"Annie, there's a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can't get it out… Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side."
Lobsters bring out a strange range of emotions. Here, in one of the many memorable moments in Annie Hall (1977), we get a dizzying, scuttling display. The scene is a scant 1 min., 15 secs long, but it's so full of frenetic movement, and so much genuine chemistry exists between the two actors, it was hard to capture a frame for this post without a lot of blur.
Though the wallet and the summer are hot, the war and the beer are icy cold.
In Pickup on South Street (1953), career pickpocket (or "cannon") Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) has "a knack for living in faraway places"—most notably a shack on the end of a pier overlooking New York City's East River. But this in no way stops him from enjoying cold beer at home.
He fashions a "refrigerator" out of a wooden crate, which he ties to the end of a rope and lowers into the chilly waters of the East River. Holes cut in the sides allow for drainage when raising the crate; a false bottom provides a good place to stash loot (including a pocket watch and some mysterious microfilm containing Commie-sensitive government secrets he inadvertently pickpockets).
[The Celluloid Pantry will go on a short hiatus while Nora takes a writer’s residency at the Blue Mountain Center. We’ll return July 25th.]
Sandra Lee, take note. Back in the era of condensed soup recipes, uber-processed “space-age” ingredients, and no-mixing required “dump cakes,” a troupe of young comedians was thinking outside the can.
A loopy, counterculture-fueled satire of broadcast television, featuring an astoundingly young Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase, The Groove Tube (1974) is a heady cocktail of Watergate-era sketch comedy, ranging from the mildly off-color to the all-out raunchy. Among its most memorable segments is “Kramp TV Kitchen,” a send-up of the old product-flogging Kraft “hands” commercials (Canadian readers especially may remember these spots from “The Carol Burnett Show”). The soothing voiceover makes it all sound so easy:
Some of the sweetest treats can be savored on the run. In Roman Holiday (1953), Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) does just that. Exhausted by her duties as visiting ambassador, but hungry for an authentic taste of Rome, the princess makes her escape.
After an evening meal of milk and crackers served on a silver tray, she steals away from the palace, out onto the bustling cobbled streets. But then the sedatives kick in. Unaware of the groggy princess’s identity, a cynical American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) comes to her aid, grudgingly offering her his couch.
Raspberries worn on the fingers like thimbles; a hand plunged deep into a cool sack of grain; the crack of a spoon against the brittle, caramelized top of an ice-cold crème brûlée, these are some of the small, ordinary pleasures cultivated by a quietly extraordinary young waitress in le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (France, 2001).
If you are looking for the world of Amélie in Paris, Monmartre is the obvious place to start. Somewhere below the sun-bleached domes of Sacre-Coeur, and above the peep-shows of Pigalle, sits a small café called les Deux Moulins. Although it has none of the luminous reds and greens of its cinematic alter ego, from the exterior, this café is instantly recognizable as Amélie's workplace. And so, it comes as no surprise that one of the self-aware specialties of the house is crème brûlée.
"Revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold."
Confined to his cell on the eve of his execution, Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini, Tenth Duke of Chalfont (Dennis Price), pens his memoirs. With equal measures of serenity and poise, he charts his rise to dukedom, serving up murder and mayhem with all the ceremony and reserve of afternoon tea.
"I got, uh, brown sandwiches and, uh, green sandwiches. Which one do you want? …It's either very new cheese or very old meat."
One half of The Odd Couple (1968), Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) is "divorced, broke, and sloppy." His refrigerator has been out of order for two weeks, and the sandwiches he serves up at his Friday night poker game show it. The air in the apartment is close, and one of the guys recognizes the same blackening banana peel on the floor from the week before. And then there are the phone calls: too many pricey breakfasts, lunches, and dinners out have put Oscar behind on his alimony.
"I felt I'd been born in a kitchen and had lived there all my life."
This is a confession. A man has been shot dead. The speaker is sitting in a police station wearing a fur coat. She dishes up a simmering story of love, jealousy, and murder - all beginning with cakes and pies.
In Mildred Pierce (1945), film noir is blended with "women's melodrama," creating a richly marbled effect. Joan Crawford plays a devoted mother and housewife, who earns a bit of money on the side baking birthday cakes for neighbors, in order to pay for extras for her daughter, like music lessons and fancy clothes.
It wasn't until the celebrated Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 that California wineries finally won the world's respect. Back in the era of the playful, Cold-War satire, The Mouse That Roared (1959), West Coast vintners had a reputation for wines with misappropriated names like "Burgundy" and "Chablis" that were more cheap than chic.
The smallest country in the world, the fictional Duchy of Grand Fenwick is distinguished by its limited gene pool and quaint, medieval ways. Pinot Grand Fenwick, "a small but sturdy local wine with a virile but friendly bouquet," is the country's sole export. But when a California vintner markets a copycat "Pinot Grand Enwick" at a lower price point, backed by a flashy advertising campaign, the Duchy plummets into bankruptcy. The only solution is to declare war.
Pot holders don't make the cook. In Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), girl-about-town Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is seized with an uncharacteristic spurt of domesticity, changing her hair, her wardrobe, and her kitchen.
Faced with the prospect of marriage to a wealthy Brazilian, Holly takes the kitchen she formerly used for little more than cocktails and cigarettes, and outfits it with new pot holders, curtains, a spice rack, and an assortment of gleaming utensils.