Old man winter has been particularly nasty the last few weeks. The Hubs and I like to hole up on the couch and watch either our DVR queue or something on Netflix on snowy and cold Saturdays. In honor of the recent Oscars, I thought I’d share with you some good food-themed movies we’ve recently watched.
A couple weekends ago, we watched Chef, starring Jon Favreau as chef who loses his job in a fancy restaurant after a difference of opinion with the owner and some unfortunate tweeting to a restaurant critic. He picks up the pieces a starts his own food truck business–which amasses a huge following, thanks to a more effective use of twitter, all while he reconnects with his son and wife. It’s definitely worth a watch. It was also written, produced and directed by Favreau (I’ve seriously been a huge fan since PCU. Who remembers that one?) Make sure you have the fixins for Cuban sandwiches on hand if you’re going to watch it, though. I guarantee you’ll be craving them by the end of the movie.
The very same weekend, we also watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. What a gorgeous movie! It’s a documentary about Jiro Ono, octogenarian sushi chef, who owns a Three-Michelin-Star sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. I’m not making that up. I don’t know that I’ve every seen someone more dedicated to their craft than he is. It was all in Japanese with English subtitles, but I honestly didn’t even notice. I was so mesmerized by the way his hands moved making sushi. He’s been doing this for more than fifty years, and he makes a task which I am sure is incredibly difficult look seamless. I’m sure I’ll never get the opportunity to eat there, but I’d love to. For each seating, he memorizes the order of gender of the patrons sitting at the counter and whether each is right- or left-handed, and adjusts the sushi he prepares accordingly. Can you imagine? And he’s 85 years old, with no plans to retire.
A month or so ago, we watched Somm, another documentary, this one about the grueling Master Sommelier exam. I’ve always joked that I would like to be a sommelier when I grow up, but achieving the prestigious master sommelier title is no joke at all. These people are serious about wine, and I think probably even a little crazy to attempt the exam. I thought the bar exam was ridiculously difficult, but this documentary made it seem like it would be child’s play compared to this exam. There is a tasting portion and a written portion. For the tasting portion, you are given a handful of wine samples, and you have to be able to identify with reasonable accuracy, the grape variety, region it was produced in, type of producer, and approximate vintage. All while being timed. You have about 4 minutes to gather all that information from about 2 ounces of wine. While watching, you’ll want a couple bottles of decent wine on hand to enjoy. And you’ll definitely never look at those cheap six-dollar bottles at the grocery the same.
There are tons of other food movies out there–mostly documentaries–worth watching. I hope everyone has had a chance to see Food, Inc. by now. Seeing it was a watershed moment for me. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must! We’ve come a long way in the seven year since it’s debut, I think because of the attention it shed on our food system. A Place at the Table is in the same category of tide-turning food documentaries, but with a focus on hunger in America rather than the broad shortcomings of our food system. The number of people with food insecurity (not knowing when or where your next meal will come from) in this country is truly appalling. It is an issue with many layers, but one that absolutely demands our attention. Also, this fall, I watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary I’d wanted to see for a long time. It’s about two doctors have done extensive research on a plant-based diet, and are treating folks with a range of chronic conditions. While plenty of evidence supports this approach for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, some of these patients are living with cancer that seemingly stopped growing when they adjusted their diets. This is a crazy concept, but one that I need is worth exploring further. I am a true believer in the old adage from Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine thy food,” and this film definitely embodies that philosophy.
In the feature film category, this past year, we watched Bottle Shock. It is based on the historic blind wine tasting in Paris in 1976, pitting French wines, seen by most as the best in the world, against the relatively up-and-coming California wines. In dramatic fashion, California wines won both categories–white and red. The poor tasting panel, all French, were mortified and vilified for years afterwards. The event was covered in the press only by an American with Time Magazine’s Europe bureau, George Tabor, who later wrote a book about the tasting. The movie is based on the book. Last summer, I read the book, and it was fascinating. If you don’t want to delve into the intricacies of wine making in both California and France, watch the movie, but I loved the book. Make sure to have plenty of good California wine on hand to watch the movie–and if you read the book.
There are a few more food-related movies left to get to on my netflix list, with the last few (hopefully) weeks of nasty weather. Maybe I should turn some of these movies into dishes… Hmmm, future blog post, maybe.