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Food and Restaurant Digest #39, July 6 2018 
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Women Eating in Movies


Everyone has their favourite "food movies" (our guest chef-writer Pete Goffe-Wood rounded up his personal best for his imagined Food Oscars last year), or at least food scenes from movies - *that* scene from When Harry and Sally featuring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in Katz's Delicatessen in New York jumps to mind for those of us of a certain age. But of course Meg Ryan's performance is memorable not for what she's eating, but rather for the, uhm, uncomfortable position she puts Billy Crystal's character in while he's trying to eat a sandwich.

The new Ocean's 8 film apparently does well to break the Hollywood convention of featuring women primarily not eating, or eating only for a very particular purpose other than simply nourishing themselves (there's a scene in the 2017 film A Ghost Story in which the female character, played by Rooney Mara, eats an entire pie after losing her partner, and which for many was the most noteworthy part of an otherwise extremely strange film).   


A still from Ocean's 8, featuring Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett

In Ocean's Eight, on the other hand, we witness a conversation which "takes place at Veselka, the venerable diner in Manhattan’s East Village. Debbie [Sandra Bullock] is eating from several plates of food on the table, explaining the heist to Lou [Cate Blanchett], talking through bites of Ukrainian food. She pushes her fork around her plate to pick up some potato. Once a haystack pile of crispy-edged latkes sits on her fork, she swirls her knife around to scoop up sour cream and then pats at the pile, dabbing and spreading the cream around until she is satisfied with the forkful she’s put together. Her bite punctuates a sentence. For the entire scene her focus is split between filling her partner in on the details of a heist and having her lunch. The scene ends with Debbie offering Lou a bite. She pops out the gum she’s been grinding on throughout the scene and eats the potatoes, shrugs one of those universal 'yeah, that’s great' shrugs, picks up a fork, and eats some more".

The Eater piece which describes this scene concludes that "At its core, this is a humdrum scene, an unfailingly simple way to portray a natural interaction between friends — it’s just two people sitting at a table, eating. But, considering the way that women are typically portrayed in blockbusters, it is a wild moment, because this is a scene where women are eating. And they are eating for no goddamned reason at all".

It's somewhat remarkable that it should be remarkable to see women eating on screen for the same reason that we see them breathing, walking, sleeping, or otherwise just being human. But in a time of reckoning all round, perhaps it's a hopeful sign that (some) fiction is finally beginning to imitate real life.

Latest from our site   

We've got reviews from two new exciting additions to the Cape restaurant scene on our site. First, Jean-Pierre visits the fantastic new Norval Foundation, which he describes as "another contemporary jewel to the crown of the Cape’s beautiful art spaces so far populated by the likes of the Zeitz MOCAA and Cavalli," while the Skotnes eatery on site shows excellent promise for taking "local cookery more seriously". 


Cape Malay-style onions at Upper Bloem Restaurant

In keeping with local flavours, Upper Bloem Restaurant ("little sister" restaurant to the very popular La Mouette in Greenpoint) offers an "opening special" set menu for lunch (R195 pp) which excelled in both flavours and presentation, and showcases chef Andre Hill as a "very welcome (and even vital) addition to the city’s food scene".
Bits and Bites
Move over "molecular gastronomy": It's long been a contested term in fine dining circles, but Ferran Adrià, one of the "founding fathers" of the technique (it was actually French physicist Hervé This who popularised the term), has pronounced his preference for the term "techno-emotional cuisine". He is the star of a documentary series originally aired in 2010, but scheduled to begin streaming on Amazon Prime shortly, which charts the extraordinary success of the elBulli restaurant, and subsequent ventures of the man once named "the most influential chef in the world". 
 
Building the best burger: A recent story by a butcher in GQ magazine aims to debunk the notion that many of us may have bought into about the superiority of "fancy" (expensive) cuts of meat going into the best burgers: "It really is true that the best burgers (in my humble but also well-informed opinion) are made from the hard-working, cheaper cuts on an animal. Because these muscles are working harder, there is more blood flow going through them, which translates to more flavor. And, since you’re grinding the meat up, you don’t have to worry about toughness like you would if you were grilling one of these less expensive cuts as a steak. So a burger made from these cuts is cheap, flavorful, and a win all around. These cheaper cuts, especially cuts from the shoulder, like chuck and brisket, will also have a higher fat content, which is paramount in making a good burger. For the juiciest and most flavorful burgers, you need a fat content that is, at minimum, 20%—the best burgers have closer to 30% fat". That's a clear no thanks to extra-lean (Wagyu) mince, then!

The world's remote foodie destination: The June issue of The New Yorker featured an interesting piece on one of the world's most extreme dining destinations: the Michelin-starred restaurant Koks on the Faroe Islands (the inhabitants of which are rumoured to be a subject of jokes among Danes as having "descended from Vikings who were too seasick to make it all the way to Iceland"). Specialities include fermented lamb, described as having "a pungency somewhere between Parmesan cheese and death" (served to previous diners in a flatbread "topped with ground mealworms"), and roasted fulmar - a seabird relative of the puffin, with "a very strong, fatty flavor, similar to that of cod-liver oil". Survivor challenge, or interesting spot for dinner?
Please share this newsletter with your food-loving friends, and feel free to email us with any queries, suggestions, or eating recommendations!
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