as Mike Teevee, Ursula Reit as Mrs. Gloop, Michael Bollner as Augustus Gloop, Diana Sowle as Mrs. Bucket, Aubrey Woods as Bill, David Battley as Mr. Turkentine, Günter Meisner as Mr. Slugworth, Peter Capell as The Tinker, Werner Heyking as Mr. Jopeck, and Peter Stuart as Winkelmann

Wedding in Galilee (Urs al-jalil)

As the title indicates, Wedding in Galilee depicts a Palestinian wedding celebration—not in the biblical Palestine but in the modern, 1980s Israeli-occupied Palestine. Because of the Israeli-imposed curfews and restrictions, the village mokhtar petitions the governor for permission to hold the nuptials, which of necessity last well into the night. The governor agrees if he is allowed to attend as guest of honor; the mokhtar agrees as long as the governor stays until the very end of the festivities—that is, the consummation of the wedding by the bride and groom.

Despite the political and personal intrigues that occur throughout the day of the wedding, the food served to the guests is specially and wonderfully prepared, as at any nuptial feast. The film, however, depicts only the opening courses, though they are quite tempting for the viewer. First is mezza, a selection of appetizers. In the Palestinian territories, these small dishes would include mutabbal/babaghanoush (mashed and seasoned eggplant), hummus, kibbeh (burghul and spiced chopped meat, often lamb), fried cauliflower, yoghurt, shanklish (selection of cheeses, often from sheep’s milk), muhammara (hot pepper dip), pastirma (dried beef), tabbouleh, fattoush (garden salad), artichoke salad, pita bread, and fresh fruit in season. Accompanying the mezza would be arak, an aniseed-flavored alcoholic beverage. Next are various kabobs, probably lamb, grilled with vegetables. The final dish that viewers see is sfiha (“meat with dough”), similar to a small pizza but in this case made with ground meat (probably mutton) soaked in butter and then covered with pine nuts. It is a spectacular opening to what promises to be a splendid feast.

Released 1987
Written and directed by Michel Khleifi

Starring Mohamad Ali El Akili as the Mokhtar, Bushra Karaman as the Mother, Makram Khoury as the Governor, Yussuf Abu-Warda as Bacem, Anna Condo as the Bride, Nazih Akleh as the Groom, Sonia Amar as Soumaia, Eyad Anis as Hassan, Waël Barghouti as Ziad, Juliano Mer as the first officer, Ian Chemi as the second officer, Tali Dorat as the soldier, and Tawfik Khleifi as the Grandfather

Awards: 1987 Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize; 1988 Carthage Film Festival Tanit d’Or; 1988 Joseph Plateau Awards for Best Belgian Film, Best Benelux Film, and Best Belgian Cinematography; 1987 San Sebastián International Film Festival Golden Seashell

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

Katherine: Terrible idea. Don’t you just love those?
Frances: And the kitchen, what if there’s never anyone to cook for?
Signor Martini: It is San Lorenzo. He is the patron saint of cooks. Apparently, he was martyred on a grill and seared until he said, ‘Turn me over. I’m done on this side.’ … And now he is the favorite saint of chefs. … I think if you prayed to him, he will help you find someone to cook for.

In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances (Lane) certainly does pray to Saint Lawrence: “My prayers to San Lorenzo were quickly answered. I realized I already had someone to cook for—plenty of someones!” And she cooks up enough Tuscan food to feed her crew of workers as they toil for many months to renovate Bramasole, the aging Italian villa she purchased impulsively (the so-called “terrible idea”) during a tour she received as a gift after a painful divorce. Although none of the food is described, and the director allows only the briefest glimpse of the meals, the viewer can recognize red pepper and balsamic bruschetta, prosciutto and melone, ribollita, stuffed artichokes, pizza, spaghetti, pears, various roasts, limoncello, and many other rustic and robust delectables. Viewers can also share the joy that Frances serves along with her wonderful cooking.

Fun Facts:
Lovers of ice cream will enjoy Katherine (Duncan), the Englishwoman who has relocated to Cortona in Tuscany. As she offers a taste of her gelato cone to Frances, she urges, “Taste this. It’s gorgeous.” And a few seconds later, she remarks, “Ice cream changed my fate.” What a lovely way to describe gelato!

Released September 26, 2003
Directed and written by Audrey Wells
Based on the book Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Starring Diane Lane as Frances, Sandra Oh as Patti, Lindsay Duncan as Katherine, Raoul Bova as Marcello, Vincent Riotta as Signor Martini

A Tale of Ham and Passion (Jamón, jamón)

Raul: Did you know ham increases your sexual drive?

Director Bigas Luna’s Jamón, jamón is a quite provocative film in which food embodies both human sexuality and conflict. Silvia (Cruz, in her debut movie role) tells her boyfriend, José Luis (Del Rio), that she is pregnant and is delighted when he proposes to her. He, however, is heir to a successful men’s underwear manufacturer and is unable to stand up to his mother’s objection to his engagement; he is also unwilling to end his sexual dalliances with Silvia’s mother. To block any possibility of her son’s marriage, his mother hires Raul (Bardem) to have sex with Silvia; but she (the mother) falls for Raul, while he falls for Silvia—and she for him. The love “triangles” shift time and again—even José Luis’s father gets into the act.

As noted, various foods symbolically advance the plot and the viewer’s understanding of the characters. Raul works as a delivery man for a ham supplier and indicates to Silvia that ham increases one’s sex drive, but he also believes that garlic is “the best thing for bullfighting and screwing.” In the height of making love to Silvia, José Luis cannot decide whether he prefers her “omelettes” (tortillas) or breasts. When José Luis shares a platter of snails with his father, the older man asks when his son is going to stop doing what his parents tell him to do. Finally, Raul and José Luis come to blows over their love for Silvia, using whole hams as weapons—it’s a bizarre fight scene but perhaps a fitting ending to a film that is simultaneously erotic, gross, hilarious, and surreal.
Fun Fact:
The Spanish word jamón means “ham,” but it is also used to refer to a “sexy woman.”

Released 1992
Directed by Bigas Luna
Written by Cuca Canals, Bigas Luna, and Quim Monzó

Starring Penélope Cruz as Silvia, Javier Bardem as Raul, Armando del Rio as José Luis,

Awards: 1993 Cinema Writers Circle Award for Best Actor (Bardem); 1993 Sant Jordi Award for Best Spanish Actor (Bardem); 1993 Spanish Actors Union Newcomer Award (Bardem); 1993 Turia Audience Award for Best Spanish Film and Best Actor (Bardem); 1992 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion

Super Size Me

In response to a lawsuit accusing McDonald’s of causing the morbid obesity of two teenage girls, Morgan Spurlock decides that he will embark on a month-long McDonald’s-only diet to determine how eating McDonald’s meals might affect a healthy person. The results are staggering: in thirty days, he gained 24.5 pounds, his cholesterol rose by 65 points, and his body fat increased by 7%; in addition, his liver became fat, he felt depressed and exhausted, he had massive food cravings and massive headaches and mood swings, he doubled his risk of heart failure and heart disease, and he lost his sex drive. One statistic is quite telling: in the course of 30 days, he consumed 30 pounds of sugar!
The film depicts most of the offerings on the McDonald’s menu in excruciating detail. Fortunately for the viewer, Spurlock does depict one healthy meal, his “last supper” before embarking on his experimental diet. Prepared by his vegan girlfriend, Alexandra Jamieson, this meal consists of a vegetable tart, quinoa and roasted veggie salad, artichokes, and simple green salad—“all beautiful, organic, fresh vegetables that you’re gonna miss so much.” Luckily for Spurlock, she also prepares his “detox” diet: “The biggest thing is taking the crap out and putting the good stuff in, really focusing on nutrient-dense food, organic, seasonal fresh food … getting as many cleansing vegetables into his diet as possible.” As any nutritionist would agree, that’s good advice for anyone.

Fun Fact:
Shortly after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald’s eliminated the “super size” option from its menus, denying that Super Size Me had any influence on this action.

Released 2004
Written and directed by Morgan Spurlock

Featuring Morgan Spurlock, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Stephen Siegel, Bridget Bennett, Eric Rowley, Mark Fenton, Alexandra Jamieson, John F. Banzhaf III, former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, Dr. Lisa Young, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle, Dr. Margo Wootan, Marion Nestle, GMA Deputy CEO Gene Grabowski, McDonald’s spokesperson Lisa Howard

Awards: 2004 Edinburgh International Film Festival New Director’s Award; 2004 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival MTV>News: Docs: Prize; 2005 Golden Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture, Documentary; 2004 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, Documentary; 2005 WGA Documentary Screenplay Award

Strawberry and Chocolate (Fresa y chocolate)

Diego: I couldn’t resist the temptation. I love strawberry! Mmmm. It’s the one good thing made in Cuba. … Oooh (spooning a whole strawberry out of the dish of ice cream), today is my lucky day! I’m finding wonderful things.
Strawberry and Chocolate is a film about odd couplings, involving relationships between the flamboyantly gay and the innocently straight, the experienced teacher and the naïve student, the desperate counterrevolutionary and the committed party ideologue, the live-and-let-live and the police informant. A simple choice of ice cream flavors encapsulates this clash of ideas: the selection of strawberry, when chocolate is available, is highly suspicious and leads to intrigue and conflict but eventually understanding and friendship.

In addition to the sexually charged scene in the park, when Diego (Perugorría) brings his strawberry ice cream to David’s (Cruz) table, Strawberry and Chocolate includes a highly symbolic dinner scene. Although the only food depicted is a turkey, the viewer understands that, as with so much in the lives of these characters, much is left to the imagination. As Diego explains to David, “Handsome, we have recreated the banquet that Doña Augusta gives in the pages of Paradise [Paradiso]. The most glorious novel ever written on this island. Chapter 7, Cuban edition. Now you will soon belong to the fraternity of Lezama’s [José Lezama Lima] worshippers. Once you read it, you too will understand. (offering the forbidden book) It’s a gift. A first edition signed by its author.” And at the end of the meal, Diego, David, and Nancy (Ibarra) raise a toast to “the lazy shrimp and flaming baroque!”—a reference to the subversive nature of all authentic living.

Released 1995
Directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio
Written by Senel Paz

Starring Jorge Perugorría as Diego, Vladimir Cruz as David, Mirta Ibarra as Nancy, Francisco Gattorno as Miguel, Joel Angelino as German, and Marilyn Solaya as Vivian

Awards: 1995 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize Special Mention; 1995 Argentinean Film Critics Association Silver Condor for Best Foreign Film; 1994 Berlin International Film Festival Silver Berlin Bear Special Jury Prize (Alea and Tabío) and Teddy for Best Feature Film; 1995 Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film; 1994 Gramado Film Festival Audience Award, Golden Kikitos for Best Actors (Cruz and Perugorría), Best Latin Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Ibarra), and Kikito Critics Prize; 1993 Havana Film Festival ARCI-NOVA Award, Audience Award, Best Actor (Perugorría), Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Ibarra), FIPRESCI Prize, Grand Coral-First Prize, and OCIC Award; 1995 Premios ACE for Cinema-Best Actor (Perugorría), Cinema-Best Director, Cinema-Best Film, and Cinema-Best Supporting Actor (Cruz).

The Spitfire Grill

Upon her release from prison, Percy (Elliott) chooses to relocate to the tiny town of Gilead, Maine. Even though she has no cooking experience, the sheriff (Walsh) arranges for her to help out at the Spitfire Grill, whose elderly owner, Hannah (Burstyn), is no longer able to handle on her own. Despite the residents’ reluctance to embrace newcomers or change of any sort, Percy perseveres in trying to create a new existence for herself and in the process changes the lives of everyone she encounters.

The Spitfire Grill is no fancy restaurant—it’s a “short order” grill, serving up bacon and eggs and toast, pancakes, or oatmeal for breakfast, soup and burgers and fries for lunch and dinner. It’s basic, hearty fare for people who lead no-frills lives: reliable and consistent, even predictable, as they prefer. She learns quickly, but Percy’s first few days on cooking duty cause many of the customers to question their loyalty to the grill; fortunately for the longevity of the Spitfire Grill, there’s no other eating establishment in town.

Released 1996
Written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff

Starring Alison Elliott as Percy Talbott, Ellen Burstyn as Hannah Ferguson, Marcia Gay Harden as Shelby Goddard, Will Patton as Nahum Goddard, Kieran Mulroney as Joe Sperling, Gailard Sartain as Sheriff Gary Walsh, John M. Jackson as Johnny B./Eli, and Louise De Cormier as Effy Katshaw

Awards: 1998 Australian Cinematographers Society Award of Distinction for Feature Productions Cinema; 1997 Christopher Award for Motion Pictures; 1996 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Dramatic


Clasky: “Four stars and I’ve never been more unhappy.”
Flor: “I will remember every taste forever.”
Spanglish is a film about the intersection of cultures, depicting how Latinas navigate their way through the Anglo world of southern California. Although John (Sandler) is a highly acclaimed chef whose restaurant earns a four-star review from The New York Times, the movie focuses on interpersonal relations and conflicts—with his wife, Deborah (Leoni); his housekeeper, Flor (Vega); and his daughter, Bernice (Steele). Nevertheless, the director (Brooks) tantalizes the viewer with all-too-brief shots of what this amazing—“fabuloso” is Flor’s word—chef can whip up in a matter of seconds: lamb chops with asparagus; a sandwich of tomato, lettuce, fried egg, and melted cheese on Italian bread; a platter of pears, brie, dill pickles, and olives. It looks so easy, and viewers will be tempted to go straight to the kitchen when the film is over to duplicate these appetizing dishes.

Fun Fact:
One thing that makes Spanglish unusual is that it was shot in sequence—that is, the scenes were filmed in the order in which they appear in the movie. Few movies are filmed this way nowadays.

Released 2004
Written and directed by James L. Brooks

Starring Adam Sandler as John Clasky, Téa Leoni as Deborah Clasky, Paz Vega as Flor Moreno, Cloris Leachman as Evelyn Wright, Shelbie Bruce as Christina Moreno, Sarah Steele as Bernice “Bernie” Clasky, and Ian Hyland as George “Georgie” Clasky

Awards: 2005 Imagen Foundation Award for Best Supporting Actress-Film (Bruce); 2004 PFCS Awards for Best Performance by Youth in a Leading or Supporting Role-Female (Steele) and Breakout of the Year-On Screen (Vega)