Assembled by Gary Meyer
April 4, 2022
The theatrical release of a new documentary by Lisa Hurwitz, The Automat, has taken me back in time with its wonderful clips from classic movies and discussions of food favorites of our youth from Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie to Custard Cups and Pumpkin Pie. It is essential viewing for those interested in the history of restaurants in the 20th Century, the combining of technology and home-cooked meals and a trip down memory lane even if you were born too late to actually visit one. But we also cover contemporary attempts at automated food. We have included many photos, film clips, recipes, music, and related links to supplement your enjoyment of The Automat now playing in theaters and at film festivals—only on the big screen.
Two fascinating video sessions occurred in November, 2021. We have obtained these recording for your viewing pleasure.
Gregory Bezat, San Francisco producer/director of a film in production, M.F.K. Fisher:The Art of Eating, was on a terrific panel on Food Luminary Documentaries such as Julia Child and James Beard.
Allen Michaan told tales of saving and operating the Grand Lake Theatre movie palace in Oakland in a wide-ranging conversation about the joys of saving a place that has meant so much for nearly a of century of moviegoers..
Both can be watched below.
by Peter L. Stein
For many years I saved a phone message from Julia Child on my answering machine. Back then, in the early 1990s, I was a television producer at KQED, San Francisco’s public television station. Despite my frequent encounters with talented artists through my work, as well as a growing friendship with chef Jacques Pépin, with whom I had been producing several seasons of PBS cooking programs, I can still remember the shiver of excitement when I retrieved a message on my office voicemail which began, in that unmistakable forceful warble, “Hello Peter, it’s Julia Child!”
Music multi-hyphenate Ben Fong Torres’ sister Shirley Fong-Torres was a chef, writer and created food tours of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Shirley’s easy—and classic—recipe for congee (rice porridge) is one of C.J. Hirschfield’s all-time favorites; perfect for cold nights.
By C.J. Hirschfield
When a 97 -year-old cookbook writer is called “the Mick Jagger of Mexican cuisine,” and the “Indiana Jones of food,” you know there’s gotta be a story there. There is, and a fascinating one at that. Directed by Elizabeth Carroll and screening at the Legacy Film Festival on Aging, the documentary Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy shares the life and work of an impatient, antisocial, cranky, profane, opinionated woman—whose life has been driven by her enthusiasm and curiosity about authentic Mexican regional cooking. She is an absolutely marvelous force of nature.
By Patricia Unterman
To tell you the truth, my dear film buffs, I’m a reader, not a moviegoer, and I only read fiction. If I watch a movie, it has to be in a movie house on a big screen and it has to promise a good story, ideally involving sex. Documentaries, for me, are a bore.
But despite all odds, I was mesmerized by a new documentary on the life of Diana Kennedy, the grouchy, 97-year-old writer of regional Mexican cookbooks, by first-time movie director Elizabeth Carroll. The film felt novelistic to me—nuanced, revealing, true. It picked me right up from a desk chair in front of my little computer screen and dropped me in the upland forests of Michoacán. Continue reading