Each month, the Herstory Club curates a selection of films that complement our monthly theme. This collection will be female-focused – both in front of the camera and ideally behind too – and range from fiction to biopics of real women in history. The films we’ll be recommending aim to both entertain and educate, showcasing cult classics, new hits, and movies you may never have heard of.
Is there any better way to round off a month of delicious festive indulgence than by diving into films about women and food? Even when the films aren’t exclusively exploring women and the culinary arts, many movies have unforgettable gastronomical scenes. Be it Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) practising eating plain spaghetti with her friends exclaiming “splash” every time it fell off the fork in Brooklyn; Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) stuffing her face with a burger while lamenting the stereotype of the ‘cool girl’ in Gone Girl; or Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in Eat Pray Love both finding herself and having a relationship with her pizza.
The matriarchs of the Singaporean Young family lovingly pass on tradition from one generation to the next by preparing potsticker dumplings as a family in Crazy Rich Asians; new housekeeper Chung Sook (Jang Hye-Jin) has eight minutes to frantically prepare Ram-Don and cover her fraudulent family’s tracks in Parasite; and Bend it Like Beckham sees budding footballer Jess (Parminder Nagra) make aloo gobi to please her mother while playing in secret.
And finally, food provides the perfect insight into Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) in When Harry Met Sally. Her penchant for specifying exactly how she’d like a dish served, (apple pie à la Mode has never encountered so many instructions), immediately alerts the audience to her quirks. As with all these scenes, it’s impossible to watch them without wanting to have what they’re having.
Hollywood loves a female chef or restaurateur. From Catherine Zeta-Jones in rom-com No Reservations and Martina Gedeck in Mostly Martha, to Helen Mirren as the owner of a Michelin-starred eatery in The Hundred-Foot Journey; the formidable French chef Colette (Janeane Garofalo) in Ratatouille; and Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), the waitress-turned-princess-turned-restaurateur in The Princess and the Frog. Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter open a chocolate shop in the iconic Chocolat, and Sarah Michelle Geller works with a magical crab (yes, really) to improve her culinary skills in the questionable Simply Irresistible. Food also forms the backdrop for character development. Three teenage girls come of age in a pizza parlour in Mystic Pizza, and four families of different ethnicities gather together to prepare Thanksgiving dinner in Gurinder Chadha’s What’s Cooking?.
Our top five films for this month feature a Netflix rom-com, a biopic, a beloved film-turned musical and two films not in the English language that revolve around elaborate meals. Without further ado…
Always Be My Maybe
(2019, Dir.: Nahnatchka Khan)
(1987, Dir.: Gabriel Axel)
Eat Drink Man Woman
(1994, Dir.: Ang Lee)
(2007, Dir.: Adrienne Shelly)
Jenna (Keri Russell) is a pie-baking whizz and waitress at a small-town diner in the deep south. She unexpectedly finds herself pregnant, throwing her plans to leave her abusive husband into disarray, but her head – and heart – are turned by the new doctor (Nathan Fillion) in town. Waitress was the last film for writer/director Adrienne Shelly, as she was tragically murdered shortly after the film wrapped. In 2015 a stage musical version of the film opened at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with music and lyrics written by Sara Bareilles. The musical transferred to Broadway the following year and has an enthusiastic fanbase.
Waitress is available to stream on Disney+, or to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play and Sky Store.
Julie & Julia
(2009, Dir.: Nora Ephron)
About the Author: Emma Forth
I’m a first year History PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. My research combines my passions for the First World War and film by exploring the development of early cinema, 1909-1918, across all four nations of the United Kingdom. For the last six months I have been producing the first database and maps of British and Irish cinemas in 1914, showcasing the position of cinema at the outbreak of the Great War. In a four-year hiatus from education prior to postgraduate study in 2018 I worked as a risk analyst; ran the admissions department in a high school; and was a receptionist and volunteer at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden. I am an avid reader, theatregoer, and cross-stitcher, and when not frantically Marie Kondo-ing my possessions and renovating my flat and during a pandemic, I can be found watching superhero films and dreaming of museums.