Pop Culture

Dinner & a Movie: City Lights

May 16, 2011

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 third installment: the 1931 Charlie Chaplin classic City Lights.

Charlie Chaplain  Charlie Chaplain

Shop the Story

- Elena

One of the greatest tragedies of my existence is that I lived more than 19 years without having seen a single movie by Mr. Charlie Chaplin. Thankfully, my first year of college, I was introduced to his most famous incarnation, the Tramp, in the best way possible: City Lights.

The beauty of City Lights obviously lies in its last shot, which—for you CL newbies, I will not ruin with a gratuitous description here. However, I will say that, if you emerge this film with dry eyes, you have a heart of stone and I applaud your fortitude.

Charlie Chaplain  Charlie Chaplain

Fabulously sentimental finales excluded, City Lights is no less than charming. While traipsing around the streets, the homeless Tramp encounters a beautiful, sweet and blind flower girl who, upon their meeting, mistakes him for a millionaire. Taken with the girl, the Tramp obliges the mistake. Luckily, that evening, he accidentally saves a drunken, suicidal man of means from a watery demise. The real millionaire takes the Tramp under his wing. Obviously, hijinks ensue.

Charlie Chaplain  City Lights

For our purposes, I will mention that City Lights contains some of the funniest food and drink gags this side of the spit-take. Most notably, at a party, the Tramp mistakenly devours the better part of a paper garland while attempting to consume a plate of spaghetti. Yet, as noted above, the Tramp has a little more to him than just the laughs.

The genius behind Mr. Chaplin’s creation—and, perhaps, the reason why we’re still talking about him 70 years later—is that, even though the Tramp is the most poorly dressed man on the street, his kindness, loyalty and sheer innocence make him seem like the biggest man in town. Similarly, this “Millionaire’s Meal” is by no means the glitziest thing you’ll ever put on the table. It is, however, honest, quiet and majestic in its own, delightfully tramp-ish way.

Dinner for a “Millionaire”

Caesar Salad with Pancetta by Marie Viljoen

Caesar Salad with Pancetta

Cold Sauce by Roxanne DeRosa

Cold Pasta Sauce

Luciana’s Porchetta by Aliwaks


Millionaire’s Shortbread by merrill

Millionaire's Shortbread

See what Elena's serving with The Age of Innocence and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Anthony Chiffolo
    Anthony Chiffolo
  • lorigoldsby
  • wssmom
  • ellent124
  • mcs3000
Currently a Creative Technologist working over at Campfire. Recent grad of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, where I played around with interactive video and mobile storytelling. Former video and editing accomplice here @ Food52. In other lives: worked on the HBO Documentary Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain & The New York Public Library’s Biblion: The Boundless Library. At the moment, I'm really into feta.


Anthony C. May 24, 2011
I was unaware of this film while researching "Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels." Thanks for writing about it. It's now on my "must see" movie list.
lorigoldsby May 23, 2011
We love that you've combined food and film...please keep this feature coming.
wssmom May 18, 2011
This is the best one yet!
ellent124 May 17, 2011
Ditto! I love reading what you come up with from the movie. thanks so much!
mcs3000 May 17, 2011
This series is genius! Thanks, Elena.