Today I have Elizabeth Eckhart here as a guest blogger to share a movie trend from books- and one of my favorite things- FOOD!
There are many literary devices and themes worth using over and over again, but few hold the same ability to vary their meaning as much as the symbolic and metaphorical usage of food. Perhaps it’s because food and human satisfaction are so entirely intertwined – not only do we need food for basic survival, but good food can provide everything from comfort to excitement to absolute euphoria (depending on the cook!)
All of these factors contribute to the way food presents itself as the perfect complement to a good story. In fact, food may even make the subject matter of the story itself. Below, we’ve picked out a few novels with food as the central theme that do more than whet your appetite – they allow you to completely indulge (without any added calories).
The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
In this charming novel, a famed Parisian chef rises from humble beginnings in Bombay. When Hassan Haji and his family are displaced from India, they settle in a French alpine village. Hassan’s father opens the restaurant Maison Mumbai, and names his son chef, and soon enough the latter is creating tempting, spicy meals and rowdy dining experiences that the villagers find more intriguing than the famous, Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory. Madame Mallory at first boycotts the restaurant, but after discovering that the younger Hassan is a culinary genius, eventually becomes his mentor. Morais evokes reverence for food, family and the blending of cultures in his story.
Helen Mirren stars in the film adaptation, which was recently released. The film was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah, so those three figures together makes this a must see (even if you haven’t read the book).
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
This enchanting novel focuses on the adventures of a young single mother with uncanny (essentially magical) abilities in the kitchen, Vianne Rocher. After opening a chocolate shop in a French village right as Lent begins, Vianne is criticized by a suspicious priest who feels her chocolates are too tempting and indulgent for his parishioners, who ought to be practicing restraint during the Lenten season. Vianne, however, continues to craft, eat and share her sweet creations while simultaneously spreading general approval toward treating oneself occasionally (despite what the priest says). After all, what’s one piece of chocolate?
Chocolat examines the conflict between pleasure and guilt, and suggests that we can enjoy all aspects of life with a little moderation. Harris also alludes to women’s wisdom and uncanny powers in her novel.
A film version, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (who also directed The Hundred Foot Journey) and starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp was created. The film is perhaps more well known than the novel itself, likely due to its famous starring duo, cult following, and easy accessibility through Netflix and streaming outlets like Directstar (see their website).
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabrielle Hamilton, real life chef-owner of New York’s acclaimed Prune restaurant, wrote this delicious, lyrical memoir about journeying through many kitchens, and haphazardly falling in love with food. Exploring the pleasures of cooking and eating, she travels the world to find purpose and meaning within the stressful and challenging food and service industry. Unconventional relationships with a female lover and an Italian husband help define her as she transforms into the world-renowned chef she is today.
A comedic film based on the book was rumored to star Gwyneth Paltrow, but little has been heard regarding production or casting since 2012.
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Trapped in a dead-end secretarial job at age 30, Julie Powell begins preparing recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – which for her and many other young women, was an essential cookbook to own. Powell wished for a challenge that would prove her worthiness, and in this engaging, quirky memoir, Powell learns to respect foods like liver and aspic. Toiling in her tiny Long Island City kitchen, she blogs about completing 524 recipes in 365 days, as well as the struggles achieving her goal brings to her marriage and other relationships. Through cooking, Julie rediscovers her own passion and purpose as a writer, while paying homage to girl-power icon Julia Child.
The film version of Julie & Julia stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and Streep (of course) received high praise for her portrayal of the tall, hilariously charismatic Julia Child.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
After her divorce, Elizabeth Gilbert travels around the world relearning how to savor both food and life. In this insightful, funny and sometimes narcissistic memoir, Gilbert finds self-worth as she meets new friends and enjoys simple pleasures, while struggling to understand exactly why her marriage failed. Her most notable “foodie” moments include accepting a few added pounds in order to allow herself to live more fully, and wolfing down pizza and pasta with little regard for the carb intake or calorie counts.
The film Eat, Pray, Love stars Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, but was criticized for appearing to be a “rich woman’s guide to travel,” among other things. It’s possible that without the hefty list of guiding and thoughtful discoveries Elizabeth Gilbert had littered throughout her novel, the spiritual aspect of the film was less prominent.
Food connects us across generations and cultures, which is exactly why reading any of these unforgettable stories may inspire your love of food, and of course life!
As evidenced by the books above, feeding your brain and your body can easily go hand in hand. There’s a slew of other food-centric books out there that deserve some exploring in addition to the ones mentioned above. With the rise of “foodies” it’s highly likely this genre will be booming within the next few years as more and more focus gets placed on the art of actually enjoying food as opposed to the increasingly unhealthy relationship with it that seems to be growing in America. So perhaps you’ll come out the other end of one of these books with a newfound appreciation for the culinary arts, or maybe you’ll just be ravenous for another cooking themed book, either way, it’s good food for thought.