Released in 1939, Gone with the Wind follows Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), as she navigates her life during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
Shortly after beginning this blog back in 2017, I received an email from reader, Alexa, suggesting Gone with the Wind for a food & a film pairing. Ultimately, seeing as it is a film that not only holds historical significance in the greater context of cinema, but even more importantly, has many food & drink moments dispersed throughout it, I had to agree that Gone with the Wind would be a more than fitting film for a food & a film entry. Now, two years later, I am finally getting to feature this epic historical romance here on the blog. Thank you so much for the suggestion, Alexa!
At nearly a full four hours in length, it is not the least bit surprising that Gone with the Wind has more than a few food and drink moments featured throughout it. The first food moment comes fairly early on in the film when Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) is helping Scarlett get ready for the barbecue at Twelve Oaks. After Mammy gets Scarlett into her dress, she asks her, “Now, Miss Scarlett, you come on and be good, and eat just a little, honey.,” to which Scarlett replies, “No. I’m going to have a good time today and do my eating at the barbecue.” Mammy responds saying, “If you don’t care what folks says about this family, I does! I has told you and told you that you can always tell a lady by the way she eats with folks. Like a bird. I ain’t aiming for you to go to Mr. Wilkes’ and eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog!” Scarlett then tells Mammy, “Fiddle-dee-dee. Ashley Wilkes told me he likes to see a girl with a healthy appetite.” to which Mammy retorts, “What gentlemen says and what they thinks is two different things. And I ain’t noticed Mr. Ashley asking to marry you!” Upon hearing this last line from Mammy, Scarlett then takes what looks like a biscuit from a nearby silver serving tray and spitefully stuffs it into her mouth. After finishing her first biscuit, Scarlett then sits beside the tray to finish her next biscuit before consuming a couple spoonfuls of what appears to be cream. Before Scarlett can continue her impromptu bedroom picnic for one, she is called to depart for the barbecue at Twelve Oaks.
While at the Twelve Oaks barbecue, we see Scarlett with a plate of food in one hand, and a fork in her other, surrounded by an assemblage of male suitors also with plates of food in their hands, captivated by her charm. As her admirers compete for her attention, one admirer takes Scarlett’s plate from her, while another hands her a glass a what looks like lemonade.
The great honor of retrieving a dessert for Scarlett is then bestowed upon Charles Hamilton, who presents her with what appears to be a slice of lemon meringue cake. Upon seeing Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) walking hand-in-hand, Scarlett loses her appetite, and tells Charles,“I don’t guess I’m as hungry as I thought.”
There are a few more appearances of food & drink in the first half of the film; however, the next time food is consumed onscreen is not until after the film’s Intermission. Shortly into the second half of the film we see a group of Confederate soldiers eating plates of food that Melanie has given them much to Scarlett’s annoyance. Scarlett scolds Melanie telling her, “Here I slave day and night just so we can have enough food to keep body and soul together, and you give it all away to those starving scarecrows. I’d sooner have a plague of locusts around the place.”
The next big food moment featured in the film comes when Scarlett and Rhett (Clark Gable) are enjoying a lavish dinner while on their honeymoon in New Orleans. As Scarlett attempts to eat every last morsel on her plate, Rhett tells her, “Don’t scrape the plate. I’m sure there’s more in the kitchen.” Then when a sever walks past their table holding a tray full of pastries, Scarlett points toward the tray with her fork and with her mouth full of food says, “Oh, Rhett, can I have a chocolate one stuffed with meringue?” Rhett then replies, “If you don’t stop being a glutton, you’ll get as fat as Mammy, and I’ll divorce you.” Needless to say, Rhett is a kind of a dick.
Other notable food moments in the film include Ashley’s birthday cake, Scarlett snacking on what looks like a macaron while admiring her honeymoon purchases, Scarlett in bed with a breakfast tray, the buffet at the “Monster Bazaar,” and the Christmas rooster roast. In addition to these food moments, there are also many mentions of food, or lack thereof, in the dialogue, including in Scarlett’s big proclamation before the film’s Intermission, where she declares, “As God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill… as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Furthermore, along with all of these onscreen food moments and mentions of food, there are also an overwhelming amount of drink moments in the film including Brent & Stew holding highball glasses containing a mint-infused drink, the men drinking dark liquor and smoking cigars while the women rest upstairs at Twelve Oaks, Scarlett drinking whiskey hoping it will get her drunk, Scarlett drinking “quite a lot” of brandy, Mammy downing a glass of sherry that Rhett gives her, Rhett throwing a glass of sherry at Scarlett’s portrait, and Scarlett drinking a cup of tea while recovering from her frightening fall.
When it came time to plan out my Gone with the Wind inspired menu, I knew I wanted to create a dish that might have been served at the Twelve Oaks barbecue. While I could not make out exactly what was on the plates during the barbecue scene, I found an excerpt from the 1936 novel by by Margaret Mitchell that mentioned “biscuits”, “fried chicken”, “collards”, “snap beans,” and “pound cake topped with sweet whipped cream” among other food items.
Therefore, I decided to prepare a meal of two different types of vegan fried chicken with sides of string beans & collard greens, and a flaky biscuit. Then for dessert, lemon pound cake topped with warm strawberries & whipped coconut cream, and a glass of refreshing lemonade as a drink. (I should also note that there is in fact a Gone with the Wind Cookbook, which was most recently printed in 1991, but was initially published in 1939 to coincide with the release of the film. While I was able to get my hands on the cookbook, however, the recipes definitely reflect the time period of the book’s initial release, as opposed to the time period of the film’s events, which is why I stuck with the 1936 novel from which the film is based on for my inspiration.)
Finally, I found a fabric that is the exact pattern of the dress that Scarlett wears to the barbecue at Twelve Oaks to use as a tablecloth, and I included a small floral arrangement to add a bit of elegance to the table setting.
Thank you so much for reading this week’s entry here on food & a film, and thank you again, Alexa, for your suggestion. Make sure to check back next week for another entry featuring a reader-suggested film. Until then!