April 12, 2024


Free For All Food

five movies to inspire your inner chef

© Aleksandr Zubkov

It’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we once knew it.

Gone are weekend brunches, happy hour drinks with friends and delicious dining out experiences. Now, many people around the world have been forced to fend for themselves in the kitchen.

a person holding a sign

© Provided by Inkstone

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

And unless you’re lucky enough to know a cordon bleu chef or be one yourself, we’d hazard a guess that, by now, quarantine cooking is starting to sour.

Here at Inkstone, we want to bring a bit of spice back into your culinary life with inspiration from these five films about the healing power of home cooking.

Babette’s Feast (1987)

Stephane Audran cooking food on a table

© Provided by Inkstone

The Danish drama sees a once-celebrated chef, Babette Hersant (Stephane Audran), seeking refuge in the modest home of elderly Protestant sisters Philippa (Bodil Kjer) and Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) after fleeing the violence of a post-revolution Paris.

Their late father was a pastor whose pious doctrine still hangs heavy in the air of a small remote village on the remote western coast of Jutland, Denmark.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the pastor’s birth, Babette secretly spends all her savings on an extravagant French meal, a sign of gratitude to her hosts.

Babette arranges for her nephew to go to Paris to get the feast supplies, which includes delicacies such as turtle soup, roasted quail, caviar, and fine wines.

The ingredients are abundant, sumptuous and exotic. Their arrival into the village causes the religious sisters to worry that the meal will become a sin of sensual luxury, and even some devilry.

Initially reluctant to indulge in such sinful pleasures, dinner guests’ distrust of the extravagant meal is finally broken, elevating them both physically and spiritually.

Adapted from a short story by Out of Africa writer Karen Blixen – also known as Isak Dinesen – and starring some of the biggest stars of European cinema, Babette’s Feast was the first Danish film to be awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

When released, it was such a sensation that restaurants across the US served special re-creations of the film’s transformative banquet.

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)

Sihung Lung et al. sitting at a table eating food

© Provided by Inkstone

Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee’s award-winning film Eat Drink Man Woman is a testament to the healing powers of sharing a fine home-cooked meal.

Master Chef Chu (Lung Sihung) lives at home in modern-day Taipei with his three unmarried daughters, played by Yang Kuei-mei, Wu Chien-lien and Wang Yu-wen, who juggle professional lives with romantic disappointments and taking care of their aging father.

Now semi-retired, Lung wiles away his final years recreating gastronomic masterpieces at home every Sunday at the family’s house for his daughters, hoping that the stability of these meals nourish them physically and spiritually as they navigate life – and bring them back to his dining table.

Viewers will be left licking their lips as Lee unfolds a family dynamic through the sharing of meals, rather than words, with the loving preparation and, finally, consumption of an amazing array of dishes.

Watch for a hilarious bombshell at the film’s climax that will give the belly a good workout too.

The Lunchbox (2013)

Irrfan Khan wearing a suit and tie

© Provided by Inkstone

The old adage that the fastest way to man’s heart is through his stomach certainly rings true in Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, which was released in 2013.

The film serves as a brilliant documentary of Mumbai’s network of dabbawalas.

A dabbawalla is a person who ferries prepared lunches from restaurants or private homes to thousands of people working hard in white-collar office jobs.

In a bid to get her increasingly distant husband to notice her, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) lovingly prepares a special lunchtime meal for her spouse. The lunch is mistakenly delivered to Saajan Fernandes, (played by the late Irffan Khan). Realizing the error, a note of thanks spurs further correspondence between the two lonely hearts.

The hugely successful international box office hit sparked controversy when it was snubbed by India’s selection committee to represent the country at the Oscars in its release year, despite receiving almost unanimous acclaim at both the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals.

Their reasoning? Dabbawalas never make mistakes.

Little Forest (2018)

a person sitting in front of a building

© Provided by Inkstone

In the South Korean drama based on a manga series of the same name, director Yim Soon-rye takes Little Forest viewers on a journey through the enriching and healing powers of home cooking.

After failing to find success in the city, a young woman named Song Hye-won (played by Kim Tae-ri) finds herself weary of city life and returns to her hometown in a traditional Korean village.

On her arrival, she finds her mother (Moon So-ri) isn’t there and so she seeks solace in creating the wholesome dishes from recipes her mother created.

Best known for her breakout role in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, Kim Tae-ri uses preparation of the food to help her heal from disappointments in an almost poetic celebration of self-improvement and self-sufficiency using only vegetables from her mother’s garden.

Through the lifestyle changes that gently unfurl for Hye-won, along with the ebb and flow of the seasons, her culinary results are simply mouth-watering, even for the most dedicated of carnivores.

Julie & Julia (2009)

Nora Ephron wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera

© Provided by Inkstone

Self-improvement is also on the menu for the two protagonists of Nora Ephron’s unashamedly sweet-toothed adaptation of Julie Powell’s book, which is about Powell’s attempt to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s iconic recipe book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Amy Adams plays Powell, an intrepid New York-based blogger who challenges herself to cook all 524 recipes in a single year.

The film contrasts the young New Yorker’s life with that of chef Julia Child in the early years of her culinary career, when she moved to Paris in the late 1940s with her diplomat husband Paul Child (played by Stanely Tucci).

She bumbles her way through Le Cordon Bleu to learn French cooking and is met with skepticism because she is the only woman in the class.

What unfolds is lightweight cinematic fare, helped on by a likable Adams and a hilariously soused Meryl Streep.

The entire endeavor is a wonderful romp through culinary pastures that is sure to inspire even the most reluctant of cooks to venture into the kitchen.

More Articles from Inkstone

Enough victim blaming: ad pulled after women lead internet outrage

LA’s Crazy Rich Asians come to new Netflix reality show

‘I felt naked’: Chinese worker claims she was gifted a surveillance cushion

Uncle Roger accused of ‘sacrificing his morality’ over deleted video

Chinese switched-at-birth boy fighting for his life

For more on China-focused articles visit inkstonenews.com (www.inkstonenews.com) or subscribe to our newsletter via inkstonenews.com/newsletter for the latest China-related stories.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.