There’s that old saying about how the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And, while surely there is more to finding and maintaining love than just eating and feeding your way to it, there is assuredly also a link between love and food.
Succoring souls and nourishing love often mean nourishing bellies. We’re wired to eat, and we’re wired to make social connections, to love. And feelings often find form in food – food that we share with others and that we ingest ourselves.
The act of eating together – commensality – is one of the most instinctually human. We gathered around the fire in ages past. The hearth is the heart of the home, they say. We gather still around kitchen tables now. And if we’re not, then we should be.
So, here are twenty mouthwatering tales for the romantic foodie, films for foodies that tickle the taste buds while nurturing love. Get cooking. And bon appétit!
Mouthwatering Tales: 20 Films for Foodies
(In no particular order)
1. No Reservations (2007)
Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a no-nonsense, perfectionist head chef at a trendy New York restaurant. Her world is turned upside down when she suddenly becomes the guardian of her niece after her sister dies in a car accident. Devastated, Kate struggles to juggle her work responsibilities with her new parental ones.
The restaurant owner decides to hire a new sous-chef to aid Kate. Nick (Aaron Eckhart) is the buoyant, charming, devil-may-care sous-chef, who is the polar opposite of controlling, perfectionist Kate. Yeah, did I mention this is a romcom?
It’s whizzing words in a bustling industrial kitchen in this tale, where a woman eventually drops her guard and declares her love by sharing a recipe or two.
2. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
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What happens when French haute cuisine meets the traditional home-cooking of Mumbai? Well, a Romeo-and-Juliet-like feud ensues in the small French village, where the established Michelin-starred French restaurant clashes with the newly established immigrant restaurant with its foreign spices.
Although the restaurants are only separated by one hundred feet, it might as well be an ocean. But what happens when an immigrant son finds love with a chef across the road? And what happens when that immigrant son has culinary aspirations beyond his mom’s tried-and-true recipes? Aspirations that might just bridge an ocean of one hundred feet?
A heartwarming film about food and family and forging your own way.
3. Waitress (2007)
Jenna (Keri Russell) is trapped. Trapped in a loveless marriage to a deadbeat. Ensnared with carrying a baby to term. Caught in a minimum wage job waiting tables. Imprisoned in this small town. Trapped in a dead-end love affair with her married doctor (Nathan Fillion).
So, she bakes. She bakes her frustrations and her hopes and her longings and her regrets and her worries into pies. Flaky, fantastic, mouth-watering pies. Pies with names like, “I CAN’T HAVE NO AFFAIR BECAUSE IT’S WRONG AND I DON’T WANT EARL TO KILL ME-pie” (vanilla custard with banana – hold the banana) or “KICK IN THE PANTS-pie” (cinnamon spice custard) or “BAD BABY-pie” (quiche with brie and smoked ham).
A delectable watch about a woman baking and taking charge of her life.
4. Babette’s Feast (1987)
A grey and windswept village on the Danish moors, inhabited by pious Protestants, who prize austerity and asceticism, is served an unforgettable meal. A seven-course meal that awakens passions and long-repressed dreams and joys and grievances and fans many a revelation. This gem is based on a novella by Karen Blixen and won an Oscar for best foreign film.
It’s a beautiful period drama on the generous nature of true gratitude. And the food shots are to die for.
5. Chocolat (2000)
Picking up on those same themes in Babette’s Feast, Chocolat is a magical little tale of the outsider tempting the staid, pious, uptight locals to embrace more fully life and its many delectable delights. Chocolatier Vianne (Juliet Binoche) blows into town together with her daughter and promptly opens a chocolaterie just in time for Lent. This raises more than a few hackles and suspicions, but Vianne begins to win over the townspeople with her openness, generosity and her chocolates.
Chocolate, female empowerment, forgiveness, and even a little romance, Chocolat is a lovely mouthful.
6. Julie & Julia (2009)
A woman struggling to find purpose in her life sets out to make all the recipes in Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie Powell (Amy Adams) begins to blog about the process and the blog soon becomes a viral hit. And a personal challenge suddenly takes on a life of its own with the resultant marital strains and egotistical aspirations.
This present-day story is coupled with the making of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, following a mid-life Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as she struggles to find purpose in her life. In her search for something to do, she ends up at Le Cordon Bleu. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This is a wonderful film about marriage and meals and mishaps.
7. Dramaworld (2016)
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Claire (Liv Hewson) is inexplicably sucked into her current favorite K-drama, Taste of Love. Taste of Love stars her K-drama crush Joon Park (Sean Dulake) as a chef and restaurant owner, trying to break free from his controlling family and their frozen food imperium.
But Claire’s presence in this K-drama upsets the tried-and-true recipe for K-dramas. It all gets very messy, as Claire attempts to get things back on track in Taste of Love and get herself out of this drama, back into her real life. But some real feelings are developing between a certain outsider and her leading man.
This treat of a show has a fantastic food fight, full of romantic tension. Delish! And Season Two is supposed to be arriving sometime this year…
8. The Lunchbox (2013)
Letters and lunchboxes – this is a tasty tale of two lonely souls who share intimacies over lunch, never meeting in person. A delicious lunch, prepared by the dutiful housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur), is sent by mistake to the grumpy widower Saajan (Irrfan Khan). He tastes immediately the time and care and love that has gone into this meal. Ila discovers the mix-up and sends a note explaining the next day. Notes and lunches and more notes and more lunches are then exchanged between these two lovely, lonely people.
Oh, this is truly a tale to sink your teeth into!
9. Last Holiday (2006)
With three weeks to live, Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) decides to leave her job in the housewares department at a large department store and finally do some of the things she’s only ever dreamed of. She liquidates all her assets and heads to a luxury hotel in the Czech Republic, where the famed Chef Didier (Gérard Depardieu) reigns in the kitchen.
Georgia has long had dreams of owning her own restaurant and has dreamed of eating Chef Didier’s food. And now, with her life nearing its end, this woman, who’s been holding back for much of her life, lets it all go. She eats, she laughs, she risks, she lives life like there is no tomorrow. And she inspires all those around her in the process.
This is a feelgood film all the way!
“The secret of life is butter.”
10. Romantics Anonymous (2010)
What happens when an eccentric, socially anxious chocolate factory owner meets an eccentric, socially anxious chocolatier? Well, in Romantics Anonymous they get socially anxious together, and many mishaps and much awkwardness ensue. But when they start talking chocolate, the words and feelings eloquently gush. Oh, it’s oozingly good stuff.
Have chocolates on the ready while watching this one, because you’ll be craving them while watching.
11. Today’s Special (2009)
A young chef Samir (Aasif Mandvi) has eschewed his Indian culinary roots and pursued a career in the mainstream, hoping to make it to France to study with the masters of French cuisine. But circumstances suddenly force him to return to Queens to overtake the running of the family restaurant. No one knows what they’re doing, including Samir. So, Samir must recruit some help and discover and come to embrace his culinary genealogy.
12. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
“All my memories are in my nose.”
A widowed master chef gathers his three grown daughters for family dinners every Sunday. Around the table, while eating their father’s magnificent spread, generations clash, and sisters squabble. All make pronouncements that challenge prevailing traditions. All have crises, challenges, choices to make, and still, they meet up every Sunday to ingest and digest food and family relations.
This is an Ang Lee film that will have you craving more.
13. Ratatouille (2007)
The rat who wants to be and do more than the rest of his species – that is Remy. Remy wants to cook, to concoct masterpieces for the humans of this world. And he finds his unlikely cohort in the hopeless human Alfredo Linguini. In secret cooperation, these two begin to create wonderful meals and raise the ire and suspicions of more than a few in the kitchen.
Although animated, this film gets the salivary glands going and has inspired my own kids to try and re-create some of the recipes, especially the ratatouille!
14. Vatel (2000)
Legend has it that chef Francois Vatel killed himself when a delivery of fish for a banquet for King Louis XIV failed to arrive. The film Vatel seeks to dig deeper into this legendary tale, into the excess and decadence and opulence of the seventeenth-century French noble society. And the cruelty of the rigid rules which forever kept the “lessers” in their places. Mishaps and disillusionment and doomed love plague the chef and master organizer (Gérard Depardieu) during the king’s three-day visit.
It doesn’t end well, but it’s a feast for the senses all the same.
15. Off the Menu (2018)
Heir to a struggling Mexican restaurant franchise goes cuisine hunting and ends up in a New Mexico town, where he savors the gastronomical delights of its local chef, a feisty single mom. Yeah, this is classic rom-com material here.
Mix together some initial irritations, grating each other the wrong way, with a wee bit of deception. Whisk in some dropping of the guards, opening up, being vulnerable. But don’t forget to fold in the exposure of the lies – that gets this recipe rising. Yeah, no new territory here, but a solid, rom-com meal nonetheless.
16. Soul Food (1997)
Families gathering to break bread and laugh and accuse and forgive and cry and yell – it’s a standard trope in this mouthwatering genre. Soul Food focuses on the family meals of the Joseph family in Chicago. There are all sorts of trials and divisions and betrayals, loves lost and gained.
When the family’s gathering point, Big Mama, falls ill, the family starts to abandon their weekly dinners. They drift further and further apart until 11-year-old Ahmad coerces his family to gather for one more dinner…
Soul Food truly serves up some food for the soul.
17. Tortilla Soup (2001)
This is a remake of Eat Drink Man Woman, just transported into a new culture with new culinary traditions. Yeah, the same tale but with different spices. There’re still Sunday dinners, still three daughters trying to find their ways in life, and still one master chef dad trying to stay in control of everything and everyone. And still many delectable food scenes.
18. Mostly Martha (2001)
This is the original No Reservations – in German. And like No Reservations, it’s about a workaholic chef who finds her life turned upside down. Martha (Martina Gedeck) must face challenges inside and outside of the kitchen – a grieving niece, a freestyling sous-chef and a boss laying down the law. And she must reassess her life and reprioritize in the process.
This one is sure to hit the spot.
19. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The first film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s modern-day children’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this film is truly a treat. The story follows a poor, little boy, Charlie, who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate bar, thereby ensuring a coveted spot on a tour of the elusive Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory. This musical, fantasy film stars Gene Wilder as the mad genius, Willy Wonka, and gets the imagination soaring with its edible landscapes.
20. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2016)
Okay, it’s a series rather than a film, but it’s such a strange and wonderful show about food as a mnemonic device. The Master makes the dishes that his clients request and those dishes are starting points for many a strange and poignant tale. Tales about humanity in all its beautiful fallibilities.
This is a series that is served up just right. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite film that gets your mouth watering and your heart sighing? Let us know your favorite films for foodies in the comments.
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