Culinary culture: Food glorious food!

A new ‘theatrical dining experience’ prompts a peckish Holly Williams to devise her ultimate cultural menu

It’s a necessity, a pleasure, and as key to art as it is to life. From sumptuous still lifes to signature dishes in cult TV, food sustains many of our great cultural works. It can persuade, romance or celebrate; it can nourish and comfort. And it can also be about sex and sinfulness, its sensual qualities used joyously or dangerously - think of revenge tragedies, from Seneca to Shakespeare to Peter Greenaway, that see enemies roasted or baked in pies ….

Meanwhile, there’s nothing like a joyously imagined  scoffing scene to whet your appetite; who didn’t reach for the Dairy Milk while reading Chocolat? The most sensory medium, in this respect, is theatre: the grub is right there to see, smell, hear … and in a new show at the Royal Court, to taste too.

Gastronauts is set in the theatre’s restaurant; audiences will eat while the play unfolds. Playwright April De Angelis explains the two elements are completely entwined: “You’re eating the same food that’s part of the play. Food is always used at rituals: birthday parties, funerals – at life’s markers. And theatre uses those moments as well, so it’s been really interesting, to have those cross-fertilisations.”

But, of course, all the arts have their own fabulous foodie moments. And so, licking our lips as we go, we’ve drawn up our ultimate cultural menu – featuring those fictional dishes that we wish we could conjure into reality.

Starters

Minestrone Soup: 10CC’S ‘Life is a Minestrone’

“Life is a minestrone served up with parmesan cheese; death is a cold lasagne suspended in deep freeze …” sang the art rockers on their groovy 1975 Top 10 hit. Thereby suggesting that the key to existence lies within a traditional Italian soup made with pasta and vegetables. An off-kilter philosophy, perhaps, but a pretty inviting one too.

Chowder: Moby Dick

Herman Melville’s epic features a whole chapter named after this classic fish soup, brewed up at at the Try Pots tavern in Nantucket for narrator Ishmael and his fellow seaman Queequeg and delectably described. Indeed, the duo are so enamoured by the “mystery” of the “savoury steam” that they scarf down both clam and cod varieties.

Triple-liver pâté dome: ‘La Grande Bouffe’

Pâté can be a trad menu option, though that’s certainly not the case with the fantastic – if, well, ultimately fatal – centrepiece of this French-Italian film about four men trying to eat themselves to death. The chicken is cooked with sherry, the duck with port and the goose with champagne; the trio of pâtés are crafted into a domed and spired edifice à la St Peter’s, ornamented with boiled egg and brioche pastry. “Pure poetry!” insists Ugo, the chef.

Mains

Rare steaks and potatoes: ‘Top Girls’

The whole notion of “man food” is enough to kill our appetite. Eighties businesswoman Marlene in Caryl Churchill’s classic feminist play would never hold truck with such gubbins: holding a dinner party of unusual women from history to celebrate her promotion over a male colleague, she dines on bloody beef and plenty of spuds, a choice that reflects her voracious personality.

Fried chicken: ‘Breaking Bad’

It’s not good for you in more ways than one, but the chicken served by Walter White’s drug-lord boss, Gus Fring, via his Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant chain is more than just an oily front. “Slow-cooked to perfection ... one taste, and you’ll know,” declares the fictional advert over food-porn images of “the freshest herbs and spices”, chopped orange peppers, juicy roasting birds and crispy batter. And, well, we’re addicted.

Venison, turkey and dressed lobster: ‘La Bohème’

It’s opera’s great feast. The Latin Quarter, Paris, Christmas Eve …  and the usually impoverished bohemian artists of Puccini’s classic are celebrating a stroke of good fortune at the local hotspot Cafe Momus – and how. To add to the allure, the above treats are accompanied by plenty of booze – table wine and Rhine wine, no less.

Confit Byaldi: ‘Ratatouille’

How do you make computer-generated food look delicious? This 2007 Pixar movie has the answer: for its climax, in which Remy the rat must rustle up a dish to win over the terrifying food critic Anton Ego, it drafted in legendary chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame as a consultant. The result was a perfectly animated version of one of his signature dishes, which involves layering a piperade (tomato and pepper sauce) with finely sliced aubergine, courgette, tomato and squash. It’s steamed, roasted, then presented in a delicate stack and topped with vinaigrette. Your average vegetarian option, this ain’t.

Dessert

Christmas pudding: ‘A Christmas Carol’

Charles Dickens’s seasonal favourite isn’t short on mouth-watering grub, but the choice dish is the simply splendid pud at the Cratchits’ feast. In the words of the author “a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top”. God bless us, every one ….

Cherry Pie: ‘Twin Peaks’

Amid all the weirdness of David Lynch’s macabre smalltown soap, what keeps FBI Agent Cooper, and by extension, us, grounded is the thought of a slice of the Double R Diner’s speciality, Norma’s cherry pie. It’s so good he orders three portions at once, while at one point his boss, played by Lynch himself, bellows: “I PLAN ON WRITING AN EPIC POEM ABOUT THIS GORGEOUS PIE.”

‘Pommes et Oranges’: Paul Cézanne

The healthy option. Fruit has obviously long been a staple of the still life, but few painters have imbued it with such solid yet lusciously glowing properties as the French artist. This work is part of a series of six paintings all featuring the same dishes, jug and vivid fruits – good enough to bite.

PETIT FOURS

Macaroons: ‘Marie Antoinette’

The most famous sweet treat in all of culture must be the reverie-prompting madeleines in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. But frankly, when it comes to French fancies, we’d rather follow Sofia Coppola and let them – okay us – eat macaroons! Her biopic of the doomed queen featured lavish plates of the things; provided by experts Ladurée, they sweetly summed up their anti-heroine’s pastel-hued indulgence.

Chocolates selection: the Beatles’ ‘Savoy Truffle’

This track may have been written by George Harrison as a warning to chocoholic pal Eric Clapton but its list of flavours, taken from the lid of a box of Mackintosh’s Good News chocolates, is nevertheless highly tempting. Anyone for a “cream tangerine”, a “Montelimar”, a “ginger sling” or a “coffee dessert”?

Wafer-thin mint: ‘The Meaning of Life’

Not even Heston could come up with a culinary invention quite as explosive as this deceptively tiny palate-cleanser from the Monty Python movie; it leaves obese restaurant customer  Mr Creosote splattered all over the walls. Our gut tells us this isn’t a wise after-dinner choice, but  actually we just want to know how it works.

‘Gastronauts’ is at the Royal Court, London SW1 (020 7565 5000, royalcourttheatre.com) from Thursday to 21 Dec

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most