Food IN Film: Finally!

“On Food And Film”: it’s a blog about two of my biggest passions, with a sidebar here and there about other things. And while I have occasionally combined the two, my favorite being “In Praise of the Martini… and Diane Keaton” (love me some Keaton, goodness), I’ve yet to do a true Food In Film post.

So here we go.

When thinking food in film, an obvious choice is the wonderful movie Big Night. I learned quite a bit about cooking watching that movie and along with many other terrific food moments, the preparation, presentation and eating of the timbale/timpano will forever be in my mind. (I will also say I would be happy watching Isabella Rossellini eat for two hours, thank you very much.) Big Night is also a surprising movie, given things don’t work out the way you think they should at the end. This unusual resolution leads, however, to the remarkable final scene where the brothers, after a huge climactic fight, end up quietly eating together after Stanley Tucci prepares eggs. It’s a subtle and beautiful way to show their reconciliation and their continued love for each other as brothers. What an ending:

A movie doesn’t have to be about food to have a great food moment. Take Annie Hall, with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton laughing and squirming while trying to corral live lobsters into a pot. They are so charming. The scene is made even better, of course, by Allen’s pitiful and hilarious attempt to recreate the moment after they have parted, a very telling and incisive moment about the lengths we all can go to recreate what has been lost:

For true romance, the spaghetti moment in Lady and the Tramp cannot be beat. It’s the first movie I ever saw and my love for cinema, food and romance was cemented for life.

Meryl Streep’s manner of separating eggs in The Hours is a standout. After years of doing it a different way, I watched the scene in amazement and have done it Meryl’s way ever since. And I have to mention the “Christmas Dinner finale” in A Christmas Story, a funny and lovely way to end what was already a terrific picture. This final scene is beautifully shot and wraps the film up in a warm, enjoyable way. If you haven’t seen it, you will never eat duck again without thinking of this scene:

And all was right with the world.” Indeed.

The moment the bitter food critic Anton takes a transformational bite of the title dish in Ratatouille made me gasp out loud. I was not a huge fan of the film to that point (though I am a huge Brad Bird fan) so the moment snuck up on me completely. In just a few seconds Bird captures the breathtaking quality food has for so many of us. I watched that moment and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s it.”

It’s wonderful when a moment can capture your feelings that way. The above mentioned blog post is devoted to another similar moment: Diane Keaton taking a sip of a martini in Somethings Gotta Give:

These are all wonderful and continually resonate for me. If I had to boil it down, though, there are ultimately two standouts, one a quick moment, one an entire film. For the quick food moment in a movie, my favorite is the marinara prep in The Godfather:

How I love that! Even though we are amongst mafioso killers, this quick little moment captures so much about food, its preparation and family. My own family revolved completely around food, so the idea that even in the midst of such turmoil the Corleone family always keeps food in the forefront is a great one. And of course, it involves Clemenza. Ah, Clemenza. Clemenza is responsible for one of the great pieces of dialogue about food in a movie: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Finally, for a movie about food, I can think of no better example than Babette’s Feast.


This is a bit ironic, given the food that is prepared in Babette’s Feast is nowhere near as appealing to me as the food in, say, Big Night or Julie and Julia. But as the movie quietly, beautifully goes about its business, it gently sets up one of the most moving and remarkable endings I’ve ever seen. I won’t reveal the end or it’s incredibly rich themes here but rather encourage those who have not seen it to take a look at this beautiful film. What the movie says about food, art and redemption might make even the hardest heart burst into joy, the joy one can feel when eating an incredible meal, the joy we can feel when watching such a sublime movie.

What are your favorite moments? Click on comments and let us know!


32 thoughts on “Food IN Film: Finally!

  1. Love your list. Would add the kitchen scene in Shoot the Moon: fabulous kitchen, and Diane Keaton, too. Also, of course, the eggs cooked in the toast in Moonstruck, and then all the food scenes in Fried Green Tomatoes. May think of more.

    I have always maintained that movies were the (only) aesthetic triumph of the seventies, and I was hooked on your blog when you said as much, too! I am also a lifelong serious cook, so I am delighted to have found you.

    One small Diane Keaton quibble, and it’s not really her fault, but when I was watching Something’s Gotta Give, and they were picnicking and laughing on the beach – lovely scene- I could not help but think that if that were a nineteen thirties, forties, or fifties film, there would have been killer witty repartee so that the audience could have been laughing too, at something real, rather than just at an impression of a couple chatting and laughing.

    1. hey! great comment, thanks! And yes, I love the ‘Eggs in a Hole’ in Moonstruck.. that movie will probably soon comprise an entire blog here, I love it so much. And also spot on with ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, agreed. I only saw ‘Shoot The Moon’ once when it came out, I will revisit it… .Bo Goldman, whatever happened to him, such a great writer.

      So glad you are enjoying the blog! I’ll counter your 70’s comment saying a few good tunes also emerged from that decade 🙂

    1. Ahhh, “Klute”… sigh 🙂 Huge Fonda fan here, I just showed my students “Julia” and I am constantly showing people “The China Syndrome” as well. And then there’s “Barefoot in the Park” and…

  2. “Big Night” inspired me to eat scrambled eggs before a big day of cooking. It really does make the perfect meal, and sustains one for many hours. Recently, an old friend posted a recipe for a Vesper Martini, a 007 favorite. Have you had one? I loved this post, Tom, and love all of these movies. If you have never caught “A Feast At Midnight,” which is mostly a young person’s film, please see it. I have a feeling it will go one your next list of “food in film.”

      1. I haven’t tried the combo yet either, but a friend and I vowed to give it a whirl if I bring the Lillet. Let me know how you like the movie.

  3. Thanks for this, Tom. Makes me want to rent all of these and re-watch (and eat!). Love the scene in “Something’s Gotta Give” when Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson are at the Grand Coubert in Paris. Hate to name-drop, but we went to that restaurant on our trip to Paris. Ah the rotisserie chicken!

  4. Hi Tom! Great post! Big Night and Moonstruck are two of my favorite movies – the food and the music both make me want to eat pasta for days. I love the breakfast scene in Moonstruck, and made my family watch it on a Sunday morning. My favorite line: that moment of awkward silence when the old man says “somebody tell a joke!”

  5. That last scene of Big Night, I’ve always considered one of the best in film.

    Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is a great food movie, btw! So is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 🙂

    1. Chris! That scene is so wonderful, indeed. Love your blog, BTW. Thanks for dropping by over here. I bought some of those coffee cups you featured, on Ebay. I think I am going to have to get some more!

  6. GREAT blog! (Sorry, I’ve gotten behind a bit.) what did you think of Once Upon A Time in America? One of my favorite scenes re food is when the Ghost of Christmas Present first appears in the musical Scrooge w/Albert Finney. Can’t wait to watch Big Night!

  7. OK, just saw Big Night & LOVED it!! Now, I have to ask, have you ever done a timpano, and if so, how was it?

    1. I’ve actually heard the Timpano looks better than it tastes. But, still, I am going to have to give it a try. I bought Stanley Tucci’s Italian cookbook, recipes from his family, which is wonderful. There is a recipe in there for the Timpano I will tackle one day.

      1. Have you seen Dom Deluise’s cookbook (Eat This, It’ll Make You Feel Better!)? Michelle’s sister gave it to us years ago & I recently loaned it to the wife of a colleague here who is Dom’s distant cousin.

  8. One of the food films I like is Federico Fellini’s “Roma”. Also many french films – the way Isabelle Huppert eats steaks; I also liked the dinner
    scene in”La Naturaleza Viva” (Frida Kahlo’s life) starring Ofelia Medina.

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