Beyond popcorn: enjoying food in film

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If you enjoy watching films that centre around food or include references to food or scenes with food, you’ll want to check out the lists of foodie flicks found on Gastronomica magazine’s website and in The Nibble online magazine.

Although the lists aren’t comprehensive (I couldn’t find Chicken Run, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Fast Food Nation, or Ratatouille on either list), there are lots of food-based movies or movies with memorable food scenes to choose from on both lists. There is also a description about each movie in case the titles don’t sound familiar. On The Nibble’s site, you can access an alphabetical list of food movies or a list by genre.

My personal film library isn’t very extensive…..yet. It includes the afore-mentioned Chicken Run and Ratatouille, and of course Chocolat. Rather pathetic a collection (in terms of quantity, that is) compared to the hundreds of cookbooks, general interest books about food, and novels (culinary mysteries mostly) that line the bookcases in my home office, the family room and the sun room, and sit in messy piles by my desk and my bed.

Speaking of books, if you want to learn more about the role of food and dining in filmography, these books will provide food for thought:

  • Food, Film & Culture: A Genre Study by James R. Keller, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006
  • Food in the Movies by Steve Zimmerman & Ken Weiss, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005
  • Reel Food: Essays on Food and Film by Anne Bower, Routledge, 2004
  • Food in Film: A Culinary Performance of Communication by Jane Ferry, Routledge, 2003
  • Reel Meals, Set Meals by Gaye Poole, Currency Press Pty Ltd., 1999

Still have eggs leftover from Easter?

You can find great egg recipes at Egg Farmers of Ontario’s web site – getcracking.ca. I’ll admit I’m a tad biased about the site since I work for EFO. But at this time of year, or anytime you want information about eggs or egg recipes, it’s a great site to visit.

Once you’re on the site, click on “Real in the Kitchen”, then “Basic Egg Cooking Techniques” for ways to enjoy those hard-cooked eggs you coloured for Easter. Hard-cooked eggs will keep for about a week in the refrigerator so if you decorated some for Easter, you will want to be eating them soon.

In fact, it’s a great idea to always keep hard-cooked eggs on hand. Just cook them at the start of the week, and you’ll have eggs at the ready to enjoy all week long as a snack, or sliced into a salad or onto crackers or a bagel, or made into egg salad, devilled eggs, or even pickled eggs. 

For recipe ideas for fresh eggs, select the “What’s in Your Fridge?” or “Recipe Search” features on the web site.

Chocolate or dyed….it’s Easter egg time!

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With Easter a few days away, chocolate, coloured and cooked eggs are a natural choice for snacking or crafting!

I’ll admit to indulging in a Cadbury Caramilk Egg or two in this pre-Easter season. Yes, their caramel centre does make them overly sweet and the chocolate may not be the finest quality available, however at this time of year, these eggs call out my name!

The craft of colouring shell eggs is also a sign of the season. This chart from McCormick, maker of food colours, will help you create a rainbow of perfect hues for dyeing raw or hard-cooked eggs. Think watermelon, jungle green, plum, canteloupe, fuschia…….

A St. Patrick’s Day menu – snake free!

Although I like to watch Survivor on TV, I could never participate in the game. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that there are always snakes slithering or swimming about in whatever location the show is filmed.

I’m not a fan of snakes. I figure the game of Survivor could probably use Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. He is said to have rid Ireland of snakes and is commemorated annually on March 17, the date of his death in 460 A. D.

How he actually performed this feat is the stuff of legends. A popular explanation is that one day St. Patrick created a nice cozy box and invited the chief snake to climb in. The snake took a look at the box and deemed it too small. A heated discussion ensued. To prove he was right, the snake crawled into the box. Quick-thinking St. Paddy slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea!

To this day, Ireland is said to be snake-free (lucky Irish!), and some insist that the rough waters of the Irish Sea are caused by the boisterous attempts of the snake still trying to free himself from the box.

On March 17, whether you wish to celebrate a snake-free Ireland or the pleasure of swilling green beer, take the opportunity to indulge in some hearty Irish cuisine. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and rutabagas figure prominently in Irish cooking, as do lamb stews, and braised meat and corned beef dishes. Accompany the main dish with potato bread or soda, and finish the meal with a sweet custard or apple cake, and an Irish coffee.

Irish Stew
(Makes 8 servings)

If lamb shanks are not available, thick shoulder chops can be substituted.

8 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each (5 mL) dried thyme and rosemary (or 1 tablespoon/15 mL) chopped fresh
2 bottles (341 mL each) stout-based beer
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tablespoons (45 mL) packed brown sugar
3 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Half a rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

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An Appetite for Humour #3

A nutritionist was addressing a large audience in Toronto.

“The food we put into our stomachs is enough to have killed most of us years ago,” she said. “Fast food is full of salt. Soft drinks erode your stomach lining. Chinese food can be loaded with MSG. There are trans fats in snack foods, and none of us realizes the long-term harm caused by the bacteria in our drinking water.”

“But there is one thing that is the most dangerous of all and we all have, or will, eat it. Can anyone here tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?”

From the back row came an elderly voice.

“Wedding cake?”

Making edible snowflakes

It’s March Break in Ontario and students are out of school for the week.

If you’re running out of things to do with your brood during the Break, consider spending time with them in the kitchen making edible snowflakes!

The kids will enjoy cutting snowflake shapes out of soft tortillas, then broiling them (with an adult’s supervision), and dusting each faux snowflake with icing sugar. They’re crisp, slightly sweet, cinnamon-scented and flavoured, and just plain fun to eat!
And since there’s not much you can do about the mountains of real snow still on the ground outside, helping the edible stuff disappear inside may give everyone at least some satisfaction!

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Tortilla Snowflakes

Small flour tortillas
Melted butter
Cinnamon sugar (3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon)
Icing sugar

Preheat broiler.

Gently fold the tortilla in half without making a crease, then in half again. Hold the folds together without creasing the folds firmly into the tortilla. With kitchen scissors, cut out shapes and designs from the folded edges of the tortilla. Cut through all the layers, being careful not to tear the tortilla.

Open the tortilla and place it flat on a baking sheet. It should look like a snowflake. If more design is needed, carefully refold the tortilla and add more cuts. Repeat to make as many snowflakes as desired. (The number of snowflakes that can be broiled at one time will depend on the size of the snowflakes and the baking sheet.)

Using a pastry brush or an unused inexpensive artist’s paint brush, brush snowflakes with melted butter. Pick up a pinch of cinnamon sugar between your fingers and sprinkle over the snowflakes. Repeat with more cinnamon sugar until top of each snowflake is lightly covered.

Place the baking sheet with tortilla snowflakes under the broiler just until snowflakes begins to brown. Watch carefully; this only takes a minute or so. Wearing oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let snowflakes cool for a few minutes.

With a turner, remove snowflakes from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Let snowflakes rest for a few minutes to cool and firm. Sprinkle each with icing sugar.

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* Cocoa Snowflakes: Stir 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cocoa powder into cinnamon sugar mixture. Continue with recipe as directed.

* Cheese Snowflakes: Sprinkle grated Mozzarella or Swiss cheese on the tortilla snowflake, being careful to keep cheese on the tortilla and not in the holes. Place snowflakes under broiler to brown and crisp a little, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool and firm on a wire rack.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Cooking Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter, Gryphon House, 1997

Chew Over These Birthday Cards!

Yesterday was Murray’s birthday. Although no longer the handsome young man I met 28 years ago, like fine wine or cheese, he has aged well and is now the handsome somewhat older man I am proud to call my husband! With him around, life is certainly never dull!

A few days ago, a cool birthday card came in the mail for him from my sister-in-law, brother and niece.

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Inside the card: So on your birthday, Eat, Drink and BE MURRAY
(Created by DCI Studios)

The card elicited an extra smile from both of us since Murray is not a cat lover, although he does seem to have a special bond with Sam, the black Burmese-ish cat who lives next door and occasionally stays with us when his family is away.

Murray’s birthday was a low-key celebration, as our birthdays tend to be. Just him and me, out for supper as is our usual birthday tradition. He picked Charbries restaurant in Waterloo as his destination of choice. I reserved the table by the fish tank. Again, his choice.

“If our conversation becomes dull or we run out of things to talk about, we can always look at the fish,” he reasoned.

As it turned out, we were able to find something to talk about all the way from pre-dinner drinks through dessert! We also watched the marine life swimming in the wall tank beside us. It included tiny fish with flourescent blue stripes on their sides and a little shark that stayed motionless on the bottom of the tank nearly all through dinner. Our server told us she once saw the shark lying on his back with his mouth open and presumed the worst, but the next day he was swimming around again!

Dinner started with a four cheese soup for Murray and curried cauliflower soup for me. A Jonagold apple and cardamom sorbet cleansed our palates before the entrees were served – chicken in a wine sauce and roasted vegetables for him, and portabello-wrapped pork with chunky applesauce and roasted vegetables for me. We shared dessert – apple bread pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Yes, we managed to eat, drink and be “merry”…..in Murray’s honour!

Speaking of honour, I was also able to find an appropriate card for Murray.

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Inside the card: Actually, I honored you more than once.
(Created by Carlton Cards)

My Near ‘Death by Chocolate’ Experience

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Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates prepares hot chocolate at COPIA's Death by Chocolate event in Napa, California

It was late afternoon last Saturday……I was struggling valiantly to down another sip of rich, thick, sweet, intensely chocolate hot chocolate. I was attending the Death by Chocolate event at COPIA (the Center for Wine, Food and the Arts) in Napa, California.

I had been sampling chocolate of all kinds, flavours and cocoa contents since 10 a.m. It was about 4 p.m. and I was sitting in COPIA’s beautiful tiered kitchen theatre, watching the final Master Class of the day. Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates had just passed around samples of the third of three hot chocolates he had made. Each was made with Guittard chocolate and tasted rather like drinking chocolate syrup (not that I will attest to knowing what drinking chocolate syrup tastes like!).

In terms of chocolate tasting, I was clearly done for the day. Continue reading