Sunday, December 28, 2008

food in film

besides food, movies are another one of my favorite pastimes. i am one of those wonderful people out there in the dark, living vicariously through the characters on the screen, chomping popcorn and milk duds. i started thinking this week about the role food plays in film. not just the obvious heroes in chocolat or woman on top, but the subtleties revealed about characters by what they eat and where they eat. this seems overly dramatic i suppose, but something i want to further explore. so i am going to post periodically on food in film. and warning - there may be an occasional spoiler.

this year for the first time i watched holiday affair, a 1949 film starring janet leigh and robert mitchum in a rare romantic role. janet leigh plays a comparison shopper (connie) for a major department store who gets robert mitchum's train salesman (steve) fired at christmastime. connie is a war widow with an adorable 6-yr old son, timmy. as you can imagine, love blossoms and everyone gets what they want for christmas, except carl, connie's longtime boyfriend who gets ditched for manly, out-of-work steve.

this film drips charm. early in the budding relationship between steve and connie, he invites her out to lunch with the agreement that he orders everything. where do they go? the central park zoo. they share hot dogs, steaming coffee (hot chocolate?) and nuts for dessert. janet leigh is in a fur coat shelling nuts and watching a barking seal. brilliant. simple pleasures - casual, unpretentious. as they eat, steve shares the story of his life. he describes his past life, "every monday i'd buy a chunk of meat to last all week. i'd cook it 6 different ways. by saturday night it ended up goulash". one monday, he asked for porterhouse steak because he couldn't bear the thought of that same mundane meat all week. that steak changed his whole life. too big to eat alone, he invited friend over, who provided him with an opportunity and a dream.

i love that metaphor, and the thought that breaking free of our conventions can prove serendipitous.

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