So many movie masterpieces center around food—from Breakfast at Tiffany’s famous pastry and coffee opening montage to the laughable lobster boiling scene in Annie Hall—and the interplay between food and performance is one we know all too well.
This fall, we’re traveling back in time with a weekly celebration of classic dinners and movies. Whether you prefer an emotional drama or a psychological thriller, we’ll be sure to cover all the classic tropes—filled with food. In an homage to black and white cinema, and a little nod to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, with its 20+ years of signature black and white drawings, we’re pairing some of our favorite recipes with iconic films of yesteryear. For 12 weeks, we’re inviting you to stay in, rent a movie, and cook along with us (and our thematic recipe pairings) as we screen some of the best-loved cinematic works of our time in Cooking With The Classics. We’ll also be offering our readers several chances to win a copy of our beloved Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book along the way, so be sure to enter our giveaway below.
Needless to say, this is a whole new type of Hollywood Diet.
This Week’s Feature Film:
In honor of this week’s holiday, we’re tuning in to one of our favorite classic horror-comedies, Young Frankenstein. In director Mel Brooks’ 1974 film, Gene Wilder stars as the neuroscientist Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein it’s pronounced Fronkensteen, please, a descendant of a mad scientist who becomes obsessed by the same idea that tortured his namesake: reanimating human flesh. Upon discovering his grandfather’s self-published book—entitled, hilariously, How I Did It—Frankenstein feels he must breathe new life into his legacy.
Accompanied by a winning cast of characters played by some of the comedic masterminds of the day—including Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn and Gene Hackman—the film uses keen satire and silly slapstick in equal measure to pay homage to the classic horror genre of the 1930s, notably including James Whale’s “Frankenstein” (1931) and “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935).
We think the film critic Roger Ebert summed it up perfectly in his original review from the movie’s debut, “From its opening title (which manages to satirize ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Citizen Kane’ at the same time) to its closing refrain, ‘Young Frankenstein’ is not only a Mel Brooks movie but also a loving commentary on our love-hate affairs with monsters. This time, the monster even gets to have a little love-hate affair of his own.”
What’s the difference between a medical student and a worm? — A student’s inquiry makes Dr. Frankenstein squirm
Medical Student: Isn’t it true that Darwin preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case until, by some extraordinary means, it actually began to move with voluntary motion?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Are you speaking of the worm or the spaghetti?
[the class laughs]
Medical Student: Why, the worm, sir.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Yes, I did read something of that incident when I was a student, but you have to remember that a worm… with very few exceptions… is not a human being.
While Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein vociferously objects to any allusions to his grandfather’s crazy experiments, his interest is nonetheless piqued by the subject of reanimation. A medical student’s insolent commentary, however, is too much to ignore. Dr. Frankenstein dismisses the vermicelli experiment (which was actually performed by Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus, and later referenced with some creative license in Mary Shelley’s novel) but meanwhile makes plans to visit his grandfather’s castle/laboratory… just to check things out.
We think our Buttered Spaetzle, with its long and skinny strands, does a pretty good job of imitating vermicelli, too. Although we can’t make any claims about reanimation, our experiments have certainly proven that—paired along with our Breaded Pork Cutlets (also known as Schnitzel)—they make an enlivening meal.
Not quite your average ‘yummy’ sound — The Frankenstein party devours a chocolate cake, good enough to reanimate the dead
Igor: What is this?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte.
The Monster: [off-screen] MMMMMMM!
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Oh, do you like it? I’m not partial to desserts myself, but this is excellent.
Igor: Who are you talking to?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: To you. You just made a ‘yummy’ sound, so I thought you liked the dessert.
Igor: I didn’t make a ‘yummy’ sound, I just asked you what it is.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: But you did. I just heard it.
Igor: It wasn’t me.
Inga: It wasn’t me.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Well, now look here. If it wasn’t you, and it wasn’t you…
The Monster: [off-camera] Mmmmmm!
A sit-down dinner among Dr. Frankenstein and his cohorts is completed by a decadent chocolate cake… apparently delicious enough to wake the dead! While the dinner guests enjoy a bit of Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte, the Monster (played with expert comedic timing by Peter Boyle) makes his presence known.
Around these parts, we’ve got our own delicious Kirschtorte to share—though you may know it by its English name, Black Forest Cake. We think the combination of bittersweet chocolate and sour cherries go together like a mad scientist and his wacky sidekick: a true dynamic duo.
One in the bowl is worth two in the lap — A Blind Hermit brushes up on his entertaining skills, and The Monster learns the true price of friendship
The Blindman: Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make espresso!
As the newly-revived Monster tries his luck at making new friends around town, he quickly discovers that even new friends may spill hot soup in your lap, or accidentally set you on fire! Mel Brooks’ trademark slapstick humor is at its finest in this scene, as we watch a comedy of errors unfold with a Blind Hermit and a mostly-mute Monster. After one-too-many innocent, but painful, mistakes made by the Blind Hermit, the Monster jumps up from the table, breaking clean through the front door and leaving a lonely and clueless host calling after him. He had big plans for dessert and after dinner conversation, after all.
We think there’s nothing better than a hot espresso to finish off a decadent meal—especially when it’s poured over our own homemade Vanilla Ice Cream to make an Affogato. And after conducting many tests on manual espresso makers, we’ve also rounded up the best tools for the job.
Inga: You haven’t even touched your food.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: There. Now I’ve touched it. Happy?
Enter To Win:
Lots of great classic film stars have a silly sidekick— who’s your right-hand man or gal Friday in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of our Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.
Want to be nominated for a bonus entry? Play director and share your Cooking With The Classics photo(s) on Instagram using a black and white filter. Be sure to mention @testkitchen and tag each photo them with #ATKclassics. We’ll be announcing our Oscar-worthy winners each week right here on The Feed. Entries due Wednesday, November 7th, 11:59pm EST. Giveaway for continental US residents only.
The Envelope Please…
The Oscar for Best Kitchen Costume Design goes to ernipie, who won a copy of the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book! Thanks ernipie, for making our mouths water with your description of a super-sweet Halloween costume and to all who shared their own take on “dressing for dinner”; read them all here.
Photo Credit: IMDb.com
All recipes free through Wednesday, November 7th.