Follow @meals.on.reels for food and film inspiration alike
“I was watching this 1970 British film called Perfect Friday, and it froze on a funny scene of Ursula Andress biting into a piece of bread with her eyes closed, and I took a screenshot,” recalls New York-based film critic and journalist Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, who runs @meals.on.reels, an Instagram account documenting delicious food in cult films. Starting the project in September 2017 after realising she already had an extensive library of food screenshots saved onto her computer, Kim’s inspiration for the page name arrived from a recent viewing of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me: “there’s that scene where Laura Palmer says she ‘can’t do Meals on Wheels that day’.”
With a focus on “more obscure films and scenes”, the images featured on @meals.on.reels are taken from cult world cinema and independent films through the years, from a knife plunged into the kitschy Valentine’s Day cake in ethereal Australian mystery Picnic at Hanging Rock, to the extravagant faux-celebratory Taiwanese feast in Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet, and Romy Schneider throwing a violent fit while cocooned in white bed sheets, a breakfast tray set down nearby in 1969’s La Piscine. The @meals.on.reels feed looks at food used in an elaborate mise-en-scène – see 1967’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – or to reveal a character’s emotional instability, as with Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne in Oscar-winning film The Favourite. “I do a lot of searching on Tumblr in my free time (it’s the best site for rare film stills!),” Kim details on her sourcing. “Rare movies unavailable online but with great food scenes are my white whales.” Strangers and friends will also send over cinematic food shots to add to her burgeoning collection.
Where characters cross paths over a shared meal, food becomes key to revealing different personalities, plot development, and exploring tensions. “I’m thinking about Crossing Delancey right now – pickles are so important to that movie,” says Kim. “A whole will-they-or-won’t-they happens fueled by pickles! And then one of the most romantic revelations in that movie is when you realise the pickle guy washes his hands in vanilla and milk to get rid of the smell.” Touching on the tumultuous genre of films about ‘dinner parties gone wrong’, she adds, “I think food is used for tension a lot, and of course, seduction and camaraderie, as in real life. I love the use of food best when it colours the characters – like when Kate Beckinsale makes that disgusting meal for her dinner party in The Last Days of Disco. That says so much about her: a spoiled girl with a rich daddy who’s never been self-sufficient in her life. It’s fun when a character’s diet reveals their childishness.”
While a scroll through @meals.on.reels reveals a rich catalogue of diverse film stills, Kim lists some of her personal favourite food scenes: “Monica Vitti getting proposed to with a calamari ring in Jealousy, Italian Style only to be seduced with a heart-shaped pizza by another man; a leg of lamb in Le Boucher; Kim Min-hee cooking Spam in On the Beach at Night Alone; Maggie Cheung shoving hors d’oeuvres into her mouth in Comrades: Almost a Love Story; and Parker Posey in Party Girl, falling in love with the halal cart guy after ordering ‘a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of baba ghanoush, and a seltzer’ every day.” A satisfying account for food and film inspiration alike.