The idea of a rat – the same species of rodent that scuttles along the metro tracks in Paris – as a culinary genius is seemingly unlikely. In this animated tale however, Pixar’s Ratatouille has us cheering for Remy, a sewer rat, to become a sensational Parisian chef. Brad Bird produces a witty, inspired and delectable journey of how the friendship between Linguini, a docile and hopeless chef, and Remy the rat is the road to culinary perfection. A classic to be enjoyed huddled over tasty snacks with the whole family.
Bollywood is often characterised by its magnificent love stories and Cheeni Kum is no different. This love story is a witty mixture of the pride of one well-established older Chef, Buddhadev, and the culinary expertise of young home-cook, Nina. Founded on their mutual quest for the authentic zafrani pulao, a Mughlai dish, theirs is a complex story of preserving the taste of a true India whilst breaking strict marital tradition to pursue their love. Featuring legend, Amitabh Bachchan, Cheeni Kum strips back the theatre of Bollywood to produce a most authentic and unique tale of food, love and culture that is sure to have its audiences smiling for days.
Oscar winner Babette’s Feast is set in 19th century Jutland, Denmark, where two devout sisters Martine and Phillipa live a life retracted from the carnal pleasure of love and companionship in favour of honouring their late father’s religious legacy. They find themselves affronted by unadulterated temptation when Babette, a young widow and acquaintance to a former rejected suitor, offers to cook a true French feast to commemorate the death of their father. The food is extravagant and expensive, savage and exotic and utterly divine – a relinquished taste of everything that could remove these spinsters from their pre-destined path of chastity.
Based on the true story of President Mitterand’s private chef, the true pièce-de-resistance in this film is the effortless display of perfectly executed grandmotherly home cooking. It is through this honest desire of the French leader for a taste of his childhood that we experience the true saveurs of la cuisine française and the stunning re-creations of Ms. Delpeuch’s (renamed as Hortense Laborie for the film) original recipes on set. Whilst the plot may not be action-packed, the skillful demonstration of assembling a St Honoré Cake or a steamed cabbage terrine will make for any foodie’s delight.
The Lunch Box
In Mumbai, the ever-popular tiffin service sees 5000 dabbawallahs deliver 200,000 meals every day. For lonely housewife Ila, the carefully thought-out tiffin to her husband is the ultimate cry for attention. Mistakenly delivered and devoured by Saajan, a grouchy office worker, Ila and Saajan find solace in each other’s unhappiness and begin a seemingly innocent friendship through letters hidden within the tiffin. Ritesh Bhatra’s The Lunch Box is superbly written and performed, echoing the recurrent theme that food is more that a material substance – food is inextricably intertwined with who we are and what we desire.
Himself He Cooks
Stunning cinematography captures the day-to-day functioning of the Sikh langar in Amritsar, similar to the Western soup kitchen, that feeds over 50,000 visitors daily. Pots and pans come super-size with young men having to jump inside them to scrub them clean, whilst a lean assembly line of men and women skilfully prepare the enormous quantities of vegetables. Directed by Valérie Berteau and Philippe Witjes, this colourful masterpiece is a must-watch documentary of a daily cultural feeding operation set behind-the-scenes in one of India’s most iconic temples.
Like Water for Chocolate
This classic, sugary tale has won the hearts of audiences all over the world. Like Water For Chocolate, titled after the method of producing Mexican hot chocolate, is itself a story of boiling passion, supernatural power and romance. Denied the chance to marry her lover, Tita finds her own personal misery and anger being impregnated into her food and its eaters. You’ll never look at your dinner in the same way.
A Touch of Spice
Based on the true story of the deportation of 30,000 Greeks from Turkey, this film centres on the life of a close-knit Greek Orthodox family in Turkey whose life is turned upside down when Fanis and his parents are forced to leave. Left behind is the girl he loves and his beloved grandfather Vassilis, whose spice store fuels much of Fanis’s curiosity and sensual desire. The exuberant use of spice, magical food shots and comical dinner table moments are why this film has boxed in as a heavyweight in Greek cinema.
This childhood classic tells of a young, intelligent girl surrounded by swarms of awful adults, featuring some incredibly pleasing and heart-warming foodie moments. You will be rooting for Matilda, a clever, dark horse who stands against her loathsome parents and horrifying headmistress, Miss Trunchball. Scenes of homemade American pancakes to the tunes of Rusted Root will make every kid want to jump straight into the kitchen when home alone. Parents beware!
This list would not be complete without a mention of this hard-hitting documentary that presents the realities of U.S. meat farming. It is both political and disturbing, definitely redefining public attitude to meat consumption. The questions of where our food comes from and how it is produced are important considerations for every consumer.
Every great food film needs to be coupled with a film about wine. Sideways is a story of a friendship between Miles, a wine-loving English teacher and Jack, a failed actor, as they embark on a tour of California’s Central Coast Wine country. Acclaimed for its gentle and authentic take on the angst of middle age, the maturity and truth behind this cheerful masterpiece makes it enjoyable at any time of the day.
Eat Drink Man Woman
Take a widowed Taiwanese father, Mr. Chu, whose day-to-day existence is calculated and joyless, and a set of three beautiful daughters whose desires and youthful curiosity are suppressed by the traditions of their father. The result is Ang Lee’s highly praised film, Eat Drink Man Woman. This is an intriguing story of a how a father’s obsession with cooking, tense family meals and the loss of taste communicate something of a higher order about Taiwanese society today.