Big Cold Cuts, Small Bread and This is Spinal Tap

The Celluloid Pantry

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There’s a story about Van Halen and M&M's. The band's tour rider was said to specify that a bowl of the candy always had to be waiting backstage with the brown pieces removed. If a single brown one was found, all bets were off. Lead singer David Lee Roth later claimed this was only a litmus test, a kind of a marker for the ability to follow instructions. “We have a very technical tour operation,” he explained.

In Christopher Guest’s deadpan mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984), heavy metal front man Nigel Tufnel (Guest) comes close to meltdown in the dressing room of a university auditorium when he can’t understand the food.

It’s the miniature bread that throws the long-haired, leather-pant-wearing headbanger, and the frustration of the whole thing nearly brings him to tears. You see, while the cold cuts are all regular scale, the bread’s the size of crackers. Sandwiches just don’t work.

“I’ve been working with this now for about half an hour. I can’t figure it out,” he tells band manager, Ian Faith (Tony Hendra), a wobble in his voice.

When Ian suggests he fold it, Nigel loses it. “No, then it’s half the size,” he says, bending the bread until it crumbles in his hands and falls to the floor.
“Not the bread,” Ian explains carefully, “You could fold the meat.”

But Nigel’s inconsolable: “If you keep folding it, it keeps breaking…and then…everything has to be folded, and then it’s THIS and I don’t want THIS. I want large bread!”

Ian promises it won’t happen again and hopes it doesn’t affect Nigel’s performance.

“I’ll rise above it,” Nigel says putting on his bravest face. “I’m a professional, right?”

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!

(Image credits: MGM; Emma Christensen)

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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.