Friday, 4 February 2011

Front room flicks: Eat, Pray, Love,

Probably my two favourite activities in the world, ok there is one other, but you need someone else to do it with, are a) eating and drinking b) watching movies. When these two pleasures are combined in say, a film about food, while eating food, one approaches a state of cinematic ecstasy.
I did my degree at the great university of the Sorbonne in Paris. I wanted to study cinema and make films. At Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, you could do a degree in something called Arts Plastiques: option: cinéma. *
I made a few films there, mostly Super 8 which was expensive and so, eschewing any snobbery, I actually rather fell in love with video as an art form. I was editing Umatic video tapes and thrilled by mucking about with effects, then in their infancy. This will all seem very old school to today's students. I was the first pupil to take a laptop to classes. The French thought I was pretty flashy.
What we mostly did was analyse films and write essays about them. I quickly grew to hate this. Being in the cinema, as opposed to watching TV, is lingering in a dream-like state in which you forget everything around you. It's healing. When you are depressed, go to the movies. When you are heart broken, ditto. It transforms your mood like no other medium except perhaps music. But film contains all the arts: writing, music, visuals. Analysing, breaking that dream state into segments was dreary.
Yesterday I got a chance to host a supper club night for the launch of the DVD 'Eat, Pray, Love'. I like to research things properly so I read the book. Great writing, humorous in parts but painful to read for the protagonist, played by Julia Roberts in the film, suffered from depression. The story follows an American woman writer who leaves her perfectly nice husband, finds a good looking lover in an obscenely short amount of time, leaves him, goes to Italy and eats a lot of fantastic food. Then she goes to India and prays. Finally she ends up in Bali and reluctantly falls in love with a man who is played by Javier Bardem. I preferred the film to the book as it was more cheerful!

The menu followed the course of the narrative:
Thin crust pizzete with a variety of cheeses including white truffle cheese and also oak smoked tomatoes.
Fruit, nuit and aubergine curry
Egg and coconut curry
Dill rice
Pomegranate seed, onion and cucumber cachumber
Home made lime pickles
Grilled pineapple in chilli syrup
Coconut and rum icecream

Wines were provided by Ten Green Bottles.

A 6 x 6 foot screen was set up in front of the french doors and a projector placed atop a cupboard. This was great as a floor projector risked being knocked over by a waitress.
25 food, lifestyle and entertainment journalists and bloggers arrived. Even The Sun and The News of The World came! They all went home with splendid goodie bags with the Blu Ray of Eat Pray Love, Guide books to Italy and India, another film Please Give and some cereal bars.
I have to say, it all worked rather fabulously and I'm hoping to do a regular monthly film night. I did a dinner early last year with dishes from Like Water for Chocolate, Babette's Feast, Big Night, Sideways and Julie/Julia. But it was even better with a big screen so we could watch the movies at the same time as eating what they are eating. The possibilities are endless! Premieres, red carpet events, theme movie nights, you name it...

Cinemas are once again becoming a desirable night out: with the Secret Cinema, and my friend Craig's People's Picture House in Clapham. Here's a link to South East London film clubs. My very old friend Tim Burke (formerly of The Grey Organisation) runs the Portobello Pop Up, a 'microplex as opposed to a multiplex'. Local to me, the Lexi cinema is small, intimate with a boutique feel. 

 Not easy to cook 30 pizzas simultaneously...lining em up on the bench before adding the topping.
Thanks to the team: Alissia, James Benson and Reena.
Thanks also to Natalie Day and her team at Momentum
Screening equipment was provided by

*In plain English this is tough to translate: some say it means visual arts or fine arts, but which are generally confined to something three dimensional or malleable. Whatever. I wanted to make films. Still do.


  1. Wow! The food looks and sounds as amazing as, I'm sure, it tasted! Lucky, lucky people. The movie, however...despite the gorgeous Julia Roberts...I found to be whiny, egotistical, irritating claptrap. With gorgeous scenery. Ditto the self indulgent book that it was adapted from. Love the blog and all your ideas!

  2. Suffered through 20 minutes of this awful film on a flight back from New York on Monday. Self-indulgent, patronising bollocks that even Julia Roberts had the decency to seem embarrassed to be associated with. Your food looks lovely though :)

  3. You guys should have read the book: this woman is rich, employed, with a groovy job,has tons of gorgeous men after her but is still depressed. Believe me, the film cuts out most of the depression. It's really hard to feel sympathy for her in some ways but the book is cult. Women have bought it in their thousands.
    Maybe it's all divorced women? Trying to 'find themselves'?
    The author must be rolling in it. But probably still depressed.
    I have to admit, the 'pray' bit, put me off. But God is popular in America.

  4. I just keep wondering....where did you get the giant screen?):):)

  5. Certainly better than the normal cinema food offerings.

    What was the name of the (truffle) cheese company again?

    Made the cachumber again yesterday to go with thai fishcakes. Is rather good.

  6. I haven't read the book or seen the film, but I do like to eat and the food looks great.
    Great to have the link to The Lexi - is it new? In 20+ years I don't think I have ever turned right at the end of Chevening Road and had no idea it was there - so I'm thrilled you found it for me!

  7. James: it was The Deli Station. They will be there on Saturday.

  8. Yes it's really lovely Scarlett, lets go one Sunday afternoon.

  9. Yes! How did you cook all those pizzas in your oven?!

    We are always learning exciting things about you Ms! Like the degree in Paris...

    I totally agree with you on the food, drinking, film and er...other such activities that involve two! :)

    I also loved the book Eat, Pray, Love - it spoke to me last year particularly. I haven't seen the film yet though -I haven't heard good things but I am still willing to watch it and try and detatch myself from the book. I think Elizabeth Gilbert is very talented - you should watch her speech on about creativity.

    Gotta go - lunch time! Be back soon I imagine! xxx

  10. Inspired evening! This post brought back fond memories of dinners out at Foreign Cinema in San Francisco. We have a projector so perhaps a micro-cinema night in our friends' future.

  11. Thanks Evin! I love the movies, even if they are crap!

  12. Having seen the film before I'm certainly no great fan, it falls down on several points which are totally separate from peoples' opinions about the writer/story: the soundtrack is non-existent when it could have been deeply atmospheric and glorious, the cinematography is weak considering the scenery - there are very few visual "wows" and lastly Julia has ZERO chemistry with any of the three men.

    That said, I can see the appeal to the film with it's subject matter and I think it's best enjoyed on DVD with girl friends and some good food whilst not taking a great deal of notice what is happening on screen. Therefore my evening at The Underground Restaurant was a joy! Thanks for a fantastic evening!

  13. LOL - your review of the movie/book is spot on! WTF is she so damn depressed about?!?! Very hard to feel a lot of empathy/sympathy. Also disappointing to learn that she set off on this adventure with a fat book advance already in her pocket...!! Makes the whole thing seem kinda self-indulgent and middle-class. Anyhoo. Lovely to FINALLY make it to your restaurant! Loved the food - particularly those pizzete :)) Thank you!

  14. What a brilliant evening! Thank you so much. The food was utterly divine and what you have done with your house really is inspiring. I look forward to seeing you again sometime, Hannah.

  15. I found you via Cook Sister and will definitely be coming back for more English cooking!


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