Tuesday, January 25, 2011


(Here's the first of an ongoing series of food in film/television by the ever enigmatic Niklaus D’Oloferne. Get your DVD players ready!)

As often happens with things voluptuous and sinful, the love of food can easily become an obsession. Witness the culinary equivalent of a medieval bestiary that is La Grande Bouffe (1973; dir. Marco Ferreri), which will serve as an important reminder to our non-aristocratic readers that those who have the style to carry off their vices have earned the right to do so.

The invitation to indulge in the most sensuous gluttony, consumption and vanity, and the myriad epiphenomena that accompany such fine liberties, can be formulated as follows: “Dinner is offered by four Bourguignon gentlemen to three nice whores from Canterbury.” Or, if one prefers their perversions to be articulated in an indirect manner: “A sauté of fat and lean given by four gourmet epicureans for three young ladies in twelve courses.” 

The seminar for which the cast is gathered ought to thank the film’s gastronomy consultant, Giuseppe Maffioli, assisted by Jacques Quelennec, whose creative dishes have been prepared with exceptional detail by Fauchon, Paris. Maffioli, playwright, author, actor and wine & food consultant, lauded by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina – Commission of Treviso, made important contributions to our understanding of Tiramesù (unfortunately renamed Tiramisù), particularly its origins and influences in various region of Italy. Fauchon needs no introduction. Currently comprised of three divisions: épicerie (for jams, crackers, pastas, and exotic canned goods), pâtissier (for breads, pastries, and chocolates), and traiteur (for cheeses, terrines, pâtés, caviar, and fruits), and having changed ownership in the late 90s coupled with a deplorable re-branding initiative, like all major houses of style it has lost the elegance of older times.
The dishes prepared for this film, however, were all of the highest quality and artistry and their main ingredients are very instructive. Paired most often with bottles of Perrier Jouet’s Belle Époque, its lovely bottle adorned with a Gallé drawing from 1890, capturing the expression of an entire era, examples include:
  • Wild boar, prized descendent of Gullinbursti, whose fine meat can be found at our local Sebastian & Co. Fine Organic Meats in West Vancouver;
  • Deers with soft eyes, flesh imbued with the perfumes of the Couves forest;
  • Ten dozen semi-wild guinea fowls fed on grain and juniper;
  • Three dozen innocent Ardennes cockerels, whose virginity we all understand yields more supple flesh;
  • One dozen chickens from and around Bresse;
  • A hindquarter of beef from the rich pastures of Charolais, which is important since after the region was reunited with France in 1772, the cattle began moving throughout France resulting in the emergence of more inferior breeds;
  • Five innocent salt-meadow lambs from Mont Saint-Michel, whose richer flavor can be attributable to grasses rich in sodium and iodine caused by regular flooding;
  • Turkeys prepared by feeding them nuts, chocolate and cognac which gives them an exquisite flavour.

A proper saturnalia requires a serious commitment to vanity of all vanities, and the finest ingredients are an important starting point. Frivolity is best approached with the utmost seriousness. Timing of the meals is another key issue. The film rightly quotes the poet Brillat-Savarin, who stated that “a good cup of hot cocoa around 11:00 a.m. whets the appetite for dinner.” Kidneys Bourguignon are perfect for breakfast. A first course of softshell lobster should be preceded by Crayfish à la Mozart, on a bed of rice with Aurore sauce to create the lovely pink hue the dish is known for. One could follow this up with an ornamental dish with toast and a layer of sturgeon caviar, garnished with a bed of olives, two slices of lemon, cedar and sugar. For dessert consider four plates of fried pieces of dried figs, quartered oranges, sprinkled with sugar. In the paroxysms of feasting, particularly when the desire to eat becomes impulsive and consumption is no longer restrained by actual hunger, the film importantly notes that starch is not recommended for aerophagy.

Among the desserts, which should not be ignored, my favorite would be the “Tart Andrea”, which brings an organic and human quality to a typically ethereal dish.

But perhaps the finest culinary accomplishment in the film is Ugo's Pâté Castle, the interior comprised of goose, poultry and duck, doused in champagne, and ornamented along the exterior walls with slices of egg. A veritable temple of entrails, speckled with symbols of death, an incantation to Ereshkigal, oh great lady of Hades, expressing the great longing of each of the protagonists, "I want to return!"

Niklaus D’Oloferne.
the clutterer Web Developer


  1. ANy idea what the various recipe books he reads from are? I'd like to track down some of those.

  2. At the time, it was quite revolutionary to give to food such an important part in a movie! I keep a very vivid memory of this film and enjoyed it most.

  3. http://www.ju.edu.jo/home.aspx
    Jordan University