A lot of us have a little more time on our hands and in our homes right now: many of us are suddenly at home for three meals a day and inside every evening. This has certainly meant that my household has been cooking more and watching more films than ever before. With this is mind, we’ve created a paired menu of films and dishes to satisfy any lockdown film craving you might have – from those featuring the confined and the housebound to those through which to live vicariously.
Let’s start with those films featuring confinement: it’s hard to imagine a film showing a more brutal confinement than Misery (1990). Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, it follows famous author, Paul Sheldon, who finds himself, after a road accident, in the home of superfan Annie Wilkes. Wilkes holds Sheldon captive and forces him to write stories for her. During this incarceration, Wilkes serves Sheldon meatloaf, who asks what her secret is: ‘My secret,’ she replies ‘is I always use fresh tomatoes, never canned, and to give it that extra zip I mix a little spam with the ground beef!’ You can make your own meatloaf here (although you might want to amend it to add fresh tomatoes and a little spam…)
If you find yourself curtain-twitching during this period, you may want to reacquaint yourself with Hitchcock’s masterpiece about home confinement, Rear Window (1964). While recovering from a broken leg, Jeff (James Stewart) watches his Greenwich village neighbours from his apartment window, and witnesses a little more than he had bargained for. During his recuperation, Jeff’s girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly, brings take-out from Club 21 of lobster thermidor (lobster baked in the shell with a rich, creamy sauce) and very thin French fries, complete with Club 21 tablecloth and server.
If you fancy more of a modern film and food pairing, look no further than Oscar-winning record-breaking Parasite (2019). Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Parasite follows the comings and goings of an upper class South Korean household and their staff. We’re keeping this article spoiler-free, but it’s safe to say that the film explores what it’s like to live in close confinement. A moment of particular tension comes when, returning home, Choi Yeon-gyo asks her housekeeper to prepare Jjapaguri (translated as Ram-don in the English subtitles) for her son. Jjapaguri is traditionally a cheap instant noodle dish, but here it is upgraded with premium Hanwoo beef steak for the elite household. You can find a version of the dish jjapaguri here.
There’s nothing like a prison film to put your life into perspective, is there? At least we get our daily state-sanctioned exercise, and have Netflix in our current lockdown situation. But do we have a perfect red sauce for Italian-American pasta? If Henry Hill can successfully make one inside his prison cell in Goodfellas (1990), we can probably manage it in our kitchens. Hill ropes in fellow inmate Paulie to slice the garlic, which he does with a razor blade and acute precision, but I give you permission to just use a chef’s knife: try our recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.
Less tempting, perhaps is the food featured in what is probably the most famous scene of Coolhand Luke (1967), the classic jailhouse film: watching Lucas Jackson eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in under an hour to satisfy a bet (following his own boast that he could do so, so he really does only have himself to blame) is unlikely to make you crave eggs, but if you want to join in, you could use our recipe for devilled eggs – just, maybe stop at 2 or 3?
If you’re beginning to feel like time has no meaning and all days merge into one, spare a thought for Phil Connors who literally relives the same day again and again in Groundhog Day (1993). Eventually, he goes to town on breakfast: pancakes, bacon and eggs, doughnuts, cakes, aware that his day of indulgence will be erased when he wakes up to find himself at the start of the day. “Don’t you worry about cholesterol, love handles?” Rita asks him. “I don’t worry about anything anymore,” he replies. We have the good fortune of not being stuck in a Kafka-esque nightmare, however it might feel, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in breakfast once in a while: try our American-style blueberry pancakes.
Based on the children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (1995) is a testament to the power of imagination during difficult times. Sara Crewe is living in a girls’ boarding school while her father fights for the British in the First World War. After her father is reported dead, she is abused by the headmistress Miss Minchin, and confined to a cold, unfurnished attic room which she is made to share with the scullery maid, Becky. Unfed, and trying to distract themselves from the hunger, they imagine a feast, a fire in the grate, warm blankets and clothes, a breakfast served with ‘every kind of muffin God ever made—and all of them hot!’. They wake the next morning to find their dream come to life in the form of a table laid with plentiful breakfast foods. The book is British, the film American, but we have you covered on both English muffins and American-style muffins.
I’m not sure when we’re next going to be able to go on holiday: the thought of world travel, or even just a 5 day package holiday, feels a bit fantastical right now. So why not live vicariously through films? Try Mamma Mia (2008) to remind you what it’s like to be in a Greek taverna, and enjoy island life vicariously while eating lamb kletftiko, moussaka, or a simple Greek salad. Or if Italy’s more your bag, try Eat Pray Love (2010). Based on Elizabethe Gilbert’s memoir, the film follows the newly-divorced Gilbert as she tries to travel her way out of an existential crisis. The ‘eat’ portion of the journey finds her in Italy, discovering the true pleasures of food and nourishment. While there are more profound messages to be taken from the film, it’s the food we’re focusing on : “I’m in love. I’m in a relationship with my pizza” Gilbert says while eating a slice from L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. Gilbert’s romance with pizza takes place in Naples, so if you too want to fall in love, it’s only appropriate that you make it a Neapolitan-style pizza – this recipe is from the guys who run Pizza Pilgrims.
Or maybe you’ve decided this period of enforced downtime is a time to build up skills. I’m not sure I have anything to offer if those skills are needlepoint or wood-turning, but if you’re thinking of upping your kitchen game, or simple want inspiration for learning skills later in life, you could do worse than look to Julie and Julia (2009) where we see Meryl Streep as Julia Child take up cooking at the age of 37, enroll in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (taught in French, which she didn’t learn until she was 36), before becoming a household name in cookery, alongside Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a New York blogger who rises to fame cooking every single one of the recipes from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cookery. If you’re going to eat alongside this film, it has to be the Child classic, a perfect boeuf Bourguignon. Unless you’re feeling particularly brave, then you could try the pinnacle of Julie’s cooking journey, pâté de canard en croûte (a deboned duck baked in pastry).