I have loved cooking for as long as I can remember. When I wasn’t playing baseball or basketball as a child, I was mixing, mashing, and cutting something in the kitchen. It is no surprise where I got it from though, since cooking has always been something the men in my family have done. Up until a few years ago, my grandfather could always be found cooking up some Israeli concoction, and to this day, my father comes up with a new recipe every week. My grandfather taught my father and in turn my father taught me. Though some of the cooking styles have changed (i.e frying everything) the family staples will always be constant. Spaghetti cholent (chicken wrapped in seasoned spaghetti) will always taste the same and will be made only on Saturdays; the kubebas (seasoned beef stuffed into corn meal balls) will forever have pine nuts and will only be made in April; and the braised short ribs will always have intense heat and is the one dish that can be made all year round. These recipes like so many others represent my current family and hopefully will represent my own family.
This past weekend I attended a cooking course and though I learned a lot, it couldn’t compare to family teachings. Learning to cook a cornish hen with green apples was great, but it will never beat cooking matzo bri with the family before passover. As I stood alongside a fellow food enthusiast, and secretly wished it was my father, I thought about those moments in film where cooking was highlighted. Not surprisingly, those moments have always stayed with me.
I begin the list this week with an ode to Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia. The film is a food enthusiasts dream and truly captures the beauty of how cooking can transcend generations. Amy Adams plays Juie Powell, a food blogger who attempts to cook every recipe that the famous Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, had invented. While Julie apologizes to the lobster before submerging them in boiling water in 2002, Julia Child begins her journey as a chef in Paris in 1949. With such perfection, the movie chronicles the struggles and triumphs of both women as they navigate their respective cooking adventures. The movie highlights how cooking is not just about the process, but also about how food can bring such joy to those who give it a try. Foodie or not, you will love this movie.
Another moment in film that is worth mentioning though is in the movie Goodfellas. Ray Liota and the boys are sent to prison and in true wise guy fashion wind up running their own a section of the prison. Along with drug pushing, Ray and the gang make sure that they are well fed and have all the finest meats and breads delivered to them. “Dinner was always a big thing” as Ray narrates in one scene. Paulie (Paul Sorvino) handles the prep work (specifically the garlic that would liquefy in the oil), Vinnie (Charles Scorsesse) was in charge of the tomato sauce (that might have had too many onions) and Johnny D always did the meat. After the boys would prepare the food, all of the wise guys would come together and enjoy dinner together with wine and laughs. After watching that scene, though I cannot say I ever dreamed about going to prison, I admit that I wished I could be a part of those meals – they looked great!
The last film on my list comes from The Nutty Professor. Like GoodFellas, the film highlights the joy of family meals. Eddie Murphy plays multiple roles in the film about love, weight gain and ego, and not surprisingly food plays a key role in this laugh out loud comedy. The scene I love the most is when Professor Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) brings his girlfriend Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett Smith) to dinner. As soon as they sit down, the family takes turn farting and engaging in inappropriate conversation. Obviously Jada has a difficult time dealing with the gas at first, but soon embraces the nutty nature of the Klump family. Eddie Murphy shines in 5 different roles including the flatulent happy Papa and Mama Klump and every line is pure genious. The movie was an instant classic when it came out and that scene will always be one of my favorites.
So there is my list of all time favorite food scenes. When September hits, and the fall holidays begin kikin up, stay tuned for a blog that gives a hint about a secret family recipe. Until then, take a moment to tell us which movie featuring memorable dinner scenes is your favorite?
Eat Pray Love
Julie & Julia
The Nutty Professor