Food Tells a Story of Love

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"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."

Chocolat (2000) It's not all sticky sweets in this quaint French village. Raw cacao beans? Ground chile pepper? Roasted rabbit with chocolate mole? Seconds, please. And while we're in France...

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?


Deep-cleaning the Studio, Part 1

It's a new year! And I've got a lot to work on in 2016. Time to properly clean the studio. Mostly that means dusting. But I'd also like to reduce the general visual clutter in here. Smooth out the lines, if you will. Quiet environment, quiet mind.

Quiet cupboard, quiet mind.

That little sign says "Bad painting is better than no painting at all."

Quiet bookshelf, quiet mind.

Does anything collect dust quite like books? Oh, yeah, wooden bookshelves do.

For the first time, I've organized my books by size rather than subject. Smoothing out the lines. However subjects are still organized by shelf.

From the top.

Genre fiction, skewed toward science fiction & fantasy, plus books I loved as a kid. Bingo & Yahtzee are here too.

bookshelf middle

General fiction, poetry, essays & memoirs, travel, reference. Yes I put Ready Player One in general fiction and not with the sci-fi. Don't judge.

bookshelf quilting

Strange bedfellows, or perfectly happy ones?

A deep and endless ocean.

Graphic arts, a brief stop in Southwest American & Spanish Colonial art, on to Modern & Contemporary.

Down where the heavyweights live.

Quiet bookshelf, quiet active mind. Ahh.


Now on to things like ...this.

See how it all turned out.

Sketchbook 2012: Millennium Quilt Series

I do some of my best drawing while my mother is in the hospital. Sketchbook 2012: Millennium Quilt I. ink on paper, 2012 by Sarah

Millennium Quilt I, ink on paper, 2012 by Sarah Atlee

Yes, these are a tad late for the calendar millennium. I named these after Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. I've listened to the audio editions of these books many times.


Sketchbook 2012: Millennium Quilt II. ink on paper, 2012 by Sara

Millennium Quilt II, ink on paper, 2012 by Sarah Atlee

Filling grids with color is a gratifying way to pass the time, but I consider these patterns for potential real-life quilts. The notes at the bottom of this sketch indicate how many pieces of each color I would need.


Sketchbook 2012: Millennium Quilt III, ink on paper, 2012 by Sar

Millennium Quilt III, ink on paper, 2012 by Sarah Atlee


Books I Consumed, Which In Turn Consumed Me

Day 106 - I am a librarian by Flickr user cindiann. Click image to view on Flickr.
Day 106 - I am a librarian by Flickr user cindiann. Click image to view on Flickr.

A chronological list.

1987 | Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson

1987 | The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

1988 | Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

1988 | The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

1989 | From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

1989 | The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin (I loved those typographic illustrations.)

1989 | The BFG by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

1992 | Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

1993 | The Alanna Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Genetics Exhibit, San Jose Tech by Flickr user Thomas Hawk. Click image to view on Flickr.
Genetics Exhibit, San Jose Tech by Flickr user Thomas Hawk. Click image to view on Flickr.

1994 | Xanadu volumes I and III edited by Jane Yolen (Why are these book impossible to find? Volume II has apparently never even been published. It's the best short fantasy I have ever read. Somebody help.)

1995 | Nebula and Hugo Awards winners

1996 | Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

1997 | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (This is the best cover design I've seen for this book.)

1998 | Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

1998 | Everything I could find by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Thank you, Zimmerman Library.

2000 | Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

2001 | Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson 2004-06 | The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion and The System of The World) by Neal Stephenson

Right Now: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale

What books consume you?

This post is part of NaBloPoMo for July 2009.

Normal, OK book now available from Amazon

It's easier than ever to get a copy of my book. Normal, OK, is now available on Amazon! Click here to order. Read more about the book here. You can also get Normal, OK from, or, for a limited time, from the Gaylord-Pickens Museum Store (at a discount, while supplies last!).

Many of the characters from Normal (plus some new ones!) will be on display at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in Oklahoma City this summer. Details here.