How to pay homage through your stomach to this year's crop of Oscar nominees
Food and drink plays a starring role in may of this year's films
The red carpet may be all rolled up for another year, but, to many, the viewing season has only just begun. Post-Oscar binge-watching is here.
Catching up on all the films we missed is a time-honoured way to ride out the late-winter blues and reflect on the themes that dominated the previous year – often paired with a little food and drink inspired by the films themselves. This year's crop of Best Picture contenders was even foodier than usual, although, in many cases, demanding the audience think more seriously about its supper.
Or, in this case, breakfast, which turned up in a wide variety of Oscar nominees. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and the fish-man (Doug Jones) bond over hard-boiled eggs in The Shape of Water; undercooked scrambled eggs lead to family conflict in Lady Bird; the breakfast scene in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is interrupted by a menacing ex-husband; and, when Oliver (Armie Hammer) devours soft boiled eggs in Call Me By Your Name, it is a symbol of his raw, carnal desire.
In Phantom Thread, a film about a control freak who uses food as a weapon, eggs play a starring role. Reynolds Woodcock's (Daniel Day-Lewis) relationship with Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps) begins over an obnoxiously large and overly-specific order that includes Welsh rarebit with poached egg, bacon, scones, jam (not strawberry), tea, cream and sausages to boot, as he tries to assert his dominance over her. He's the kind of guy who not only knows what he wants, he also knows what's best for other people, ordering custard for Alma and steak tartare for his sister, whom he refers to as his "little carnivore." In the end, though, she turns the tables, forcing him to eat asparagus cooked in butter (not oil), and then, later, a mushroom omelette with a twist.
In The Post, nothing less than the fate of American journalism is determined over regular breakfast meetings held by publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). Those scenes really ought to inspire people to do more business over early morning meals, though breakfast meetings don't have to be at a stately hotel, now that all-day tapas bars have come to Canada and established that all breakfast snacks look infinitely better with a perfectly fried egg on top.
Sir Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) certainly seems to have understood the concept of the power breakfast. In Darkest Hour, he washes his poached eggs down with a whisky soda, all the while poring over the newspapers and analyzing the state of the nation. Later, when King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) asks him how he could function despite all that day-drinking, Churchill answers: "Practice."
Churchill took this regimen seriously, practising not only with whisky, but also with brandy, claret wine and, most enthusiastically, with his favourite champagne: Pol Roger. These were consumed at his famous working dinners, which featured some of his favourites: sole, roast chicken, consommé, lobster, sardines, stilton cheese, gruyere, pears and, most importantly, intense conversation about serious issues. The main course was always the discussion.
Many of Churchill's favourite foods, would probably feel perfectly at home on the set of Call Me By Your Name, a picturesque food and lifestyle glorifying film that promotes the pleasures of la dolce vita and al fresco dining in northern Italy. The most famous food scene here involves stone fruits and auto-erotic sex – a fact that helped cement opposition to the film. Some corners of the Twittersphere threatened to boycott Sony pictures altogether. On the other side of the divide, fans celebrated the erotic peach scene, most notably at Brooklyn's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which held a screening/themed dinner last month. The four-course meal began with a soft-boiled egg, moved on to sardines, then pasta and, finally, wound up with a peach crostada.
As for drinks, the aperitivo cocktails were the hit of the evening. Cocktails made with lower-alcohol alternatives, such as Cynar, Aperol and vermouth have already seen an organic rise in popularity over the past decade and many an Oscar party featured Campari, which can only be a good thing, since we can't all drink like Winston Churchill.
On a more serious note, the Froot Loops and milk scene from Get Out has stumbled onto a cultural moment, where some racists are claiming milk as a symbol of white supremacy. The scene – which sees the girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), drink a glass of milk through a straw while nibbling Fruit Loops and watching Dirty Dancing – was meant to signify her stunted growth and perpetual adolescence. But the movie moment ended up causing discussions about white supremacy parallels and referencing some scholarly work about nutritional guidelines and how they fail ethnic groups who are less lactose tolerant than Caucasians.
Social commentary is also abundant in The Florida Project, for which Willem Dafoe is nominated for a Best Actor award. The film exposes economic disparity and hidden homelessness by juxtaposing the lived reality of a poor mother-and-child paying daily rent at a welfare motel in Kissimmee, Fla., with the abundance at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at a nearby hotel for more affluent tourists, all set near Walt Disney World.
Many Oscar-worthy films explore heavy or dark themes. They are often meant to inspire us to think outside our bubbles and do better. This year may even have been more sombre than usual, with films that explore war, scientific ethics, slavery, toxic masculinity, leaders who lie, child poverty, police corruption and the precarious state of a free press. Although it might seem trivial to focus on the food, it is an important part of these films, often used to make bigger points.
As such, many people will attempt to pay tribute to these films by making food inspired by them. A valid effort, so long as we take a page out of Churchill's book and remember that good food is important but, no matter how good, the thought and conversation it sparks is the most important part.