Baby Carrots and Rushmore

The Celluloid Pantry

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This is going to sound odd. But of all the food seduction scenes in movies, this one’s our favorite. While the elegant picnic innuendo in To Catch a Thief (“a leg or a breast?”) and the racy dinner-table antics in Tom Jones (lobster, chicken, and oysters) are both standout classics, the strange, subtle poignancy of baby carrots on a plate in Rushmore (1999) deserves a romantic category all its own.

This offbeat prep-school comedy is the kind of movie where deceitful letters are written in crayon and secret locations are raced to by bike. The main characters—nerdy wunderkind, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), depressed industrialist Mr. Blume (Bill Murray, below), and Rushmore Academy primary school teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams, above)—all straddle the line between adulthood and childhood. And so does their food.

Adults drink lemonade from plastic tumblers; a 15-year-old playwright gets drunk and disorderly on champagne cocktails; a barber and his son eat TV dinners in their coats; and an informer bearing grim news offers apple juice and a choice of tuna fish or peanut butter sandwiches.

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The three unlikely friends: Miss Cross, Mr. Blume, and Max have all been spending a lot of time together—attending school wrestling matches, museums, and aquariums—but one day Mr. Blume drops by Miss Cross’s house and they find themselves alone.

Miss Cross answers the door carrying a small plate with a few baby carrots: “I just got home and I'm having a little snack,” she says quietly, by way of explanation. “Having some carrots,” Blume observes, standing awkwardly on the porch. There’s a pause. They start to talk about the absent Max, but the conversation stalls. “You want a carrot?” Miss Cross asks.“Yeah. I'll have one of those,” says Mr. Blume and takes a tiny nibble, holding the carrot carefully to his mouth. And so it starts.

The Celluloid Pantry is a classic column that ran on The Kitchn from 2006 through 2007 that revisited many iconic moments of food and drink in films. We're taking a trip back through some of our favorites this month, in anticipation of this year's crop of Oscars nominations. Enjoy!

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Nora Maynard is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her recent work has appeared in Salon, Drunken Boat, and The Millions. She recently completed her ninth marathon and her first novel, Burnt Hill Road. Nora wrote for The Kitchn from 2006 to 2011.