Our videographer Elena Parker -- a serious food and film buff -- is really good at throwing movie-themed dinner parties. She and her friends cook together, serve up, and eat while they watch. We've asked her to start sharing the menus for her favorite films with us -- here's the first installment!
Imagine entering the drawing room in which "New York’s most chosen company is somewhat awfully assembled." Sounds stuffy, no? But — if you were doing so, if you happened to be wearing a gorgeous red gown, and if you also happened to be Michelle P feiffer, then you would, of course, be in the midst of Martin Scorsese's lush and highly addictive adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (and one of my all time favorite films).
Set among the high society of late 19th century New York, the food in The Age of Innocence is more than mere set dressing. The plot, emotions of the characters and satirical voice of Wharton herself shine through the meals — both in the plates and assemblies. As the film plays out the forbidden romance between Newland Archer (Daniel Day Lewis) and the passionate and unconventional Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), their meetings over teas and seated around dinners vary from the utterly romantic to hopelessly crushing and all of the veiled emotions are crystallized in the meals.
This particular menu is meant to reflect an event held at roughly a half hour into the film: dinner at the van der Luydens. I choose to mark this occasion because it is the film at its most sardonic — you don't want your guests crying into their first course, after all. To quote the film's narrator, "Dining with the van der Luydens was, at best, no light matter... dining there with a Duke who was their cousin was almost a religious solemnity." This statement is no less than perfectly captured in the image that accompanies it: pieces of a whole baked fish and servings of caviar being lifted, gingerly, onto a plate.
(On a side note, keep your eyes peeled for the single most amazing acting moment of all time at 30 minutes 14 seconds, when Day-Lewis simply says the word “ yes.” You have permission to swoon.)
Dinner at the van der Luydens: A Menu from The Age of Innocence