Lights, camera, bread


Audiences are emerging from a new Mexican film desperate for a square meal. Catherine Fellows

finds out why.

From its first tearful. onion-chopping frames to its final climactic wedding feast, Like Water for Chocolate is the consummate food film. We have already witnessed a fair few Great Food Moments at the movies Albert Finney salivating and masticating with Susannah York in Tom Jones; the literal blow out in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life; and, by way of ascetic contrast. zen and the an of baguette and butter in Diva. And who could forget the Lady and the Tramp at either end of a piece of scrounged spaghetti? We’ve had bizarre titles like Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe and Garlic is as

Good as Ten Mothers.

Food has also been used as an extended metaphor by Bunuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), Greenaway (The Cook. the Thief, his Wife and her Lover) and Gabriel Axel (Babette 's Feast). But never before has food demonstrated such versatility as a performer. In Like Water for Chocolate. food stars as work of an. tyrannical oppressor of women, weapon in the war against injustice, emetic. restorative, aphrodisiac. At one point a luscious combination of char-grilled peppers, walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds has couples literally diving from the table into cars, cupboards

anywhere they can rip their clothes off.

So food can work to dramatic effect on screen but there are a good few l tricks performed behind the scenes to allow that to happen. In general, if feasts or platefuls are required, the director will call on the location caterers, whose main job is to feed the crew. But that is just the first step. Once in the hands ofthe props people. fruit tans are likely to be glossed with glycerine, chickens painted appetizing brown, and soup launched in front of camera in a cloud of dry ice.

Gordon Fitzgerald, a Glasgow-based props man who has worked on. among other films, The Big Man, reveals a few tricks of his trade. ‘There‘s this scene where Liam Neeson runs out ofthe house, and Billy Connolly, who‘s been making breakfast for him, follows him and throws this charred fry-up at him. Well, in order to get the effect of the food burning. we used blocks of smouldering charcoal which looked just like black pudding, and sprinkled powdered incense on them for smoke.‘

For Fitzgerald, it's a matter of constantly improvising. ‘You never know what effect a director will be after anyway, we‘re always coming up with new ideas.‘ he says. ‘I knew one BBC guy who used to do steam by soaking a tampon, heating it in the microwave until it was really hot, then burying it in the plate of food that worked really well.’

I Beer Tasting Waterstone‘s. 128 Princes Street. 556 3034. On Friday 3 December. Michael Jackson. famous for his TV series 'The Beer Hunter’. is launching his new book, Michael Jackson 's Beer Companion, with a two hour tasting of beers from around the world. Tickets cost £I, which will be refunded when you buy the book (£19.99).

I Scruffy Murphy‘s George IV Bridge. The

Bridge Bar. as it was most l recently known, has had yet another face lift in fact, this time it is a case of major cosmetic surgery. : Alloa Breweries. known for such dramatic interiors l as that of Maison Hector i in Stockbridge. acquired l the site a year ago, and 'I subsequently decided that i an Irish pub wasjust what 4 the students and tourists l of Edinburgh would like. 3 Scruffy Murphy‘s. and the : adjoining O‘Brien's post ' office. which is actually a seating and stage area. are ‘totally authentic, olde l worlde' replicas. designed l and built by Irish craftsmen under the supervision of a company

; that has constructed

1 similar Irish pubs all over

: the world. Ifyou didn‘t

know these were new. and

, that you weren‘t in

9 Ireland. you‘d get your

l camera out.

i The most important

l thing about Irish pubs, of

1 course. is the Guinness.

5 followed closely by the

I live entertainment.

l Scruffy Murphy’s offers both the former

} unfortunately not

imported. but dispensed in

, the traditional way. the

latter involving such acts

as The Two Pats, Billy Adams and The Galway

. Boys. The pub also serves Irish stew, and plenty of

. potatoes.

It‘s a very different matter if some poor actor actually has to eat the food. The caterers simply have to roll up their sleeves and produce the real thing untampered with. and presumably. un- tamponed. Nceson survived attack by charcoal-disguised—as-black pudding. only to have to tuck in to around eight successive bowls ofspaghetti tossed in olive oil. garlic and chilli. These were provided by location caterer Guy Cowan. ‘lt seems strange food for a l coallnining boxer from lamarkshire.

i but there you are,‘ he says. We had a

i cooking areajust off set and had to

! produce gallons ofthe stuff.‘

I lnevitably. then is tremendous

wastage. Cowan was once asked to

prepare a lavish banquet for an episode

i of Scottish Television’s The Advocates.

i It took him two days and involved

; whole hams, salmon dressed and

garnished with gold leaf. numerous

l salads and fresh raspberries specially

' flown in from California. In the end.

i the editors put the production on a diet

5 and the whole sequence ended up on the cutting room floor. It couldn‘t even

3 be eaten by the crew after a day spent

accumulating bacteria under the baking

studio lights.

Obviously even a full Roman banquet. with seconds and a visit to the vomitarium, represents a slender slice ofthe film budget pie. So. as a l'oody and firm believer in the aesthetic. symbolic, comic and dramatic potential ofthe consumable, ‘please Sir. may I have some more' and. ill have a choice. make it like water for chocolate . . .



The dish cooked by ‘like Water For Chocolate’ heroine, Tita, with the roses given to her by Pedro.


12 roses, preferably red 12 chestnuts

2 tsp butter

2 tsp cornflour

2 drop attar of roses 2 tbsp anise

2 tbsp honey

2 cloves garlic

6 quail

1 pitaya

Remove the petals carefully from the roses, trying not to prick your fingers, for not only are the little wounds painful but the petals could soak up blood that might alter the flavour of the dish and even produce dangerous chemical reactions.

When the quail are plucked and dressed, their feet are pulled together and tied so that the birds keep a nice , shape after being browned in butter 3 and sprinkled with salt and pepper to l taste. The quail must be dry-plucked 3 because putting them in boiling water . affects their flavour.

l After the petals are removed from the l roses, they are ground with the anise

in a mortar. Separately, brown the

chestnuts in a pan, remove the skins

and cook them in water. Then puree them. Mince the garlic and brown lightly in butter; when it is transparent, add it to the chestnut puree, along with the honey, the ground pitaya and the rose petals, and ' salt to taste. To thicken the sauce strain through a fine sieve and add no more than two drops of attar of roses, since it might otherwise have ' too strong a flavour and smell. As soon as the seasoning has been added, remove the sauce from the heat. The quail should be immersed in this sauce for ten minutes to infuse them with flavour, and then removed.

The quail are placed on a platter, the sauce is poured over them, and they are garnished with a single perfect rose in the centre and rose petals scattered around the outside; or the quail can be served individually, on separate plates instead of a platter.

r i



10, anchor close, Cockburn Street


LUNCH 12—2.30pm EVENINGS - 6—1 1pm (last orders 10.30pm)

EDINBURGH 226 5145 50, east fountalnbrldge


The List 3--l6 December I993 71