What could be better than something that combines two of your greatest loves? In my case, that’s food and movies. Just add good company and perhaps a glass of wine after the show and you’ve got the perfect mix.
So I was thrilled to receive an email from chef Kirsten West a few days ago and to hear that six of my favorite food films will be screened this month in San Miguel de Allende.
I was excited enough to want to share the news. Because some of the films aren’t exactly well known. And some of them aren’t that easy to find.
Kirsten’s note also said that the proceeds from tickets will benefit the Biblioteca’s Educational Scholarship Fund which will give a young Mexican child a chance to improve their lives while you watch delicious food movies.
So to help coax you to go, here are my mini reviews. Which include my favorite quote, sometimes my favorite scene and just a hint about the plot. They’re playing at Teatro Santa Ana in La Biblioteca from February 16 to 18. Check the poster for the fine print. And feel free to ask the tall guy in the front row to put his head down.
“Every evening, I shall sit down to dine with you. Not with my body, which is of no importance. But with my soul.”
The Danish film Babette’s Feast is about a maid who spends her lottery winnings on the most lavish meal imaginable (and doesn’t invite me) to repay the sisters that took her in for their kindness.
I’m not sure for how long, but for at least weeks after, I had daydreams of that quail in puff pastry, topped with foie gras and a truffle sauce.
Though not my personal all-time favorite, I do think this is the most finely crafted film ever about food. And if you don’t trust my opinion about it, I did once read that is was Pope Francis’ favorite film which almost had me considering a conversion to Catholicism.
“Give people what they want, then later, you can give them what you want.”
Is there any better advice anyone could give a struggling restauranteur? Big Night remains so close to me because it revolves around the expected appearance at the restaurant of a guy who was the greatest bond I had with my mother-in-law. His name was Louis Prima and his hoped-for appearance gives faith to two brothers that their business will be saved.
I used to avoid risotto, always leaning towards the pasta when I dined Italian. Until I saw Big Night. That seafood risotto with the shrimp, parmesan, dill, basil and carnaroli rice made me a convert for life.
My favorite moment comes when brothers Primo and Secondo (and how could a film with Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci be anything but great) unveil the timpano, a layered pasta dish. “I should kill you”, screams Pascal, the competing restauranteur, as he leaps to his feet. “This is so f***ing good. I should kill you!”
And my favorite scene? The simple omelette. Without a word of dialogue.
Like Water for Chocolate
“If all you do in the kitchen is open a can, there can be no love.”
In a Mexico that even I’m too young to have experienced, this film beautifully illustrates how love…and, of course, food…can conquer tradition.
Talk about the power of a certain dish, after one rich meal of cordoniz in rose petal sauce, one of the sisters becomes inflamed with lust and leaves the ranch in order to make ravenous love to a revolutionary soldier on the back of a horse. The scene leaves me saying, “Honey, pick up some quail at Mega today, please.”
This is not only a favorite food film, it’s my favorite Mexican film.
“Before you eat, apologize to the pork and tell it you will see it soon.”
Before I saw this film back in 1985, I’d never even heard of ramen. And, until about ten years ago, except for the instant variety, I’d never eaten ramen. Now, I want it once a week, every week, for the rest of my life.
Billed as “the first noodle western” in the trailer, it really does include a trucker who’s reminiscent of a character typically played by John Wayne. Tampopo follows the dreams of a woman to open the greatest of all ramen noodle bars with a full plate of subplots that keep you hungering for more.
My favorite scene is not when anyone’s eating noodles but when a stumbling humble clerk so proficiently orders fine French cuisine.
And I’ll bet you can’t avoid a little quiver watching that scene in Tampopo where an egg yolk is passed from mouth to mouth without it breaking.
“And it melts … it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure.”
Torturing me with pleasure. That’s what Juliette Binoche does to me for about two hours in this film. And I think something similar happens to Don Day’s Wife as she watches Johnny Depp (who’s only fifth billed).
The plot deals with a mother and daughter who, through the power of my favorite of all sweets, shake up the morality of a small French village.
Don’t go and see it without a block of Turin.
Woman On Top
“Melons are like boyfriends. Shall I tell you why? To get a single good one, you must one hundred try.”
This is the only one of the six films being shown that doesn’t appear on my top twenty of all time food films. But it has Penelope Cruz in it. And I’m not sure anyone’s looked better in a chef’s toque. I would watch an hour and a half of Penelope Cruz just washing dishes. No, throw in another half hour of drying dishes and make it a two hour film.
Penelope is at her most sensuous playing a Brazilian chef who suffers from severe motion sickness, requiring her to be in control of her movements (and her husband) constantly. After running off to San Francisco she meets up with old friend Monica, a guy (yes, Monica is a guy) who helps her become the star of a TV show, Passion Food.
My favorite scene involves Penelope and peppers and, of course, there’s a lot of heat.
Tickets for the Food Films Festival are now on sale at the Biblioteca (entrance at Reloj 50A) from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, except Sunday. The films will be shown at 11:00 am and 6:00 pm from February 16 to 18. Single screenings cost 160 pesos. A pass for the entire series is 850 pesos.