Saturday, 8 December 2012

Film and Food - a very French Phenomenon

The other evening we went to see the smash hit film “Les Saveurs du Palais”, which translates as “the flavours of the palace” or “the flavours of the palate”, giving it one of the more clever play on words I have seen since being here in France. It is a film about a woman who was the private cook for an unnamed French president, how she was bullied and generally how her life was made a misery by the chef in the Palais d’Elysée (where the French president lives), until she left after 2 years, then went to live on a sub-Antarctic island and cook for the resident scientists for a year and the film ends when she is setting off to New Zealand to start a truffle farm.

All that makes it sound like it could be an interesting story, but it wasn’t. In fact I found it difficult to find a coherent story line at all, the problems and ideas were not worked through and what an Australian film crew was doing in the midst of it all, is still a mystery to me. Having said that (apart from the Australian film crew) the casting is spot on and the acting was superb, but surely that is not enough to make this film such a huge hit? No it is not.

The real reason for this film’s success, is peculiarly French. It is in fact the food that keeps this film playing to sell-out audiences. The food is truly exquisite. Even the mention of the menus to be prepared drew sighs from the audience and the filming of a Bresse chicken with truffles stuffed under its skin got gasps of ecstasy. Every single dish displayed, got an ooh or an ahh and when the president ate a piece of bread dripping with butter and loaded with slices of truffles (see photo) washed down with a glass of Chateau Rayas 1969 (which sells today for over 500 Euros a bottle ex tax) the audience went into raptures of delight.

Truffles on country bread dripping with melted butter

That was what the film was about – food - French food at its best. The final dish presented, just before the end of the film, was the iconic dessert St Honoré which echoed back to her time at the Palais d’Elysée, who’s other address is 55 Rue de Faubourg-St-Honoré.

St-Honoré gateau
But a film like this would not be complete without a tasting of its own, so while the director and one of the actors answered questions after the film, four of the best restaurants around here and two viticulturists from nearby, set up a tasting of their own specialties, for the nearly 300 members of the audience. We all went down to the front of the cinema and crowded on to the stage and in something reminiscent of a rugby scrum, we all managed to try out the food and wine on offer.

Nowhere else in the world can I imagine an evening like this, it was as I said - it was very French.

La Tuilerie Website

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