Before I fall into the December holiday rabbit hole, it’s time to go to the movies. I kicked off my holiday blockbuster season with “The Menu” and a giant tub of popcorn, in case anything from the fancy, multicourse menu in the satirical thriller made me peckish.
Nothing did. But (light spoilers ahead) a sizzling, juicy cheeseburger loaded with fried onions (above), which was used as a delicious counterpoint to the fussy, rarefied food featured in the film, was successfully enticing. The burger referenced a photo of the avant-garde chef played by Ralph Fiennes, back when he was a beaming line cook wearing a “Kiss the Cook” apron in a chain restaurant.
The chef’s smile was my takeaway, a reminder that cooking is not about edible, Instagrammable perfection. It’s about making food that, as a character in the movie puts it, “people might want to eat.” (Be sure to read Tejal Rao on horror films depicting the feeding of the ultrawealthy, as well as Julia Moskin on the creators of “The Menu.”)
So, what do your people like to eat this time of year? Crowd-pleasing platters of deviled eggs? Casseroles of creamy baked macaroni and cheese? A torta ahogada, the stuffed, salsa-smothered bean sandwich that’s a staple across Guadalajara, Mexico?
Maybe the more apropos question, though, is what do you, the cook, feel like making? In this limbo between holidays, there’s always an urge to keep things on the lighter side. You could try Kay Chun’s delicate tofu and bok choy with ginger-tahini sauce, in which the tofu is steamed directly on the vegetables, eliminating any need for a separate steamer.
Then there’s Libyan aharaimi, a dish of fish steaks simmered in a purée of tomato and bell peppers that the cook Joan Nathan brought to The Times one year for Rosh Hashana. With its warming spices and concentrated, gravy-like sauce, it would also make a delightful, healthful meal right now, with a chickpea-dotted bulgur pilaf on the side.
Some of the things that make me happiest in the kitchen are the simplest, like the sleepy ritual of making breakfast for my family. We all eat different things: a smoothie and buttered toast for my daughter; olive oil-fried eggs and avocado for my husband; and homemade yogurt, fruit and walnuts for me. We don’t say much. (Too early! Not enough caffeine yet!) But it’s a lovely, cherished time.
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Now, do you like to eat at the movies? I’m always happy munching my way through a box of Junior Mints. That name, as it turns out, is a pun based on “Junior Miss,” a series of stories published in The New Yorker in the 1930s and ’40s. (The series is by the author of the stories that inspired the wonderful film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” starring Judy Garland — don’t you love candy trivia?)
Just like the philosopher Jacques Derrida, I have also enjoyed the famous banana bread sold at the concession stand of Film Forum, the movie theater in New York City. (Here’s a Nutella-swirled version by Yossy Arefi, if you don’t live nearby.) It’s the only movie food I know of that has its own T-shirt, which means it’s a food people definitely want to eat.
See you Wednesday.