Movie Food, or Why I Should Get Out More

This is what happens when you live in a small town and you don’t go to the movies very often: You are amazed at the new Coke machine in the Malco lobby, with its touch screen and ever-changing video display with enticing buy-Coke-products ads. And then there’s the adjacent candy vending-machine, perfect for creating your own movie-watching snacks. My movie-lobby dream machine? One from Starbucks that lets you brew and enjoy your favorite espresso or coffee drink — or at least get a chilled DoubleShot.

‘Hunger Games’ food

Two words: “Blue food.” That is what we’ll all be eating in the future, says Jack White, of both Pulaski, Tenn., and Los Angeles. And he should know about food and the future, since he’s the one who created the dystopian feasts in the blockbuster movie “The Hunger Games.” White, food stylist to the stars in 75 feature movies during the past 20 years, was in Florence, Ala., — home of his alma mater, the University of North Alabama — sharing “Hunger Games” and food-styling insight with an appreciative crowd of District 12 supporters. “All I know is that if you want futuristic food, make it blue,” he said, laughing. “For some reason, movie folks go crazy over blue food.” Also, apparently quail eggs will be big in the future, too, so start buying quail-egg stock immediately. Showing photos of the Hunger Games food in the making, White gave us insider information from the secret world of movie-making. For instance, every item of food has to be edible in case the director spontaneously wants the actors to eat — and this random going off-schedule, off-script and off-budget is what makes White’s job stressful anxiety-producing tons of fun since he starts working on food details MONTHS in advance. Plus, he has to produce multiple and identical items for each food scene — the single loaf of bread you see on screen has 74 exact copies nearby, waiting for stardom with the next take. And the next one … and the next one … and the … And, yes, it bothers him when scenes he spent days and $$$$ on are cut. “But I get my paycheck either way,” he said, with a grin. And, no, actors don’t actually eat the food. “At least the older, seasoned actors don’t,” White said. “The new, young actors will dive right in when they’re supposed to eat in a scene and they’ll really enjoy the food, and then the older actors will say, ‘Well, good. Now you’ve got to do the same thing 100 times today.” Dustin Hoffman, he added, usually has a fork in his hand or an empty fork coming from his mouth when he’s supposed to eat but arely actually chews and swallows. (And now I’m going to wander through “Tootsie” and check this.) Other tips from White include 1) use Israeli couscous as a good all-round basic food (it takes colors, it’s blandly pleasant tasting and it shoots well), 2) use olive oil to clean the soot off your smoked suckling pig. (Who knew?) and 3) to amaze and delight your friends, make tiny cuts in the whole cooked fish you’re serving, loosen the bones and then put it all back together for seemingly effortless fish-deboning at the table. I also learned that I really need a food stylist every day in my own kitchen, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen. Oh, well. White spoke at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, which also was hosting its second Edible Books Festival. And, of course, one of the entries was a “Hunger Games” cake, from one of my favorite bakeries, Yummies, in Tuscumbia. Don’t you love it when cake and books and movies collide?

“The Hunger Games” and the Shoals

As soon as I re-remember how to download photos from my new iPhone to my laptop (stupid technology!), I’ll share photos of Grandson Nolan’s fourth birthday — because that’s what we proud grandmas do and we don’t really care how many adorable children you see today because we know our grandbabies are the adorablest. So there. In the meantime, though, I want to brag on my adopted home of the Shoals, in northwest Alabama. This little corner of the state has produced probably more Very Important Folks than any other two-county area anywhere. From Glencoe, the 1840s stallion from whom practically all thoroughbreds are descended, to politicians, musicians, writers, engineers, athletes, designers, actors, humanitarians and real-life heroes through the years, the Shoals is known for its talented, determined and creative people. Take the “The Hunger Games,” for instance. We’ve got four — count ’em, four — connections to this blockbuster hit movie. Muscle Shoals’ favorite duo Secret Sisters sings one of the most haunting songs on the soundtrack; Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, half of which is Florence resident and University of North Alabama graduate John Paul White, has two tunes (one with Taylor Swift); UNA grad and middle Tennessean Jack White (no, not THAT Jack White) was the food stylist and UNA culinary student James Perini was the food-stylist assistant. Now, if only I’d been the one to figure out the next must-read young-adult fiction series, it would all be perfect. What about young wizards who are picked for a fight-to-the-death reality TV show? Or a mysterious castle that’s also a school for angsty teen vampires and a sullen but conflicted Alan Rickman? Or maybe …

Shopping

Ah-ha! At last they admit it! I always knew that somewhere in the Wal-Mart “Manual for Luring Innocent Shoppers Into Our Lair and Tempting Them With Shiny Pretty Things At Low Low Prices,” there was a whole section devoted to “Impulse Items.” You know, those things such as a five-pound bag of potato chips, a complete manicure-in-the-car-while-you-drive kit and a new coffee table … in a box … that you never knew you needed until you see them in all their glory and before you know it, you’ve added them to your cart along with dog food, doughnuts and a Dora the Explorer backpack. So who slipped up and revealed the secret?  Or maybe the “Impulse Items” signage is itself part of the devious plan. I mean, who can resist checking out the aisle and seeing if indeed it’s full of things we suddenly and impulsively want to buy? Well, actually, I resisted. But only because I saw some Pretty Shiny Things in the next aisle over and then somehow inexplicably came home with a new mixer plus new sets of pots, pans, knives and  — and I never ever hardly ever am usually too busy doing charity work to cook.

And I know this is late and you’ve probably already seen Sex and the City 2, but in case you haven’t and you’re now waiting for the DVD, read my column http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100618/COLUMNISTS/100619794 to find out the one true thing this fantasy movie says about women.

Oscars

Every year I imagine I’ll throw a fabulous Oscar-watching party. I imagine everyone — me, included — wearing Caifornia-chic casual style. I imagine a creative bounty of innovative finger food. I imagine intelligent movie-savvy conversation. But of course what happens instead is that I forget it’s Oscar night until three minutes before and I end up watching in my ratty pajamas and eating out of a Cheetos bag and saying things to the cats such as “‘An Education’? I’ve never heard of that movie before.” The cats are not impressed. However, if you imagine a glittering and successful Oscar-watching party and you have faith that you will actually do it, then take a look at this AP article about Oscar-inspired cocktails: http://www.heraldnews.com/lifestyle/x655498432/Oscar-inspired-cocktails-toast-the-movies It might have shown up in your local newspaper but in case it didn’t, you’ll want to take a look. Raise a glass for me, and I’ll in turn toast you with a Cheeto.

Golden Globes

One of the best things about blogging — and, c’mon, everybody should try it!  — is that you get to comment on just about anything. So, because much of the blogosphere is abuzz this morning with Golden Globes chatter, I’m going to add my .02. Mainly I’m just excited because this year I’ve seen or at least know about most of the various award-show nominees — makes the shows much more fun when I actually recognize who these folks are. So here are my best/worst of the Golden Globes. See if you agree.

In the “This Isn’t High School, People!” category, were actresses such as Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Garner and Toni Collette confused about where they were? I loved Bullock in Blind Side and think she’s great, but her shiny and sheer purple gown looked like it belonged on a 17-year-old who just got named prom queen (except for the sheer part, that is). And I’ve seen Garner’s and Collete’s shiny and sparkly choices on more pageant stages than I can count. Woman up, ladies, and be grownups.

In the “Why Do Their Stylists Hate Them?” category, Kate Hudson’s weird white gown looked like a reject from an origami class, with edges sharp enough to do some serious damage and a crumb-catcher neckline so big she probably couldn’t see anything below her chin. Cameron Diaz’s red satin looked like a backwards vintage nightgown, and I’m not really sure who Zoe Saldana is but she should have cut about half the ruffles off her overwhelmingly embellished, beribboned and ruched dress.

In the ever popular “Why, Oh Why?” category, I’m putting Mad Men’s January Jones for her severe and, let’s face it, ugly black dress-and-headband combo; quirky Chloe Sevigny for her big ruffled mess that somebody must have paid her escort to rip when she went onstage; and oh-so-cute Ginnifer Goodwin for her ill-fitting and chest-flattening draped blue cocktail dress.

In the “Cheap-Looking Shiny Upholstery Fabric Can Be Used in Dresses, Too!” category, put Patricia Arquette and Rita Wilson. I’m giving a prize to the person who comes up with the matching bedspreads.

In the “Right Dress but Wrong Place/Time” category, I’m nominating Julia Roberts for her super-cool and sleek knee-length black dress with hippie-chic statement necklace (too casual); Glee cast member Lea Michele for her gorgeously black full-skirted ballgown (too formal); and adorable Anna Kendrick for her elegant white and silvery one-shoulder choice (too old and too much).

And in the “Perfect!” category, I’m putting nominees who went with sophistication and restrained elegance, such as Gabourey Sidibe, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Anniston and Fergie. I loved Emily Blunt’s soft and tattered layers, Glee’s Jayma Mays’ black and white spider-web effect and Jane Lynch (who said she was at her first awards show ever) for the green halter dress that was totally her.

And in non-fashion highlights — I guess there were these award things handed out? — I loved Paul McCartney’s explanation of why adults like animation, (most of) host Ricky Gervais’s patter, Robert Downey Jr. “speechless” honesty and the class acts of Meryl Streep, Monique and Jeff Bridges.

Next up, the Screen Actors Guild awards on Jan. 23. Then the Grammys on Jan. 31 and the Oscars in March. The Emmys? In August. (I had to look that up.)