Food writer, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), is forced to perpetuate the fictitious facade that she is the perfect housewife when adoring fan and war hero, Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), as well as her boss, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), invite themselves to her fictional country home in Connecticut for Christmas.
Released in 1945, Christmas in Connecticut is, without a doubt, the most food-centric of all Christmas films, making it not only an ideal subject for a blog post, but a terrific end to the December holiday series here on food & a film.
Exactly two minutes into the film, we are treated to the first of many food appearances in the film when Navy sailor Jefferson Jones dreams of having a decadent dinner on the water, while in actuality he is stranded at sea, sharing a life raft with fellow sailor, Sinkewicz (Frank Jenks). When Sinkewicz wakes Jefferson from his fine dining dream, Jefferson tells him, “If I ever get out of this, my first meal is going to be a humdinger. A big, thick juicy steak with baked potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise sauce and chocolate cake and ice cream.”
As Jefferson describes what he would like for first meal on land, the film cuts to a close up of such a meal plated on a tray. The tray is then brought to Sinkewicz who is lying in a hospital bed with Jefferson in the bed next to him. As Sinkewicz is served Jefferson’s dream first meal, Jefferson is instead served a raw egg floating in a bowl of milk.
Jefferson clearly cranky about his less than satisfying hospital fare, picks up a magazine, which is opened to a page titled ‘MENU OF THE MONTH’, and reads aloud, “By America’s best cook, Elizabeth Lane. Roast goose Bernoise with walnut dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry…”
In the subsequent scene we learn that Jefferson’s stomach is not yet ready to process solid foods since he was on a raft for 18 days without food and gave Sinkewicz the last of the K-ration. Jefferson, frustrated, exclaims, “All I get is milk, milk, milk. Every time I yawn, I’m scared I’ll moo.” He then asks Sinkewicz, “Say, look, you had steak again yesterday, didn’t you?,” to which Sinkewicz replies, “And today, chicken Maryland. Oh, brother!” Jefferson’s nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton), then brings Jefferson over a magazine with an article from Elizabeth Lane. While looking the article over, Mary says, “You know, she must be the most wonderful cook in America,” and Jefferson replies, “Yeah. I’ve dreamt about eating one of her seven-course meals.” Mary then begins to read the article aloud: “Yesterday, my son was 8 months old. He’s getting quite companionable. I sat him in the kitchen with me while I prepared dinner. And what a dinner it was. I took crisp lettuce, romaine and crinkly endive from my own garden for my husband’s favorite salad. For this I made a rich, creamy blue cheese dressing. Then to prepare roast duck his favorite way, I rub salt and pepper inside, then brown the duck in its own fat…”
Jefferson then asks Mary to stop reading seeing as he is still unable to eat solid foods so hearing about them is rather torturous. Eventually, he is able to convince Mary to feed him a bit of solid food; however, when the time comes to enjoy his first bite, Jefferson is unable to swallow it.
The next notable food moment comes when Elizabeth is eating sardines while typing at her typewriter. Shortly thereafter, restauranteur and friend, Felix (S.Z. Sakall), arrives holding a serving tray with a mushroom omelette on it for Elizabeth. Excited, Elizabeth says, “Oh, yummy. Mushroom omelette!,” and then asks Felix, “Oh, did you write up those recipes for next month’s article?” When Felix says, “Yes,” Elizabeth asks, “What am I cooking?,” to which Felix replies, “Breasts of grey dove sautéed with peaches Grenadine, no points, chicken soup with Moselle wine, no points…”
Elizabeth then begins to eat her mushroom omelette, and later picks up a piece of toast from the tray, although she never gets around to taking a bite of it before putting it back down.
Following this scene at Elizabeth’s apartment, the next major appearance of food is at Felix’s restaurant, Restaurant Felix. We begin the scene with a close up of the restaurant’s menu, then cut to a shot of Felix tossing a large salad as he is flanked by servers. Elizabeth arrives and orders a double martini at the bar before Felix tells her, “You have to eat something,” and brings her over to a large buffet table covered with a collection of silver serving trays topped with food. Among the various trays, we can clearly see a 3-tier server filled with a medley of fruit including grapes and bananas, as well as a tray in the foreground of the frame housing a large turkey roast.
Following the scene at Felix’s, the next scene to feature food is when Elizabeth and Felix arrive to John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner)’s house in Connecticut. Felix goes to the kitchen to find housekeeper, Norah (Una O’Connor), cooking an Irish stew on the stove.
The remaining several food moments in the film all occur in this very kitchen beginning with later that evening when Yardley enters the kitchen to find Jefferson having a late night snack. Jefferson tells him, “I’m still catching up with my nourishment. Have a drumstick.,” to which Yardley replies, “Don’t mind if I do.” Jefferson then remarks, “Mrs. Sloan can certainly roast a chicken. Cold chicken is my weakness.” When Elizabeth then enters the kitchen, Yardley asks, “Mrs. Sloan, would you mind if I came down and watched you cook breakfast in the morning?” Elizabeth then asks, “Watch me cook breakfast?,” to which Yardley responds, “I remember what you said about the charm of an attractive woman performing her task of flipping flapjacks with the smell of good coffee and sizzling bacon in a sunny kitchen. I’m homesick for a sight like that.”
The next morning Felix tries to teach Elizabeth how to flip flapjacks, although both of Elizabeth’s attempts are quite unsuccessful to say the least. However, when Elizabeth is later asked to flip a flapjack at breakfast in front of an audience at the kitchen table, she flips it perfectly.
Lastly, the final notable food scene takes place the following morning when Felix entices Yardley into the kitchen with the smell of cooking kidneys.
For my vegan food pairing for Christmas in Connecticut, I decided to prepare a selection of items taken from the MENU OF THE MONTH featured in the film: a holiday roast with gravy, buttered green beans, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry-orange relish, lettuce with Russian dressing, and a dinner roll.
I also baked miniature mince pies, and included a festive glass of champagne.
Finally, for the table setting, I added a small vase of red hypericum, which always feels particularly Christmas-y, as well as found a fabric with a Christmas-themed pattern that looks like it could have existed in the 1940s to use as a tablecloth.
And that concludes the 17th and final food & a film entry for 2019! Thank you so much for your support! I truly love working on this little project, as well as love that I have been able to share it with you.
Ultimately I would love to be able to continue food & a film in 2020, and while I realistically will not be able to upload every week like I have these past several months, I am going to be uploading a new post every month on the 1st of the month. There is the possibility that I will be able to upload additional entries as the year goes on, but as of now there will be 12 new entries for 2020. Also, while I have already selected the 12 films for the year, I am always open to receiving suggestions for additional films so feel free to share any you may have.
Again, thank you so much for supporting food & a film!
Until next year!