Confession: I don’t watch the Oscars. I used to, until I realized it is not much more than an event during which movie stars pat each other on the back — the rest of us only common voyeurs. This year, one of my classmates is up for Best Actor, and I still don’t plan to watch.
Come to think of it, the Grammys and Emmys aren’t much different. But I digress… Want to win me back as a watcher? Come up with a category that transcends everything else on the awards list. Something that is a necessity for all living things … Something that – on its own – can describe every scene … The one thing that, if done correctly, can speak to a person so loudly that they are tempted to leave the theater for it. (Even the best sex scenes can’t do that!)
If I were the boss over at the ‘Academy,’ I’d insist on the best food scenes, and these would be my nominees:
The Godfather (1972): Clemenza’s spaghetti sauce recipe
Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) might’ve been one of Don Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) oldest and most trusted soldiers, but he was also one heck of a cook. Believe it or not, director Francis Ford Coppola included this scene just in case the movie was a flop. He said that at least people would have (his own) recipe for Sunday gravy. Here’s his recipe for spaghetti, as given to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the movie:
‘You start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste; you fry it; you make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.’
Five Easy Pieces (1970): A side order of toast
Bobby Dupea’s (Jack Nicholson) order shouldn’t have been that big of a deal — ‘…An omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.’
But the rude waitress didn’t see it that way. Dupea’s response is legendary … especially for those of us who regularly find themselves in controversial situations at restaurants. Here’s the scene.
Pulp Fiction (1994): The Big Kahuna burger
Sure, the ‘Five dollar shake’ scene gets all of the attention, but there’s another scene that’s much funnier … and appetizing. Seriously, the Big Kahuna Burger scene makes me want a burger and an almost-empty soda in a cup.
Once Upon a time in America (1984): Cream vs. Peggy
There was once a girl who would exchange sexual favors for sweet confections. And there was once a boy who decided that some food really is better than sex.
And the Oscar goes to…
Goodfellas (1990): An Italian food fest
For starters, there’s the late-night meal at Tommy DeVito’s mom’s house. After killing a rival mobster, Tommy (Joe Pesci), Jimmy (Robert DeNiro) and Henry (Ray Liotta) are served leftover pasta, gravy and bread. The meal is fairly standard, but the conversation — as the hungry killers twirl spaghetti onto their forks — is just phenomenal. (The leftovers don’t look too shabby either!)
Late in the film, Henry is is making a special meal for his brother, whom he’s just picked up from the hospital. Though the kitchen scene is manic, it’s memorable. And delicious.
‘I had to start braising the beef, pork butt, and veal shanks for the tomato sauce. It was Michael’s favorite. I was making ziti with the meat gravy, and I’m planning to roast some peppers over the flames, and I was gonna put on some string beans with some olive oil and garlic, and I had some beautiful cutlets that were cut just right, that I was going to fry up before dinner just as an appetizer.’
Then there’s the scene in which Henry approaches Paulie (Paul Sorvino) to beg for his help. Paulie, at the time, is frying Italian sausages. As the mob boss is telling Henry how disappointed he is, the sizzling and popping from the sausages almost steals the scene.
But the movie’s piece de resistance is the Italian meal cooked by Paulie et al. while they are serving prison time. Prison is hard, so the guys must slice their fresh garlic with a razor blade. And it’s a beautiful thing when they do. See the winning scene here.
Let’s get one thing straight. The best snacks for watching the Oscars do not include the words caponata or tapenade. And if you’re thinking about roasting radishes in butter, then sprinkling it with fresh herbs and artisan cheese … well, shame on you. Last time I went to the movies — The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — I went without a snack, because I’d had a gargantuan mushroom burger beforehand. Still, I don’t (ever) remember seeing Balsamic-marinated mushrooms or mint-scented grilled grapefruit on the overpriced theater snack bar menu.
In the spirit of all of those beautiful people who pretend to be happy that someone else will be taking home the trophy, I bring you a cheater recipe this week. Why do I call it a cheater? Because it only involves a microwave oven and a couple of ingredients. (It’s so good though!) Make sure you chase it with a $12 cup of Coca Cola. And, for good measure, throw your trash on the floor as the credits are rolling.
Chocolate Drizzled Kettle Corn
1 bag – Microwaved Kettle Corn (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup – Semisweet chocolate
Pop the corn per the manufacturer’s instructions, or make your own homemade version. On a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet, spread popped corn out to cool. Melt chocolate per the manufacturer’s instructions (I told you this is a cheater recipe!). Drizzle over popcorn and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Some optional toppers/mix-ins
- Almond bark (mix/match in 1/2 cup quantities per bag of popped corn)
- Salted peanuts, cashews or pecan pieces
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper