June 23, 2009

Cooking for the Movies


I feel ridiculous complaining. After all, I’m not the one standing under the hot lights, or worse, holding the hot lights. But all the same, I’ve felt dumpy and stinky all day, my feet ache, and more than ever, I understand how Greta Garbo felt.

Making movies isn’t as glamorous as I thought.

This week, I am a food stylist on the set of Colin Hearts Kay, a modern day Annie Hall set in Brooklyn. In the past 24 hours, I have made a mock cassoulet, a tarte tatin, and a buche de noel. I’m glad two out of three were familiar faces, but even so, I think I’ve folded under the pressure a little. Never before have I struggled so much with pastry or to whip egg whites. Suddenly, I saw whisks and oven temperatures through the eyes of someone who doesn’t just la-di-da her way through cooking; it all seemed hard, confounding.

Surely I will stand at the stove and make a grilled cheese sandwich soon and it will all seem simple again. But for now, I don’t even want to go back into the kitchen. When the mere idea of cooking makes your stomach turn, what do you do? Stick to salads and Chinese take-out? Force yourself in front of the stove?

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  • Adrienne: Funny you should talk about this, I just posted about my “default” meal. However, when all inspiration is gone and/or I’ve had a terrible workday and even the usually-soothing thwack of knife against cutting board and sizzle of butter in pan only makes me cringe, I say “Adam, we’re going out for cheeseburgers.”

    Sort of like I did last night. Heh.6 years ago

  • Jen in NH: Hey, go you!!! Food stylist on a movie set…I had no idea. From the little bit i know about it, that is one tough gig.

    When I can’t stand to cook but don’t want take out I rely on one of these (pretty much) no cook stand by’s:
    hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes and salad greens
    refried beans with cheese, salsa, etc, etc
    grilled cheese with tomato6 years ago

  • Megan: Definitely takeout! Or cereal or an omelet. Or I hope, during one of my bouts of kitchen madness, I made plenty of stuff to stock my freezer, and something delicious in there is just waiting for me!

    Would love to hear more about how you became a food stylist and what you do!6 years ago

  • Marti: Depends on what is in the fridge and freezer. I have a nice chili recipe based on one from Weight Watchers that requires only cans and bottles and frozen veggie ground beef: a 28 oz can of tomatoes, a small can of green chilies, some garlic, onion and chili powder and a few cups of frozen corn. To scale it down further replace half the tomatoes and flavorings with a 14 oz bottle of your favorite salsa. If I have beans I throw them in too. Covers most of the food groups and is cheap quick and fairly tasty.
    Another quick and dirty from the cupboard: the same can of tomatoes, an equal amount of roasted red peppers and any herbs lying around for roasted red pepper soup.There is a Sunset magazine recipe for this with more complications. I mean, ingredients.
    OR the family favorite, Sushi Mori. But he isn’t open on Mondays.6 years ago

  • Lisa (dinner party): Yay for food styling–even if it’s turning out to be more than you bargained for. What a great skill to have on your resume.

    PS: Maybe one of these would cheer you up? http://www.adinnerparty.net/2009/06/pink-of-perfection.html6 years ago

  • Adrienne, Mmm…cheeseburgers. I think your potatoes, greens, and egg sounds better. And I completely agree with you: everything is improved with a runny yolk.

    Jen, Everything on your list sounds so good to me right now. In fact, I could almost relabel it a “favorite foods” list.

    Megan, I love having something ready to go in the freezer — it makes me feel like a little domestic goddess. I have a feeling Lisa could tell you more about food styling than I could — this is my fiance’s movie and I pretty much got the job because of proximity. It pays in exhaustion, but will look good on a resume.

    Marti, I am beginning to wonder if I’m anemic because I’m constantly craving chili these days, and it couldn’t be easier to throw together could it?

    Lisa, I. AM. SPEECHLESS. And also grinning really big.6 years ago

  • Jess: What a cool gig! Though I’m not sure I envy you all that cooking under pressure. When cooking woes strike, I go back to basics in the form of one breakfast food or another – usually oatmeal or eggs. Best of luck with your work. I look forward to seeing the film.6 years ago

  • Brooke: i like to have “happy hour dinner” — cheese, crackers, pretzels, veggies, basically any finger foods we have on hand and plenty of wine.6 years ago

  • The Single Gal: This affliction hit me last week – hard. I went the cheese & crackers route too :)

    http://www.thesinglegalsguide.blogspot.com/2009/06/rethinking-dinner.html6 years ago

  • Kim Walker: Oh, I go the bread, cheese and fruit route pretty often. Also sandwiches or quesadillas made from the leftovers in the fridge.

    Usually when I feel that way, though, I don’t even want to get plates dirty, so I whine about it until we decide to go out.6 years ago

  • academicsocialite: My usual default is either an Amy’s frozen pizza OR scrambled eggs with some sort of vegetable side (often roasted cauliflower) and buttered toast. Usually when I’m down on cooking it means I’m in need of some warm, sustaining comfort food – those definitely fit the bill.

    Also, I was meaning to mention this earlier, but I went to school with Emily who plays Kay in the movie. It is such a small world!!6 years ago

  • i love the bread, wine, cheese route but find it VERY easy to overdo it with bread and cheese. My ability to consume cheese is apparently without limits.

    academicsocialite, that is crazy!!! also, roasted cauliflower, yum. :) 6 years ago

  • Janet: Amy’s pizza with a little extra mozzarella around the edges and a bowl of steamed green beans and/or broccoli with butter.6 years ago

  • Karen: When I just can’t face cooking I usually resort to take-out… Chinese food or pizza. We also have an old fashioned drive-in near us that has the typical menu of burgers, fries and shakes…. not “health food” but fun every now and then!6 years ago

  • Phoo-D: When the world is closing in and the kitchen is a scary place my go to dinner is: chips, salsa, and a margarita with lime.

    Carbs, fruit, veggies, and fortifying liquid make it a perefectly balanced meal! (Or not, but at that point who cares) =)6 years ago

  • Janet, And if those green beans come from the freezer it’s the perfect apocalypse meal.

    Karen, That drive-in sounds so fun.

    Phoo-D, I forgot to mention that my ability to consume chips and salsa is also without limits! A perfect dinner.6 years ago

  • rebecca: I am married to a serb, and his mom showed me how to make something called bourek. It is phyllo dough rolled up with a filling (usually ground beef, onions and some simple spices). It’s easier to make a bunch of it at once and then freeze the leftovers. When you heat it back up in the oven, it is incredible. The dough crisps right up and the insides are hot and flavorful. Of course, this requires some cooking commitment initially, but it reheats so nicely on those nights you don’t want to cook.

    Alternatively, you could make this with spinach and cheese (like spanokopita).6 years ago

  • Wendy Bussell: Breakfast food!!!!! Eggs, potatoes, pancakes. you name it, we eat it. That is when I don’t feel like cooking- these are what hy honey cooks for us! or it is FIFI-find it,fix it.
    I will just pick toast over anything else. All that melted buter just dripping through the bread….yum! Am glad to know that I am not the only one who gets into a cooking rut. (Sometimes, I just make a cake!)^_^6 years ago

  • Rae: It has been in the sweltering triple digits in Florida so I have been avoiding my kitchen for weeks. However, I am reading Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher, so all I want to do is eat. Breakfast this morning: a mini brie nice and warm (thank you, microwave), a toasted wheat pita and a huge pile of perfectly sweet grapes. When creativity fails me, hallelujah for rotisserie chicken from the market.6 years ago

  • Lesley: If I really don’t feel like cooking at all, I do a peanut butter sandwich. But if I can work up just a smidge of energy, lately I’ve been making tostadas. Crisp a few corn tortillas in the oven, spread with a schmear of refried beans, top with a few crunchy lettuce leaves, and then add whatever I can hunt up in the fridge — shredded chicken or tofu, roasted red peppers, steamed squash. Sprinkle the whole thing with crumbled queso fresco, and drizzle on a dressing of your choice. (Green or red salsa are pretty yummy.)

    Been a lurker on your site for a while. Loving the pictures and the recipes!6 years ago

  • Victoria Haynes: I know Orangette had a running list, and kitchn picked this up too (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/good-idea-make-a-stuff-i-like-to-eat-list-087660).

    Definitely eggs in any form.

    I also pull a Sandra Lee and do a “Semi-Takeout” (as important in low-funds moments as in low-energy moments):
    I pick up one order of Thai red curry and then throw in some chopped carrots and onions, frozen peas, whatever veggies are around. This doubles the volume and veg-to-heavy-cream ratio and stretches one order out for two people plus maybe a lunch if I’m crafty and pack a tuppy before serving the boyfriend.6 years ago

  • Deelish Dish: Takeout or a bowl of cereal. Or peanut butter slabbed on a banana. I think I agree that it’s usually breakfast food…hmmm.6 years ago

  • sebastian: Thank you for being the best food stylist ever!!6 years ago

  • nikki: Food styling for the movies may not be as glamorous as it sounds, but what a story to tell…

    I too usually turn to simple breakfast fare, scrambled eggs and toast, oatmeal, yogurt with berries and almonds, or apples and peanut butter.6 years ago

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An inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.
- Oscar Wilde