Foodie Films

fedsundanceWhat a dull and dreary bunch of movies so far this summer. It’s enough to make you stay home and watch old Woody Allan repeats on Netflix.

Nevertheless, I did decide that it was my duty, as a food blogger, to catch two of the current films playing that are devoted to foodie issues. I see that both movies are now finished in Hamilton (It doesn’t take long, does it?), but they will probably soon be available in DVD or “on demand” form. I wish I could say I really enjoyed them but —

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Katie Couric

“Fed Up” is a documentary, narrated by Katie Couric, produced by “An Inconvenient Truth’s” Laurie Dune and directed by Stephanie Soechtig. It’s a slick and compelling American documentary about the perils of childhood obesity and how the food industry is complicit in promoting this health problem. Much of the film covers issues that most of us are sort of vaguely aware of, but there are some truly horrifying statistics: For example, “at the current rate, 95 percent of the U.S. population will be obese in 20 years”. “Before 1980, type 2 diabetes was unknown in adolescents — by 2010, there are over 50,000 young people who have it.” “This is the first generation of young Americans who will have a lower life expectancy than their parents.”

It was surprising to find out that, contrary to what I have always thought, a calorie is not just a calorie. The film demonstrates this idea by comparing a 160 calorie handful of raw almonds to a 160 calorie glass of soda. Apparently, the sugar in the soda rushes immediately into the liver where it triggers a surge of insulin which turns the calories into fat. The almonds have a lot of fibre and the chewing and digestion takes a much longer time, allowing the calories to be better burned off as energy, as well as producing feelings of satiety.

The twin demons of the documentary are the food industry which has the power to influence governments — for example, making the tomato sauce on pizza qualify as a vegetable in school cafeterias; and excessive sugar which has been added to all sorts of prepared foods and is causing type 2 diabetes. Much is made of the fact that the food industry successfully lobbied to have daily percentages of sugar deleted from food labels (check it out, it’s true), the way that percentages of sodium, cholesterol, trans fats, and so on, now are all listed.

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I remain wary, however, of considering one food, or one food group as being the culprit in all eating disorders. I did go home and start looking in my refrigerator, expecting to find that the orange juice would be the worst offender. (It was pretty bad — 23 grams of sugar in a cup). But I was astounded to find out that the “healthy” yogurt that I like to eat has 18 grams of sugar in a cup and the bread and skim milk also contain fairly large amounts. I later found out that 4 grams of sugar are equal to one teaspoon and that the World Health Organization suggests that sugar should only form 5% of a healthy diet.

But I am a grown-up person and I am lucky enough to be able to choose what I eat. And, despite the fact that marketing makes it very difficult, I do accept personal responsibility for my diet. The really sad part is that this is different for children, and the stories of the obese young people in this film were truly heart breaking. I am enraged by the fast food menus that are presented in some school cafeterias. I guess, if I were a parent, I would take this film very seriously.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3OkPRRptgQ – Chef trailer

So, the other movie that I really wanted to love is called “Chef.” It’s a small indie flick by Jon Favreau who directed “Iron Man” one of the few blockbusters that I actually found engaging. I was so hoping that Favreau, who also starred in the movie, would have created a tiny, yet succinct portrait of a chef and a true version of the food industry. I had also read the Globe and Mail review, I must confess, and the reviewer, Craig Offman had asked three real Toronto chefs to watch the film with him and attest to its authenticity. The chefs all appreciated the fidelity to life and said things like “It’s probably as realistic as it gets” and “It’s all on trend.”

Well, Favreau himself does resemble a few of the young chefs who have worked in our Go Cooking kitchen (lots of tattoos and adorably pudgy) and, these chefs do occasionally mutter tales of owner/chef confrontations in local establishments that will go unnamed. But otherwise, the funny bits in this film were few and far between and the plot moved at such a glacially slow pace that I believe I actually nodded off at one moment. (No, I hadn’t been drinking wine beforehand, I had to drive myself home — oops, maybe that was the problem –) But any feeling of authenticity was obliterated for me by the fact that Favreau had hired two of the most glamorous women in filmdom — sexy Scarlett Johansson and exquisitely chic Sophie Vergara — to act as his girlfriend and former wife. Sorry buddy — maybe in your dreams.

The food photography, I should say, was splendid and, as reported by many others, I did leave the film feeling ravenously hungry. There is a website with some of the recipes featured in the film — go to http://www.bakespace.com/ and then just type “Chef” into the search box. Maybe I’ll try the movie again on DVD with the pasta and a bottle of red wine.

Pasta aglio e olio
created by Chef Roy Choi for the film “Chef”

Ingredients:
1 lb dried spaghetti
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 large garlic cloves, cut into thin sliverschefspaghetti
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh parsley minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
sea salt
ground black pepper
2 lemons

Method:
1) Bring a large pot of water to boil, add spaghetti, cook until al dente (8 – 10 minutes), and drain.
2) Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir frequently cooking until the garlic is golden brown. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
3) Add the drained spaghetti directly to the pan. Toss until spaghetti is thoroughly coated with the garlic oil.
4) Remove from heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Check for flavour and adjust the salt if necessary.
5) Squeeze lemons, add juice to taste. Garnish with more Parmesan.

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Scarlett enjoying the pasta

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