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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform