Monday, November 8, 2010

From the page to the screen

It seems that when it comes to translating food lit to film, sensuality is key, not only with the food but with the characters.  There is no doubt that the love of food tends to bring out the passionate nature in a person, one which happens to transition beautifully onto film.  Though it is a small genre, I think it is one that has a hearty following and, like food lit, is having a bit of a revival.  Most people, whether they consider themselves “food” people is irrelevant, have a favorite food movie: Big Night (1996), Babette's Feast (1988) and Like Water for Chocolate (1993) have been some of the most recommended to me.

This weekend I had a bit of a foodie movie marathon, focusing on movies adapted from novels.  Two I had seen before, Chocolat (2001) and Like Water for Chocolate, the third, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976) I had never before seen the movie or read the book.  I usually try to avoid seeing a movie before reading the book, but I have the feeling that I won’t be getting to this book for some time so I broke my own rule. 

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 Chocolat, from the novel by Joanne Harris, is the only movie of these three that did not include any truly sensual scenes between it’s main characters, but since Johnny Depp was one of them I think they can get away with it!  The birthday feast for Armande’s (played by Judi Dench) is one that I think stays with anyone that has ever seen the movie.  The pleasure shown in the cooking, serving and eating of that meal is by far one of my favorites. 

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Like Water for Chocolate, from the novel by Laura Esquivel, is a foodie classic and should definitely be seen by anyone interested in the genre.  It is so chockfull of incredible food scenes I can’t pick just one to recommend, you have to see them all!  The sensuality throughout this movie, as with the book, is nonstop and makes the rest of us look pretty boring in comparison.  Oh unrequited love!  Think Quail in Rose Petal sauce as the edible translation of love.

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, from the novel by Jorge Amado, is definitely the most sensual and least food oriented of the three.  Though the main character runs a cooking class and, you are made to believe, spends a lot of her time preparing food, there is very little focus on the food.  I understand that the book does go more in-depth with recipes and whatnot, but as with the movie it is more about love/sex than food.  There is definitely a bit of humor, and it got a lot of attention when it was released, but I would not recommend as a foodie movie.

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Since I did a little research I will pass on to you my new list of (adapted from the novel) food movies:

A Good Year (2006)
Babette’s Feast (1988)
Chocolat (2001)
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976)
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Julie & Julia (2009)
Like Water for Chocolate (1993)
The Mistress of Spices (2005)
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978)
That is all I have so far, I hope you will let me know of any others!

This got me thinking about which books I wish they would make into a movie and my list includes:

Taste’s Like Cuba by Eduardo Machado
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber
Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Now, if only they would make a foodie dancing movie, I think I would be set!

Which food lit titles would you like to see as movies?  Also, now that I have made these lists I have started compiling a list of food movies (not just novel adaptations) would anyone be interested in a tab on the blog for movies, like the others I have for books?  


  1. Hey Jess!
    Have you seen Mostly Martha?
    That's one of my favorites. I also really loved Bill Buford's book, Heat. I think you'd like both of these too!

  2. I'm ready for a remake of Babette's Feast!

    And, while it's not adapted from a novel, Big Night remains my favorite food movie. So much passion for food! I cooked Italian for a week after seeing it. :)

    I love your post, what a creative topic. I spend my weeks immersed in food, so I don't often read about it for entertainment. Movies can inspire more, with the art direction, etc, so I do occasionally indulge in a good foodie movie.

  3. @Caitlin
    I have seen "Mostly Martha" it is one of my more recommended, I love the scene where he has her figure out the ingredients blindfolded. Though it is not nearly as good they did a remake of that called, No Reservations.

    I agree about Babette's Feast, I think it would be more appreciated with a little updating. While writing this I discovered that my husband has never seen Big Night, and so it is on our Netflix list, I have the feeling there will be a lot of Italian food in my future as well!

  4. Hi, Jessica - I love this post! I'd add Eat, Drink, Man, Woman as a great food movie.