A few days after Steve Chagollan‘s New York Times story on how an upcoming "wave of ambitious studio films will try to capitalize on Americans’ growing appreciation for all things epicurean," Mick Hume in the London Times writes practically the same article. Official, then: it’s a trend! Among the upcoming foodie films cited by one or both of the writers are Linklater‘s "Fast Food Nation," Russell Crowe as vineyard-inheritor drama "A Good Year," a Catherine Zeta-Jones as dictatorial chef German film ("Mostly Martha") remake, and Peter Chelsom’s Cyrano de Bergerac re-imagining "The Food of Love."
Chagollan writes that:
With more and more 20somethings trading in beer mugs for stemware, farmers markets bursting at the seams and Wal-Marts stocking organic produce, America clearly is in the midst of a feeding frenzy, particularly among the growing legions of foodies and gourmands. The Food Network holds 65 million monthly viewers in its thrall, and sales of "gourmet" foods and beverages are expected to top $53 billion next year.
To some extent these developments may reflect a search for refuge. "Food is that thing that people retreat to for comfort and safety," said Lisa Shotland, an agent in the Creative Artists Agency’s lifestyle group, "and in these uncertain times that just becomes more and more the norm."
But if insecure middle-class Americans are seeking refuge in the comfort food of their organic and rural dreams, one of the things they are running away from is the stuff that other Americans eat. Fear of food â€” specifically fast and processed food â€” is the theme of "Fast Food Nation," following on from Morgan Spurlockâ€™s smash hit "Super Size Me," in which he demonstrated that eating nothing but McDonaldâ€™s for a month can make you ill (perhaps somebody should make a movie demonstrating that the same would be true if you stuck to just the foie gras and fine cheese).
So the celebration of the food of love among Hollywoodâ€™s new epicureans goes alongside fear of fatty, sugary "common" food, and disgust at those who consume it. We await the reappearance of Mr Creosote, the dinner-suited glutton who stuffs himself on rich delicacies until he explodes, in Monty Pythonâ€™s "The Meaning of Life" â€” only this time recast as trailer-park Mctrash in sweatpants and a baseball cap, blowing himself up on cheeseburgers and fries.
The problem with making a mainstream food movie is that you must surpass the often insurpassable issue of making it convincing that a famous person still has the ability to enjoy food â€” filming Catherine Zeta Jones savoring some osso bucco, for instance, while dispelling any suspicions we may have that as soon as the cameras stop rolling she spits that mouthful of veal out and retreats to her daily rationing of Kashi GoLean.
Despite all of the lush and lovely food scenes that have turned up in films over the years, the ones that come immediately to mind for us are all grotesque. Having given it no thought, we’d throw out the following as memorable, if utterly unappetizing:
The spaghetti in "Seven."
But the most memorable of all doesn’t really involve food, per se â€” in Les Blank‘s short doc "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe," Herzog fulfills a bet he made with Errol Morris by consuming his footwear (with garlic, onions, and hot sauce) while monologuing about film in from of a live audience. "Our civilization does not have adequate images," he muses, and cuts into his shoe with a pair of scissors for easier mastication.