Confined to a wheelchair with his leg in a cast, photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) spends his days looking out of the rear window of his Greenwich Village apartment and spying on courtyard neighbors. After a bit of passive voyeurism, Jeff soon comes to suspect that one of his neighbors has just committed murder.
Rear Window (1954) might just be my favorite film of director Alfred Hitchcock, my all-time favorite film director. This is also the film that started it all and inspired me to create food & a film. Specifically, it was the scene where Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) arrives at Jeff’s apartment for dinner accompanied by Carl, the smartly dressed server outfitted in a red formal jacket who is there to deliver takeaway from 21 Club. Hitchcock devotes an entire shot of his film to the elegant dinner consisting of baked lobster and very thin French fries. Ultimately it was this specific shot that provided me the motivation to start food & a film. I thought it would be fun to prepare a similar meal to accompany a screening of this cinematic masterpiece, as well as start creating menus inspired by some of my other favorite films.
As a vegan, the thought of recreating this particularly paramount food moment in film was a daunting one. How was I going to veganize lobster? Furthermore, because Hitchcock included a shot of the meal – perfectly plated on china, placed on a blue and white checkered tablecloth – I felt the need to recreate this shot as best I could.
However, in addition to the lobster dinner, there are a few other food moments in Rear Window to choose from. Even though we don’t end up seeing the sandwich, at Jeff’s request, Stella agrees to fix him a sandwich adding that she’ll “spread a little common sense on the bread.” There is also the breakfast that she makes for him (which we do see) of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. There is also the sad, lonesome dinner date Ms. Lonleyheart throws for herself, as well as the moment when Stanley returns home to Ms. Torso and immediately opens the fridge, searching for something to eat. As for drinks, Jeff and Lisa have wine in one scene, and brandy in another.
In addition to these moments, there are also a couple of lines of dialogue scattered throughout the film mentioning food. The first is when we are introduced to Lisa, and upon greeting Jeff, she asks how his stomach is, to which he replies, “empty as a football.” Later in the evening when Jeff and Lisa are in a heated discussion about their differing lifestyles and occupations, Jeff asks Lisa is she has ever had fish heads with rice explaining that, “you might have to if you went with me” and that “sometimes the food that you eat is made from things that you couldn’t even look at when they’re alive…”
With all of the on-screen food moments, both visual and verbal, there is plenty of assorted inspiration for a Rear Window inspired menu. However, since the lobster dinner had such a profound effect on me, I knew that it was the meal I was going to recreate for this first blog installment.
When I started planning out the menu and place setting, I was overwhelmed by the concept of trying to recreate this shot that had become rather iconic to me. The greatest gift came when I discovered a market in Chinatown that sells vegan lobster! I mean, how incredible is that?! Once I had acquired the lobster, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted of my shoulders and I excitedly set out to collect the various place setting materials including the exact model of brass candlestick that is featured in the film.
When it came time to get in the kitchen and start cooking, I decided to put all of my focus towards preparing the lobster and chose to cut myself some slack and heat up some frozen shoestring fries. However, if I were to have made my own fries, I would have probably used this recipe, which looks pretty similar to 21 Club’s fries in the 1950s.
For the vegan lobster, which is also gluten & soy free!, I decided to boil it prior to coating it with a bit of oil and dusting it with some garlic powder before baking it for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
With that said, I would not recommend eating the lobster whole, the way I prepared it. Instead, I would probably make a lobster roll or a lobster mac n’ cheese; however, for the purpose of trying to re-create the lobster dinner from the film as accurately as possible, I left it to be photographed in its entirety. I will say that I was rather impressed by texture of the vegan lobster; it has a rather dense meatiness to it that is similar to the texture of lobster meat.
I also decided to make an original dipping sauce (not pictured) to accompany the lobster, which turned out to be quite delicious.
Vegan lobster dipping sauce:
- 1/2 cup of vegan butter
- 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of dried cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic power and cook for a few minutes before stirring in the remaining ingredients. Let sauce steep over low heat for about 10 minutes before serving.
As for the table setting, aside from utilizing my daily flatware, I found all the other “props” online via Etsy, Ebay and Replacements. Of course, I would have loved to have found the exact china, serveware, etc. that was used in the film, but I am glad that I was at least able to track down that candlestick!
Making a vegan version of this meal and recreating the place setting as seen in the film was definitely an intimidating feat; however, I think it made for a great first endeavor for food & a film. Please let me know what you think of my take on this cinematic supper, and be sure to tune in next week to see what the next pairing will be!