Feast Your Eyes: Chocolat (2001)

A great foodie movie for this time of year (Winter, or pre-spring for some of us) is Chocolat, based on the foodie novel by Joanne Harris.

This year Ash Wednesday falls very close to Valentine’s Day. For those of us who grew up Christian (especially Roman Catholic), it was an obvious choice to give up candy or chocolate for Lent. So some years, that lovely heart-shaped box someone got you on Valentines met a premature end–it went in the trash, or stored and forgotten in the family freezer.  In 2 months time new chocolate arrived with Easter. ‘Oh well. Really, this tangent relates to the film…

Chocolat tells the story of Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk, who move frequently around France in the 1950s. Vianne is a very talented candymaker and baker with French and Native American roots. She learned her craft from her indigenous mother.

Vianne opens a chocolate shop the first week of Lent, much to the chagrin of the town’s pious, conservative and traditional mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Reynaud sees himself as a moral compass for his town, responsible for keeping bad influences out, and Vianne is no exception. This film also features Dame Judi Dench, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin, Carrie Ann Moss, and Johnny Depp. That’s all I will tell you, because anything more is a spoiler.

One of Vianne’s specialties is authentic Mexican hot chocolate, which includes chili peppers and whipped cream.

If it is too much to resist making your own, the recipe appears in My French Kitchen, a recipe book created by Fran Warde in collaboration with Joanne Harris.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Harris is really good at creating stories of intrigue and mystery with a rich food angle. Five Quarters of the Orange, Blackberry Wine, and Coastliners were also written by her in the last decade (2000s).

NOTE TO THE AUTHOR: When I read about family rivalries and food all centered in one town, I think the South is a natural fit to follow tales about France and England. Charleston, Savannah, St. Augustine, and New Orleans are all very old and possessed with ghosts—Joanne, you’ll love them!

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