Sunday, August 16, 2009

Classicfilmboy and Betty?

Isn't Meryl Streep marvelous? If you haven't seen "Julie and Julia," rush to your local theater. Meryl is pure ambrosia playing Julia Child. After a few minutes, I felt like I was watching Julia, not Meryl, a great compliment to a well-known actress who, at this point in her career, sometimes has trouble hiding in her roles.

The film also stars Amy Adams, with Stanley Tucci (who co-directed another food-lovers film, "Big Night") lending able support as Julia's hubby. I don't want to get into the habit of commenting on current films, since I don't see that many, but I found this so charming that it made me think about food on films and my own joy of cooking.

Since my skills are less apt than Julie or Julia, I decided I'd be better off working my way through Betty Crocker. And I'm up for the challenge! This movie inspired me to make an easy fruit salad from Betty's cookbook earlier today. Perhaps I'll work my way up to the gigantic, intimidating Julia Child book that someone gave to us years ago. We've made one recipe from it, a delectable pork roast. I really should look into that one again. But Betty's my training wheels, so I'll stick with it for now.

Sidetracked, as usual. But several thoughts occurred to me after seeing "Julie and Julia": What would the movie queens of yesteryear think about Meryl? What old films (pre-1960) deal with cooking? And what are your favorite food films?

As for the first question, I think the answer is easy. They'd love her. Bette and Ingrid and Katharine and all the other would appreciate Meryl's impeccable skills, her unnerving taste in material, her independent spirit and her longevity, not to mention that she looks great at 60 and her glorious face has been unaltered by plastic surgery. (Perhaps they'd be jealous of that part.)

About 20 years ago I remember hearing a comment from a former boss about how she was tired of Meryl Streep always being so good. I thought, how strange -- penalizing someone for excelling at their craft. Frankly, I never felt that way. When movie lovers have the best at their disposal, why not cherish every second of every performance? Then we can tell future movie lovers "I remember seeing Meryl in 'Julie and Julia' when it first opened ... what a performance!"

As for the second question, I am having a hard time thinking of an old film that celebrates cooking or baking the way "Julie and Julia," "Big Night" or "Babette's Feast" does. The only one that comes close would be 1945's screwball comedy "Christmas in Connecticut," with Barbara Stanwyck playing a magazine writer whose recipes are beloved by her readers -- who are unaware that she can't cook at all.



There's a scene in "Julie and Julia" where Julia is trying to flip an egg and misses, just like Elizabeth does in "Connecticut" while trying to flip flapjacks (Stanwyck, above, with the wonderful S.Z. Sakall, whose nickname was "Cuddles"). (EEKS! I just saw on IMDB that there's a remake of "Connecticut" in development slated for 2012 release! A recipe for disaster!)

There's also "Mildred Pierce," although the food portions are less about recipes and the art of cooking. (More news about "Mildred" later this week.)

Which leads into the third question. What are your favorite food films? I've put a poll on this page, so let me know. If you don't see what you like, e-mail a title to me. I'll compile a list and post it when the poll closes.

So, for all of you foodies, go see "Julie and Julia." Take my poll on favorite food films and let me know if you are aware of other pre-1960 food films! Meanwhile, I'll be perusing Aunt Betty's cookbook for another recipe to try this week.

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