Mother's Day is coming up this weekend — what to get this special person in your life?
How about dinner and a movie. Movies with food themes, that is. I love films where the food plays a starring role — what person didn't fall in love with the range of dishes showcased in Eat, Pray Love (and watching actor Julia Roberts happily munch her way through several countries!) Julie & Julia had our mouths watering from the very first scene. And the recent Labor Day — (Gift alert! The movie's now available on Blu-ray Combo Pak and DVD) — saw actors Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin turn pie making into one of the most smoldering interactions since, well the movie Ghost's famous pottery scene!
One begs the question — how do they do that? Make the food look so luscious when one suspects it's been sitting around for hours, if not days of shooting. And do the actors actually eat what's in front of them? Chewing the same mouthful over and over again. What happens with the leftovers?
One person who certainly knows the secrets behind the mouthfuls is cook, food stylist, recipe developer and author Susan Spungen, whose specialty is creating the foods for such movies as Labor Day, Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love, to name just a few.
"The actors do eat the foods, but we create a variety of dishes of the same plate to keep the continuity," said Spungen during a recent interview. "We work on site, usually in a very small, cramped kitchen, and sometimes the conditions are difficult — like making a perfect pie crust in the middle of an August heatwave!" added Spungen with a laugh. "But it's amazing watching the evolution of what the director is looking for and translating it...onto a plate."
It's a given you have to know your food — and Spungen is a legend in cinema world. Through her globe-trotting jobs, she absorbed restaurant lore, techniques, recipes and the wisdom of classical training and she has worked in some of the most famous restaurants in North America. In 1991, Spungen joined a fledgling magazine, Martha Stewart Living, as founding food editor and was charged with creating a test kitchen and food department. The position was a perfect pairing of Spungen’s love of food and clear artistic vision — the bright, clean look of the Martha Stewart brand.
Spungen co-authored the award-winning bestseller Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook and helped launch the first Martha Stewart Everyday Food. She's appeared regularly on TV, and her Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook, won the coveted 2006 IACP food award.
And then — the film world came calling, and she's been busy as can be, especially as food has become an increasingly popular and important subject in Hollywood. Susan’s first foray into feature films was as the culinary consultant and food stylist on Julie &Julia, where she did everything from consult with director Nora Ephron about what food should appear in the film, to training Amy Adams and Meryl Streep how to cook onscreen, to making it all look delicious.
Since then, she has been the food stylist on such hit movies as: It’s Complicated, Eat, Pray, Love, and Labor Day, where she was charged with the responsibility of creating “the greatest pie-making scene in cinema history”.
Spungen, author of the recent What's A Hostess To Do (Artisan) says she sees these cinematic challenges as "an art form" but admits she finds the challenges "immensely satisfying."
“You know when you open the oven and that wonderful aroma of a perfect pie just wafts out at you?” asks Spungen. "That's what it's like to cook and create for cinema."
Something to chew on when considering a gift for mom this year!
Apple Caramel Crumble Pie
Like they say — nothing is better than mom and apple pie! Make one for this special person in your life. Recipe courtesy of Tenderflake.
- 1 frozen deep dish pie shell, thawed
- 13/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 3 cups (750 ml) peeled, cored and sliced apples
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) grated lemon peel
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) ready prepared caramel sauce, divided
Prepare pie shell according to package directions for a baked pie shell. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 375F (190C). Mix together brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and grated lemon peel. Set aside. Spread sliced apples in baked pie shell. Drizzle 1/4 cup (60 ml) caramel sauce over apples and top with crumble mix.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining caramel sauce before serving.