“ I am quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to filmmaking.” — Warner Herzog (German film director)
Hidden meanings. Emotions. Character development. Throughout history, food has played a significant role in delivering and supporting key messages across various art forms. With food centred around many cultures, traditions, and roles, it is no wonder that food used in film has had such an affect in portraying significant meanings. From questioning traditional roles to using food as a metaphor for identity or status, food has played a key role in communicating a colourful spectrum of narratives and notions in moving pictures. So, what movies come to mind when you think of the most symbolic food scenes in film? Get ready, you’ll never watch these films in the same way again!
In no particular order, here are our 10 most iconic food scenes in film and why we chose them:
1. Chocolat (2000)
Scene: The dinner party feast.
Chocolat uses food to portray angles of temptation, religion and self-love. It is also used to explore food as a symbol of connection and a solution to human problems involving repression and desire. In this memorable dinner party scene, hints of these themes meet when the characters take in the satisfaction of fulfilling their desires through pairing chocolate with roast chicken and the result is a slow-motion, warm dinner party full of laughter and indulgence.
2. Eat, Pray Love (2010)
Scene: Eating pizza in Naples.
Eat, Pray, Love takes you on a journey of self-love and acceptance. Throughout the film, there are many food scenes which play a role in Elizabeth’s discovery and connection to her true self. The scene where Elizabeth uses pizza as a symbol of freedom of guilt and escape from expectations of body image in society is classic, acting as a reminder to us all to love ourselves and break the chains of pressure from others.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Scene: Eating breakfast outside Tiffany’s.
Encompassing iconic style and status, the opening scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is famous for a reason. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you can picture the scene where Holly eats a Danish from a paper bag with a coffee in hand, whilst staring into the Tiffany’s jewellery shop window. Food is symbolic in Holly’s transformation from a “hillbilly” country girl to a classy, city woman dressed in designer clothes. The exploration of perception, class, wealth and aspirations are also well-reflected in Holly’s choice of food and drink throughout the film.
4. Ratatouille (2007)
Scene: Anton Ego tastes ratatouille.
A scene without spoken words, when food critic Anton Ego tastes ratatouille he is taken on an emotive flashback to his childhood. A dish once referred to as a “peasant’s dish” in the film, it represents the connection between food and emotion, status and acknowledging great art can go beyond taste. Ratatouille explores themes of relationships, gender roles and masculinity in the kitchen. It reminds us there is success in going against cultural norms, whilst food is used as a tool of self-expression and personal assertion.
5. Marie Antoinette (2006)
Scene: Royal shopping in the 1700’s.
A colourful, quintessential scene filled with lavish clothes, shoes, gambling, champagne being poured into a tower of flutes and extravagant cake after cake. A sensory delight, the French pastries and sweets truly take centre stage here in Marie Antoinette by emphasising the luxury and indulgence which comes with wealth, paired with the symbol of emotional distraction and the carefree, subtly irresponsible nature of youth.
6. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Scene: The five sauces of French cuisine.
Exploring the connection between food and understanding a culture is highlighted in this scene from The Hundred-Foot Journey where Hassan, a novice chef, goes to great lengths to master the five sauces of French cuisine. With the clink of the spoon as it touches each dish of sauce, food is portrayed as bridging the gap between cultures and is unveiled in this wholesome, delicate picnic scene.
7. Julie & Julia (2009)
Scene: Paul narrates a letter about Julia in the kitchen.
A scene which demonstrates the passion which Julia Childs had for cooking, her husband is captivated as she artistically cooks in the kitchen; like a well-rehearsed dance or performance. Capturing Julia’s personality is a spectacle full of sound, sight, taste and smell with emotions narrated by her husband. Julie & Julia is truly a masterpiece for food lovers and this particular scene where Julia is in her element, is one of many iconic scenes throughout the movie. (This scene also mentions Le Cordon Bleu, where Julia studied cuisine!)
8. Big Night (1996)
Scene: “This is so f**king good, I should kill you!”
Set in the late 1950’s, a time when society’s knowledge of Italian cuisine was limited to spaghetti and meatballs, Big Night inspired a pivotal moment in food culture and highlighted the success story of taking a risk for authenticity vs. supplying the demand. The scene where the brothers’ signature dish il timpano is triumphantly accepted is a representation of their success, tied with the narrative around relationships, traditions, livelihood and hope.
9. Tampopo (1985)
Scene: The egg.
With the star of this comedy film being the food itself, ramen, Tampopo centres around the complexities of Japanese culture and explores relationships with food related to sex, sensuality and creating an identity. There are several stories interwoven and each reflecting an aspect of the character’s relationship with food, but the scene where the gangster slides a raw egg in and out of his lover’s mouth whilst kissing her passionately is memorable in itself.
10. Babette’s Feast (1987)
Scene: “A French dinner.”
No top food scenes list is complete without undoubtedly one of the most iconic food scenes of all time: The French dinner in Babette’s Feast. Symbolising gratitude, sacrifice and selflessness, the feast which Babette prepares demonstrates how great cooking can unite people beyond old grudges and can even rekindle old love. The diners may not have understood the intricacies of the incredible dinner, which cost Babette her entire lottery winning of 10,000 francs, but they feel the uplifting effect in their souls.
Food has played an essential role in films throughout history to today. Portraying an array of symbols and ideas, the use of food has revealed messages in movies from a unique and relatable perspective to us all. Through exploring food in art, we can further understand cultures, history, religion and most importantly, each other.
Which film has your favourite food scene?
Originally published at https://www.cordonbleu.edu.