Fun (if not fine) dining at the Academy Awards

By TINKY WEISBLAT

Published: 03-07-2023 7:16 PM

Film is no longer our dominant national art form. That is now television, streaming television in particular. Perhaps because I am approaching middle age (I have been approaching it for years and plan never actually to enter it), I still adore the movies.

I spent my childhood driving my mother crazy by watching old black-and-white films on television instead of playing outside like all the other children in the neighborhood. I sang along with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, and I cried when Joan Crawford was treated badly, as poor Joan often was.

Even today, when I want to treat myself, I watch a movie. And I never miss the Academy Awards on television.

I revel in the fashions, I adore getting a glimpse of the films I haven’t yet seen, and I listen to every single acceptance speech. I know that if I were ever to win an Academy Award (unlikely, I know), I would want everyone to heed my golden words.

Being a food person, I serve something related to at least one of the nominated films on Oscar night. This year, that will be this coming Sunday, March 12.

Food isn’t always prominent in films, and it can be difficult to spot people eating in them. Eating takes up valuable screen time that could be used for conversation or action.

Several of this year’s films feature quite a bit of drinking. “The Banshees of Inisherin” features pub scenes but very little pub food.

The fighter pilots of “Top Gun: Maverick” also spend a lot of time in a bar (the bar’s owner is the love interest of the lead character, played by Tom Cruise), but they, too, do not seem to eat much.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Greenfield restaurant to be featured on America’s Best Restaurants
Where the food is smokin’ good: Crazy Horse Bar and Grill in Charlemont serves up pub food and more with flair
Greenfield’s Asa Bouchard competing for Team USA in Prospects by Sports Illustrated Hockey World Cup
GCC union votes ‘no confidence’ in president, provost
Retired Montague officer, state trooper commended for 2022 fire response
Franklin Tech hires aviation instructor

I had hopes for “Elvis” since I gather that the King consumed a lot of junk food in his later years. According to NPR, he favored a milkshake that consisted of bananas, peanut butter, bacon fat, vanilla ice cream, and bourbon. Gulp.

In Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic telling of Elvis Presley’s life, however, the singing star is too busy performing and emoting to chow down on anything interesting.

I have not yet seen “The Fabelmans,” Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical tale of a boy who falls in love with the movies. I gather that the family in this movie sits down for Shabbat dinner and consumes gefilte fish, chopped liver and challah while it processes family drama.

I have seen one of the big contenders for best picture, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I was disposed to adore this film even before I saw it. I have been a big fan of its star, Michelle Yeoh, ever since I saw her in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000.

The filmmakers, a duo known as Daniels, call “Everything” a love letter to Yeoh. It is. The Malaysian actress gets to show off her acting chops and martial-arts skills. She gets to look middle-aged and plain (as plain as this gorgeous person can make herself) but also to look glamorous and radiant.

Yeoh plays a Chinese-American immigrant who owns a laundromat. Her family is miserable. Yeoh’s character, Evelyn, is overwhelmed by bills and taxes as well as worry about her relatives.

The film morphs from domestic drama to science fiction when Evelyn and her family learn that their daily life is only one of an infinite number of possibilities in a multiverse—and that Evelyn alone can save that multiverse from annihilation.

The film is downright whacky and occasionally self-indulgent, but the sterling cast won my heart, as did the imagination displayed by the writer/directors. Above all, I adored the film’s final message: in any possible universe, we need love and kindness above all.

Happily for me, there are a couple of food connections in this film.

The family begins the film getting ready for a Lunar New Year party. Unfortunately, the only food on hand is a pot of blah-looking noodles with some greenery stirred in.

Fortunately, one of the universes posits a delightful, much publicized alternate reality in which humans have hot dogs on their hands instead of fingers.

In this existence, Evelyn is in love with Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). In Evelyn’s home world, Deirdre is Evelyn’s nemesis, an IRS auditor with absolutely no sense of humor. In the hot-dog world, Deirdre is sweet and loving.

The hot-dog fingers were such a hit with fans of the film that one can purchase hot-dog gloves to wear while watching “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I won’t go that far, but I will serve hot dogs at my Oscar soiree on Sunday.

To make them more interesting (and to create an actual recipe to share with readers), I have decided to make chili dogs. Like the film, this dish is quite messy but ultimately satisfying.

Oscar Night Chili Dogs

I usually make chili with lots of beans, but when I was in graduate school my friend Shannon informed me that the protein in chili-dog chili should always be beef and only beef. So that is what I use here.

Ingredients for the chili:

1 splash olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (if you don’t have chipotle, use another dried pepper, but I love the slight smokiness of the chipotle)

3/4 teaspoon salt

ground pepper to taste

1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

Ingredients for the chili dogs:

6 hot dogs (I prefer all beef)

6 hot dog rolls

The chili

Grated sharp cheddar cheese to taste

Instructions:

Begin by making the chili. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until it smells lovely and starts to brown. Add the garlic and sauté again briefly.

Add the beef, breaking it up into small pieces as you stir and brown it. When the beef has browned, stir in the spices, the salt, and the pepper, followed by the tomatoes and the water.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn it down and simmer it for 30 to 40 minutes until the flavors blend and the liquid has mostly, but not completely, boiled off. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Cook the hot dogs in your preferred method, boiling or grilling. While the hot dogs are heating up, lightly toast the hot dog rolls.

Onto each roll place a hot dog. Partially slicing the dogs lengthwise makes it easier to add toppings: a generous helping of chili and some of the cheese. Serves 6 Academy-Award guests.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her latest book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.

]]>