By: James F. O’Neil

Many years ago, I had written a piece about the uses of food in the movies: “What Is Dirty Harry’s Favorite Food?”  [Florida English Journal 24.2 (1988)]

What fun I had doing that piece.  It was “popular writing,” not too academic.  Going through my published writings recently, looking for something, I re-read my food-in-the-movies essay.  I was curious about what recent critics might be making of the food theme.  So I did an Internet search for more examples than I had in the past.  Lists now abound with favorite movie-scenes-with-food, or best food films.  YouTube is also with us, allowing us to see eatings and food fights, feasts and gatherings.

I have seen many more food movies in the past twenty years.  I cannot even give an accounting.  Yet my short list always includes Chocolat and Tortilla Soup.  I am pleased, for sure, that Tampopo and Like Water for Chocolate still remain among some “Best Ten Food Movies”–of all time.

I will always be able to watch Splash, with that Tom Hanks guy and Darryl Hannah–and the lobster-eating scene.  Contrast that with lobster eating in Flashdance.  Film classics both.  Can we ever forget that annual turkey in Christmas Vacation?

And others?  The Big Chill, with food used as a device, over a period of days of mourning, to gather people, friends brought together, allowing them to talk.  Fried Green Tomatoes: I have always liked Bar-B-Q….  Poor Popeye, the detective, in The French Connection, freezing, stakes out the French restaurant while the “bad guys,” warm inside, enjoy a sumptuous repast.

And what about all that cooking by Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia?

I have my favorites: Mrs. Doubtfire, Pretty Woman, the Last M*A*S*H Supper, The Hours,The Hunger (1983), and Ratatouille.  Many others deserve a mention of my past likes; but Kramer vs. Kramer is still #1.  Food is essential to the action of the film: food “works” in this movie, having the main characters and food interact, father-son interaction.  The eating scenes represent movement from chaos to harmony.  Yes, food can do that.

And remember what Dirty Harry eats and what he thinks of ketchup?  No?

“Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.”  (Sudden Impact, 1983)

© James F. O’Neil  2013

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