Even though Thanksgiving is officially over, my love for food never stops. There is something real, rich, and authentic about food that connects deep within my being. It also weaves a common thread of basic human need, creating community.
OK, it tastes good, too.
So what was the first thing my introverted self did after co-cooking Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends? I holed up in my apartment, of course, under blankets with tea, and began browsing my roommate’s Netflix while she was out socializing.
I came across a lovely surprise: Haute Cuisine (also known as “Les saveurs du Palais” 2012), the story of Daniéle Delpeuch, an appointed private chef for President Francois Mitterand. Filled with amazing food, the French language, adversity, and gorgeous landscapes, this film quieted me. The language of truffles, Julia potatoes, stuffed cabbage, duck, and endless traditional French recipes lulled me into a state of pure bliss.
Her love of food, and desire to use real food (including fat!) reminded me of some of what we do here at Experience Life — to report on (and eat) real, whole foods, and make sure we get enough healthy fat.
When the film ended I wanted to know more. I wanted the recipes. I began googling and came across a few recent reviews of the film: The President’s Chef vs. the Food Snobs, Haute Cuisine: 7 Simple French Recipes from the Big Screen, ‘Haute Cuisine’ : As tasty as a food movie should be, ‘Haute Cuisine’ move review: Film is light on story, heavy on food and Cooking For a President: Haute Cuisine’s Daniéle Mazet-Delpeuch.
The reviews varied, and I loved the film so much, I found myself getting defensive at some of the comments.
Moira Macdonald with the Seattle Times wrote, “‘Haute Cuisine’ has no grand conflict or important message or really anything much that you’ll remember past dinnertime, but it has abundant charm and it leaves you hungry, which is all we ask of a food movie.”
Walter Addiego with the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “‘Haute Cuisine’ is a bonbon, not a full-course meal.”
And Hank Sartin on Roger and Ebert finalized his review with, “Breezy, brisk, vigorous. These aren’t words automatically associated with a foodie film, but they’re meant as praise. Though a woman of Hortense’s cool elegance would never say it, she has a heck of ride as Mitterand’s chef, and it’s fun to be along for it.”
I learned a few interesting bits: that Delpeuch was the first female chef to cook in France’s Palais de l’ Elysée under President Mitterand; that she lived in a small apartment complex of government buildings, which also housed Mitterrand’s mistress, and their daughter; plus a few of her recipes such as Julia Potatoes, Acacia Flower Fritters, Chocolate Tart. The best bit? She wrote and published a book about her experience filled with recipes, titled Carnets De Cuisine Du Périgord á l’ Elysée.
I was ecstatic when I realized this book existed, and was only slightly deterred when I realized it’s in French. I want to get the book, and translate the recipes while I make my way through cooking each of these delectable foods. I’ve deemed it my new “winter project.” Who knows? Maybe over the next few years I’ll find similar books in German, Norwegian, Swedish, Czech, and pair my love of languages with my hunger to be rooted in good, whole, tasty foods.
So whether the film is brisk, nothing happens, has a thin plot line, or is a bon-bon bite, you’ll need to decide for yourself. As for me, I am perfectly OK with all of these things, for they are the very reasons I loved the film: Reasons that created a setting of day-to-day life where “nothing seems to really happen.” Reasons that inspired me to attempt to cook from recipes in different languages than my own.
For as Mitterand says in the film, “I want to experience the taste of things. Simple things, authentic things.”
Do you have any favorite food films that have inspired you? Share them here! Interested in viewing the trailer for ‘Haute Cuisine’? Check it out below.