Sunday Musings: Why Are We So Particular About Food?

I was moved to muse upon this question the other night when I was watching an old movie (2014 being ‘old’ in today’s terms). It’s Chef, a Jon Favreau project starring a ‘mixed salad’ cast of Sofia Vegara and Favreau himself in the leads, which chronicles the rebirth of a famous chef in an unexpected role…

Chef Movie Poster - © ?The cast of Chef (2014): Food has the power to mould lives…

Favreau plays a famous Los Angeles Chef at a posh restaurant where the menu hasn’t changed in 20 years – because the owner (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t want to shock or disappoint patrons who keep coming back for his old, reliable, nostalgic food. Favreau’s Chef wants to update the menu but, after a psychotic break in front of customers, he’s fired. He ends up back where he started, in Miami’s Cuban quarter, refurbishing an old, beat-up food truck, and selling Cubano Sandwiches. How the mighty are fallen! But at least he’s in charge, and he’s having fun. The film turns into a road show romp after that and, in the end, all is well again.

By the time the movie was over, I wanted a Cubano more than anything else I could conceive of eat, and thought: “Is food such a powerful force that it can effect the course of people’s lives?”

That wasn’t really the question, I concluded after a little cogitation. The real question was, “Does food have emotional healing properties? Can it even mend a broken soul?” Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely is central to the processes that make us who we are.

More movies…

I thought of a whole string of movies in which food plays a central role, such as Eat, Pray, Love (2010), and The Hundred Foot Journey (2014), and before that, notably, When Harry Met Sally (1989). One of the highlights that film is when Harry explains to a third party about Sally’s extremely picky eating habits: “She likes to order things even the chef didn’t know how good they’d be.” Sally retorts, “I’m not high-maintenance; I just want what I want, when I want it, the way I want it!”

Higher realms…

Even Queen Elizabeth, who must allow her armies of handlers and administrators to plan and manage every waking moment of her life, still has the freedom to specify what she wants for supper any given night. Likewise, she has the power to demand that her food is prepared exactly as she wants it, right down to having it served to her already cut up into bite-sized morsels.

But royalty has influenced the food and dining habits of its soverign nations since long before that. The modern era of sit-down dining began when Caterina de Médici (photo top of page) of Italy moved to France during the Renaissance to marry King Henry II, a tactic designed to cement relations between the two countries by marrying the daughter of one very powerful man to the monarch of the other. She, in fact, went a long way toward unifying France by touring the country and compiling an atlas of the various culinary regions, and bringing with her from Italy innovations such as the fork, porcelain dishes (‘China’, so-called because Marco Polo allegedly brought it back from one of his explorations into the East), and table linens.

And even long before that, of course, Jesus Christ is credited with metaphorizing bread and wine into his own flesh and blood, thus sanctifying the holiest of Christian rites, Communion.

So… I ask you… How has food influenced your life? With the foregoing in mind, muse on that, and please share your conclusions with us here at the Fab Food Blog!

~ Maggie J.