Five Food Films Worth Your Time

5. Supersize Me

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 film–documenting his 30 days of eating McDonald’s food exclusively–highlighted some of the most serious problems of our fast-food culture and it did so in an entertaining, visceral way. His point–which I think he made well–was that McDonald’s (and other fast food companies)–are open to many of the same liabilities as the tobacco industry. Just six weeks after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald’s announced the discontinuation of the ‘Supersize’ option–which increased the serving of French fries to nearly half a pound and the soda to well over a quart for a mere 39 cents. 
4. Bella Martha (Mostly Martha)

Don’t be scared by the fact that this film’s in German. (And don’t be tempted to watch the English-language remake–No Reservations–with Catherine Zeta-Jones–it’s terrible.) This 2001 film has romance, heartbreak, and humor. Martha keeps her job as a chef only because she’s one of the best–because she’s out of her mind. She terrorizes the restaurant staff and patrons and while she can cook, she doesn’t understand food–or love–or how they might intersect. 3. Eat Drink Man Woman

I can’t resist Ang Lee’s films, and this one is no exception. Though it was remade as Tortilla Soup, the original is much better. It’s a beautiful film, visually, and the fact that it centers on a family held together by the ritual of an elaborate Sunday dinner–and an aging chef-father who is losing his sense of taste–makes it deliciously metaphorical. And it always makes me want to learn Chinese cookery.2. Ratatouille

Yes, I’ve written about this film before, and, yes, maybe you’ve watched it with the kids, but this film is worth a second viewing, if only to pay close attention to the transformation of the Anton Ego character–the food critic. Not just to his words, some of which are simply golden–but to his transformation.

My favorite quote, which seems to me to be a fictional blending of Father Capon and George Steiner:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

1. Babette’s Feast

And this is where I will say almost nothing about the film except this: it’s slow moving and strange and in Danish but very worth it. It’s beautiful, evocative, and inspiring; its myth is at once humanistic and deeply, deeply Christian. I love it.

{And I hope you will, too!}

Happy New Year! (or, why I don’t make resolutions)

Forty to forty-five percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

I’m not one of them.

Anymore.*

As you might guess, many (if not most) of the commonest resolutions have to do with bodies, weight, food, eating–things that we talk a lot about around here.

I used to make many such resolutions–about exercising, about restricting calories, about general self-improvement.

Thumb through the Sunday paper around New Year’s Day, and you’ll see that many of the coupons and advertisements are aimed at getting you to part with your money in pursuit of these resolutions.

Lose weight fast! Get healthy quick! Get the body you want now!

These messages are filled to bursting with the notion that you can have it all and get a ‘perfect’ body with minimal effort. And they want to promise you that lots of other things will fall into place for you when you reach your goals: love, wealth, joy, popularity, peace, success–you name it. Of course they don’t come out and promise those things. They just offer the gentlest suggestions that their product–and that reshaping your body, remaking your diet, revamping your wardrobe, or whatever–will satisfy your deepest longings.

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If you’ve read much of this blog, you can probably already guess what I think about such ads and their claims.

(If you haven’t read much of this blog, here, here, and here are good places to start–or start with the top 10 of the first 100 posts.)

I guess the thing I don’t particularly like about food/diet/body resolutions is that they seldom shine the light where we most need it. Being thinner doesn’t necessarily make you happier. Eating “healthy” can be a real bore.

Aiming for these things doesn’t necessarily help us be more fully the person God has made us to be–which, I suspect, may be the best goal of all.

I guess that’s my resolution, such that it is. Just one. And I can’t really do it all that well. But maybe that is the point. Not so much to try to become someone else–as resolutions would often have it–but, with God’s help, to live fully as we already are, in the place God has put us, with the people God has given us.

And that, to me, is at once much more ludicrous and much more sensible than any of the resolutions I’ve ever made.

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Peace and joy to you this first day of the New Year. I’m looking forward to many good conversations with you here in 2012!

*{Well, okay. Since you twisted my arm, I am going to confess that I plan to incorporate a bit more physical exercise into my days to help with chronic back pain from my scoliosis and OI. But this isn’t a resolution, per se. Is it?}

{If you like resolutions, check out Gretchen Rubin’s Six Questions to Ask Yourself about Resolutions. She’s pro-resolutions, and explains how to make ones that have a good chance of actually sticking–and shining the light where you most need it.}

Is Food Sensual?

Don’t read that wrong–sensual, not necessarily sexual.

(Although it might be that, too.)

sen*su*al |ˈsen sh oōəl|
adjective
of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical

Last week I read (and really enjoyed Amy Frykholm’s) newest book, See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity.

One of the things that surprised me most about the book was how much Frykholm talked about food in a book about sexuality. (Perhaps I could’ve anticipated this, being as she’s one of the contributors to The Spirit of Food, which I wrote about not too long ago here.) But food and sex share the dubious honor of being sites that are (or are thought to be) in conflict with what is spiritual. Frykholm’s reflections on her stories and those of others are stories of incarnation–of journeying toward and sometimes arriving at a place where faith is not disembodied and flesh with its needs and desires, is not seen as a threat to the spirit.

In the book, Frykholm presents a pretty compelling picture of how American Christians of various stripes have viewed the sensory world with suspicion, a suspicion that cripples people by putting that which is embodied and that which is spiritual in conflict. Do you see American culture in this:

Instead of learning from the sensory world, we aim to control it. We put ourselves on diets to control rampant eating, but we are pitiful at tasting. We make budgets to control rampant consumerism, but we know very little about actual pleasure.”

At one time in my life, I felt pretty sure that if I could just love Jesus more, I would not need to eat much more than the bare minimum needed to live. Those were the days of diet Coke, butterless toast, and  “just vinegar on the salad, please.” Those were the days when I though enjoying food was dangerous if not sinful. I am glad those days are gone.

Because despite what a current popular Christian diet book says, food is God’s love made delectable. Sure, the fact that food sustains us points to God’s sustaining love. But the fact that food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable is not an accident, a trap, a temptation, or something unfortunate. Food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable because God is.

{Read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s post at HuffPo Food on the sensuality of food here.}

Soup Season

It’s cold!

Time for soup.

This is one of my favorite soups, not least because it’s one that my children are sure to eat. Plus, it is creamy and cheesy and full of wonderful vegetables. I was twelve or so the first time I had it, and it was served to me in beautiful pumpernickel bread bowls. I’ve never made bread bowls, but croûtes are just as good, if not better.(Simply slice a baguette on the diagonal, brush with olive oil, and put under the broiler for a few minutes on each side. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn!)

Cauliflower-Cheese Soup

~adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook~

Place the following in a pot and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15 minutes:

2 cups potato chunks

2 cups cauliflower, chopped

1 cup chopped carrot

3 cloves garlic

1 large yellow onion, chopped,

1.5 tsp. salt

4 cups water

Allow to cool, then blend in a blender (or with an immersion blender if you are lucky enough to own one) and return to pot.

Meanwhile, steam 1.5 more cups cauliflowerets. Drain and reserve.

Whisk in over low heat:

1.5 cups grated cheddar cheese

3/4 cup milk

1/4 tsp. dill weed

1/4 tsp. ground caraway seed

black pepper to taste

reserved cauliflowerets

You can thin it with a bit more milk if it’s too thick. You can also use leftover mashed potatoes in place of the potatoes–just whisk them in with the second group of ingredients.Delicious!

When you eat real food, you don’t need rules.


That’s rule #24 in Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, now out in a whimsically illustrated edition. As Laura Klein of OrganicAuthority.com points out in a recent post on the HuffPo food blog, if you follow this rule: “eat real food,” you don’t need other rules.

I love this one. Of course, it’s not really a stand-alone rule–it assumes you know what’s meant by “real food” and it assumes a food culture that supports the eating of said real food.

One example of the way our family follows this “rule” is with respect to bread. I feel that a good, fresh baguette (the kind that’s good only on the day it’s baked) is better than the kind of bread whose oxylated/ethylated-whatevers keeps it fresh for weeks–even if that kind is brown and  screams “Whole Grain!!!” while the baguette sits in its serene whiteness. The baguette is more ‘real’–no unpronounceable chemical ingredients, stales and rots quickly, and has a long tradition.

(Besides, we ate baguettes every day in France with Nora. How could the memory of that alone not imbue them with special healthfulness?)