The Best Acts of Gluttony on Film, On a Scale of “Mmm!” to “…UGH.”
For Thanksgiving I have two traditions: eating to the point of explosion, and watching movies where people eat to the point of explosion. I once felt alone in my voyeuristic inclination to annually supplement my family meal with a screening of ‘Stand By Me’ or ‘Willy Wonka.’ But why should I suffer this pain alone?
This Thanksgiving I invite you to join me on a gastronomical journey, as I recount the best movie moments that feature: (1) people delighting in the visceral pleasures of transcendent culinary experience, and/or (2) stuffing their maws like the filthy mammals we human beings truly are.
‘Stand by Me’
The three key ingredients for a solid stuff-face scene are: (1) a competitive eating contest; (2) a hero named Lard Ass; (3) extreme projectile vomiting.
The Story of Lard Ass’s Revenge is that of a long con. There are many steps involved, and a whole lot of foresight. First, Lard Ass downs about a liter of castor oil. Next he cracks an egg down his gullet to make sure his esophagus is gag-proof. Then, during the pie-eating contest, he dives right in with an almost animalistic capacity for wreaking carnage, envisioning “cow flops, and rat guts in blueberry sauce,” which is a tactic, of sorts. And he did all of this because he knew he would spew. He knew his spew would make his fellow competitors spew. He knew his fellow competitors’ spew would make the audience spew.
But, did he know they’d all spew buckets of blueberry juice?
‘The Great Outdoors’
The first time I watched this scene, I thought, “That steak’s not so big.” I had never eaten a morsel of red meat in my life. (So young, so naïve, so iron-deficient.) But now that I’m a full-fledged carnivore, I feel Chet’s pain. That is a lot of cow.
When man meats steak, Chet’s eyes bug out wide, and his eyebrows furrow. All he wants to do is consume Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox Steak to completion so that his family can get a free meal — is that so much to ask?
Halfway through the slab, his upper lip is moist, and his hair looks greasy. The meat sweats have kicked in. Roman listens to Chet’s gurgling belly, and reassures our meat martyr’s wife that the 96-ouncer is “processing nicely.” Chet’s hand trembles as it brings the last bite to his flinching mouth. But according to the bloody butcher, “He’s not done yet.” Chet pulls at Roman’s sleeve, terror shining in his eyes. Not the gristle and fat. NOT THE GRISTLE AND FAT!
Before Chet committed to the 96er, he told his wife that he’d share her Bucket of Salad. I hope that he ate some of that roughage, if only to help move his meat along.
‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’
PART 1: Napoleon Meets Ice Cream
Ted’s little brother brings “Famous French Dude” Napoleon to an overcrowded ice cream parlor that’s an assault on the senses. Two red pinstriped waiters are required to haul out the Ziggy Pig as sirens blare. I think the sundae is supposed to be Neapolitan, but it appears to be a mélange of orange sherbet and lavender gelato. In any event, the waiters chant:
Eat the Pig!
Eat the Pig!
Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy Zig!
Ted’s bro and his dates — twin sisters! total teenage dream! — chuckle, but Napoleon’s got his game face on.
PART 2: Napoleon Finishes Ice Cream
Part 2 is not gross to me. Not even when Napoleon clangs his spoon against one of the twins’ spoons to guard his territory, ladling ice cream soup dregs into his greedy little mouth. Keep in mind, I am a human who devoured an entire Ben and Jerry’s Vermonster almost entirely by herself, wiped clean the bucket, and wore said bucket on her head. So I’m capable of extinguishing a trough of mixed ice creams, too.
But even I’m repulsed by those waiters making pig-face snorty noises at Napoleon while cooing, “Ziggy Piggy! Ziggy Piggy!” Too far.
‘Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle’
Our boys came a long way for this meal — physically, mentally, emotionally... They’ve seen things they can’t un-see. They’ve taken incalculable risks.
Plus, they’re really hungry.
So it makes perfect sense that they would order sixty sliders, ten French fries, and four large Cherry Cokes (Harold) / four large Diet Cherry Cokes (Kumar).
They take time to enjoy their prize, too, shutting their eyes, smelling the doughy buns, breathing in this truly momentous experience. They look pretty content crushing those baby burgers in slo-mo. Harold gets the meat sweats real quick, but muscles whole burgers into his burger-hole regardless, and Kumar squeezes a packet of ketchup right onto his tongue.
There’s no regret here, only celebration. When they cry, it’s not because they overindulged — it’s because the burgers are gone.
‘Cool Hand Luke’
Luke’s made a lot of mistakes in his day. Hell, he ends up serving time on a chain gang because he drunkenly vandalizes some parking meters. But betting his inmates that he can eat 50 hardboiled eggs in an hour is, statistically speaking, a terrible idea. No man can eat 50 eggs.
One egg contains around 6 grams of protein. Men require 56 grams of protein a day. 50 eggs means 300 grams of protein. That’s equivalent to 5 days’ worth! And forget about cholesterol — forget it. The toll that 50 eggs in one go takes on a human body is upsetting to imagine. The only way to justify that it’s more or less okay for Luke is the relative lack of nutrition he’s getting in jail anyway.
But he does it! He eats all 50 of them, and even does some sit-ups and a little light jogging while swallowing them down. True, he’s force-fed many of those eggs once his eyes go wild, like those of a long caged animal with a short-term memory problem.
After he’s won the bet, he lays splayed on a wooden table, his arms outstretched: classic Christ-like pose. Because, like Jesus turned water into wine, Luke turns eggs into…waste products? Yeah, that sounds right.
‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’
Speaking of bad eggs…
Meet: Veruca Salt. All she wants is a golden goose that lays golden eggs for Easter. And a feast — a bean feast! Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake (no nuts), and a whole bunch of other things of increasing difficulty to procure. Oh, and don’t tell this girl she “kahnt.” No is a no-no.
True, Veruca doesn’t eat a lick in this scene; but her behavior defines gluttony. The excess! The greed! The insatiability!
I don’t think she’s even hungry. I get the sense that you could pull her up to the aforementioned bean feast, and she wouldn’t even so much as muster the energy to eat a single bean.
‘You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Sleepover Party’
Points in MK and Ash’s favor: they never actually eat the pizza. But, still; no. Girls, you are not allowed to put egg foo young on a pizza, or any other ridiculous ingredient you are for some reason craving.
Here is a list of their terrible ideas:
- chicken (of the finger lickin’ variety)
- whip cream pouring like waterfalls
- ice cream
- chocolate sauce
- coconut cream
- chicken tongue
- rice OR mashed potatoes (I do appreciate the shred of choosiness here)
- fried green tomatoes? TBD?
- fish sticks
This is why we don’t trust children to make good choices.
‘The Meaning of Life’
First of all, I am so sorry. This scene is horrifying. Mr. Creosote’s vomit makes Lard Ass’s barf look like a nice, warm, blueberry bubble bath.
What’s shocking about this atrocity is not how large Mr. Creosote is, or how much larger he grows, or his demand for a bucket, or his ability to fill the entire bucket with vomit, or his inability to control where his vomit flies, but how the post-explosion visual of Mr. Creosote’s exposed body cavity — bones, lungs, heart, and all — is actually the least disgusting onscreen visual of the past five minutes.
Makes you think twice about wafer thin mints, though.
Mamma mia, I want to mangia everything edible in this movie.
The assembled guests start with the soup. Mm, yes. It is good. We can tell because everyone smiles an “mm, yes” smile as they daintily slurp. Next up, a tri-colore risotto. It looks like the Italian flag! Molto bene! After that, the pasta. Rice followed by pasta? Sure! Whatsamattawitha’you!?* Plus meat, plus seafood, plus more meat, plus fried stuff… These guys weren’t kidding when they said it was a big night.
The only thing that can top the foodporn visuals is the ecstatic joy each dish brings to each lucky diner. The yummy noises. The foodgasm faces. The “it’s-so-f---ing-good-I-should-kill-you” outburst.
And then, finally: the pasta-cheese-meat-cake masterpiece called timpano. I certainly don’t blame Stanley Tucci’s Secondo for gently kissing it. I want that timpano to father my children.
*Please note, I found it necessary to channel my Italian-American mother here. Hi mama!
‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’
Here’s how you know that Hogwarts’ start-of-term feast is incredible: everyone in the room utters an audible gasp when the food materializes out of thin air.
True, magic food is very impressive — but these kids are wizards and witches for Gryffindor’s sake. Surely they’ve all seen a bit of magic by now, particularly anyone older than a first year. Act like you’ve been here, Weasley twins! Conjure up some self-respect, and play it cool!
I suppose we can assume that the platters of roasted chicken legs, various potato preparations, and treacle tart are just that good. Kudos to the House-Elves in the kitchen for satisfying the discriminating palates of British children. No easy feat, I’m sure.