"I loved to cook, so I cooked. And then cooking became a way of saying I love you. And then cooking became the easy way of saying I love you. And then cooking became the only way of saying I love you." - Nora Ephron, Heartburn*
Inspiration comes from all around. My love of food isn't just from my own experience. I'm also moved by other people sharing their love for food. For a heaping dish of inspiration, I turn to the movies.
I like to watch movies in the studio. Or, more accurately, I like to listen to movies via headphones while I work. There's a part of my brain - you know, the little voice that whispers that everything you do is crap and you should probably give up forever? Yeah, I need that part to take a seat while my good creative stuff is flowing. A little background narrative is a great place to park the verbal critic so I can create in peace.
However, some movies demand my full attention. And not just my eyes and ears. They take over my tastebuds, too.
What makes a good food movie? It's not just pretty shots of sumptuous dishes. Food tells a story of love. Love of craft, love of nature, love of color and texture and flavor, and the way we take these things in with all of our senses. We use food to show love, and a good food story does too.
It also makes us hungry. So here, in no particular order, is a list of movies that I absolutely cannot play while I'm working. Because of the drool.
Links point to the films' entries on IMDB.
Chef (2014) This movie is a love song to the Cuban sandwich. Ham, pork, cheese, mustard, pickles, butter, bread. Also, follow your dreams and that stuff.
"Okay well my credit cards are maxed out and we're not charging for food yet so we're gonna have to wait on the sound system."
"Yeah, but you look happy, baby, don't you?"
"So happy. So happy."
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) What happens when Too French and Not French Enough become neighbors.
"Now, last night, we served this. Miserable, overcooked asparagus. In this restaurant, the cuisine is not an old, tired marriage. It is a passionate affair of the heart!"
Ratatouille (2007) I'm now realizing how heavily my list skews French. We're not even done.
"How do you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. A symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way."
Babette's Feast (1987) Classical French cuisine ventures out to the austere reaches of Denmark. Food so rich you'll feel a little ashamed of watching people eat it.
The Lunch Box (2013) Have you heard of the dabbawalas of Mumbai? They use a meal delivery system so complex and accurate that the Harvard Business School marvels at how well it works. Until one day it doesn't.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) The world is so big that it seems hard to believe that anyone could be the best at something. But here's Jiro. Not to mention Jiro's rice dealer, who only sells his best grains to Jiro because no one else in the world can cook them as well. And don't get me started on the omelettes.
Julie & Julia (2009) And we're back in France. Does anyone in the world love their cuisine as much as the French do? Maybe they deserve it.
"Every time you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining, and you say, 'what is in this?' The answer is always going to be 'butter.'"
*I recently read Heartburn for the first time, loved it, and can't wait to see the movie. I have a feeling it will land on this list with a bullet. Ephron also wrote the screenplay for Julie & Julia.
Honorable Mention: anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away, Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle, and so on. Every Miyazaki film has at least one spectacular food scene in it. It's practically its own subgenre. Here's a starter kit.
These are my favorites, and there are plenty of food movies I haven't seen yet. What should I taste-test next?