Memorable Movie Meals for Thanksgiving
Savor these unique culinary scenes for the holiday.
This Thanksgiving, after you've gathered around the table with family and friends for a comforting spread, we invite you to feast on these films with memorable meals.
From pork chops served with a dash of malice to a mushroom delicacy to die for, scenes around the dining table often are among the spiciest and most satisfying cinematic fare.
The Holdovers | Christmas Dinner
In director Alexander Payne and writer David Hemingson’s The Holdovers, three different people—Paul (Paul Giamatti), a cranky classics teacher; Angus (Dominic Sessa), a troublemaking student; and Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a cook whose son recently died in the Vietnam War—are left to fend for themselves in an empty boarding school during the holiday recess. Come Christmas day, the three gather a meal thrown together by Mary with what’s left in the fridge and freezer from the semester before. It's a meal which is, as The Wrap writes, “a familial dinner at the school’s dining hall, under the shadow of a hilariously sad and crooked Christmas tree [that is] as oddball as the trio it’s supposed to comfort.” Despite the left-over, warmed-up fare, the bond created by these three infuses the meal with something special, capturing, writes Entertainment Weekly, “the need to belong to something greater than oneself, the profusion of a sudden generosity in human nature, and the simple ways in which we can touch each other's lives.”
Let Him Go | Pork Chop Summit
One scene in Thomas Bezucha’s Western noir Let Him Go, which the cast and crew drolly termed “the pork chop summit,” highlights just how carnivorous a simple meal can be. After George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) drive to the Badlands of Dakota to rescue their grandson from a local clan, the family invites them to dinner. When the gang’s mom tells them, “I hope you like pork chops,” the Blackledges start to realize, as RogerEbert.com writes, “Pork chops are the weapon of choice for Blanche Weboy (Lesley Manville), the steely matriarch.” To get a taste of what was on the table in that scene, you can cook up Focus Foodie's rosemary pork chops paired with garlic mashed potatoes.
Armageddon Time | Chinese Dumplings
In writer-director James Gray’s Armageddon Time, dinner time is the scene of an all-out family war. After Esther Graff (Anne Hathaway) puts a carefully prepared cooked fish on the table—after all, she teaches home economics—her son, Paul (Banks Repeta), gets up to phone in an order for dumplings from the local Chinese takeout spot. Although the film is not autobiographical, Gray strategically uses vital aspects of his own life to gild this story of growing up in Queens in the ‘80s with a tough authenticity. When asked by The Letterboxd Show if his own kids do such things, Gray admits, “They don’t. But I did. I was the worst.” Vulture writes, “By letting the picture embody his failures—by turning Armageddon Time into a self-aware look at his own limitations—the director makes that necessary connection between then and now, between the characters onscreen and us watching.”
Vengeance | Whataburger
In Vengeance, writer-director-star B.J. Novak creates a scene where a meal at a Whataburger franchise in West Texas changes his character’s life. As a New York writer with a yen to be a podcaster, Novak’s character travels to Texas to investigate the possible murder of an old girlfriend. As a filmmaker, Novak insisted on getting the rights to shoot in real places to capture the real Texas. “Showing characters at a local diner is what you do in a movie set in the sixties,” Novak told Texas Monthly. “People go to chains now”—and the chain everyone loves is Whataburger. Indeed, the murdered victim’s brother (Boyd Holbrook) states, “Asking why you love Whataburger is like asking why you love Christmas.” For The Houston Chronicle, “Vengeance is the rare movie that’s smart about both the myths that Texans tell themselves and the preconceptions and ignorance that outsiders carry with them.”
The Beguiled | Sautéed Mushrooms
Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a historical drama set in a girl’s academy during the Civil War, illustrates just how brutal dining etiquette can be for Southern ladies (who include Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning). While hunting for wild mushrooms, students discover a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) just outside their gates and bring him home to recuperate as good manners would dictate. For Vox, the film’s period manners, however, mask its dark comedy where “a candlelit dinner table becomes a minefield of dramatic irony.” Indeed, Coppola told The Guardian that she was drawn to the story “to represent an exaggerated version of all the ways women were traditionally raised there just to be lovely and cater to men.” When their guest overstays his welcome and betrays their trust, the ladies respond by serving him a fateful dish of wild mushrooms.