Five Life Lessons from the Immigrant Table in Film

Moonstruck: Food soothes the angry beast

In Moonstruck, Loretta (Cher) uses cappuccino and steak to make peace with her fiancé’s wild-eyed brother Ronny (played by Nicholas Cage) and convince him to come to her wedding. “We’ll make this one bloody,” she tells him, “to feed your blood.”

Babette’s Feast: Food is a gift

Babette’s Feast is a beautiful film about food, but it is also about the clash of cultures. Babette (Stephane Audran), a French Catholic refugee in Denmark, wants to repay her Danish employers’ kindness by cooking them a sumptuous French dinner. But her employers are members of a strict Protestant sect that sees food purely in terms of practicality. When Babette proposes to cook them a French feast, their reaction is priceless.

The Joy Luck Club: Food etiquette is not optional

Waverly (played by Tamlyn Tomita) preps her American fiancé Rich (Christopher Rich) on the “Emily Post” of Chinese customs, but there are still unwritten rules that he flubs when he has dinner with her parents the first time. When Rich misunderstands Waverly’s mother’s false protestations that her dish is too bland, he makes a crucial mistake.

Big Night:Food is a serious business

Primo (Tony Shalhoub), culinary “artist,” runs a struggling Italian restaurant with his brother Secondo (Stanley Tucci). Their competition serves Americanized Italian food and has a lounge act, but Primo refuses to compromise the authenticity of his food. “You know what goes on in that man’s restaurant every night? Rape!” Primo declares. “The rape of cuisine!”

Mystic Pizza: Don’t monkey with (food) tradition

When a no-frills pizza parlor in Mystic, Conn. suddenly becomes famous, it’s a mystery to everyone. Leona (played by Conchata Ferrell), the shop’s Italian-American owner, attempts to explain why, noting that her shop doesn’t sell “designer pizza” because: “You don’t monkey with tradition.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.

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