When a San Francisco socialite visits Bodega Bay, birds begin behaving bizarrely.
Released in 1963, The Birds marks the fifth! film by Alfred Hitchcock to be featured here on food & a film (→ first, second, third, fourth). Seeing as Halloween is at the end of this month, I thought it was only appropriate to go with a horror film for October’s pairing, and since I had not yet featured a Hitchcock film this year, I figured it was the ideal time to feature this cinematic classic.
The very first suggestion of food or drink in The Birds comes about twelve minutes into the film when Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) arrives in Bodega Bay and visits the general store, which has signs for Coca-Cola outside. Inside, as Melanie enters the store, we see shelves of dry goods including boxes of Krispy brand saltine crackers.
A few moments further into the film, when Melanie is struck by a seagull, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) takes her to The Tides Restaurant to address her head wound. As the duo walk from the dock toward the restaurant, we can see from the sign painted on the side of the building that the Tides is a seafood restaurant. While inside the restaurant tending to Melanie’s cut, Mitch invites Melanie over to his family’s house for dinner. From the restaurant Melanie then drives to Annie Hayworth’s (Suzanne Pleshette) house to inquire about renting her spare room for the night, and when Melanie asks about the room, Annie invites her in and tells her, “I just put some coffee on the stove.”
We then cut to Melanie’s arrival to the Brenner residence, where she is met outside by Mitch, his mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), and sister, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). Mitch asks Melanie, “Are You hungry?,” and when she replies, “Reasonably.,” he informs her, “Dinner’s just about ready.” When they get inside the house, Mitch brings out drinks for Melanie and himself while Lydia is on the phone. We then cut to the next scene, which picks up after dinner as Mitch and Lydia are clearing the table. As Mitch and Lydia clean up in the kitchen, we can see a fruit bowl on the table in the lower left hand corner of the frame, as well as a salad bowl, a partial head of iceberg lettuce on a cutting board, and a vinegar bottle. In addition, Mitch is holding a box of something, and judging by the teacups and saucers on the kitchen table in front of him, it is likely a box of cookies to accompany their post-dinner coffee/tea.
Later that evening when Melanie returns to Annie’s, Annie offers her some brandy, to which Melanie responds, “If you have some, I’d love it.” Annie then pours and hands a glass of brandy to Melanie, and upon receiving it, Melanie takes a sip. A little further into their conversation, Annie gets a glass of brandy for herself and takes a sip.
Following the scene at Annie’s, we cut to Mitch and Melanie the next day, walking along sand dunes with drinks in hand as Cathy’s birthday party takes place on the green lawn below. In addition to their martini glasses, Mitch holds a carafe presumably filled with gin or vodka. As Mitch goes to refill Melanie’s glass, Melanie protests saying, “No, I really shouldn’t have any more. I’m driving.,” to which Mitch responds, “Well actually I’m trying to get you to stay for dinner. A lot of roast beef left over.”
Shortly thereafter, we see Lydia exit the house carrying a large birthday cake for Cathy, complete with pink icing and birthday candles. Lydia steps out of frame, presumably to place the birthday cake onto the buffet table, which we see just a few seconds later during the birthday party bird attack. In addition to the birthday cake, on the table is a platter of crustless sandwiches cut intro triangles, as well as a large punch bowl and paper drink cups filled with red fruit punch.
Following the birthday party bird attack, Mitch says to Melanie, “Stay to have something to eat before you head back. I’d feel a lot better.” We then cut to the three Brenners and Melanie as they are about to have a casual dinner of presumably roast beef sandwiches while seated on the upholstered conversational furniture in the living room. We can see their plates from a distance; however, we never get a closeup of their dinner before their meal is cut short by another bird attack.
A few scenes later, Melanie brings Lydia tea in bed. Upon entering Lydia’s bedroom carrying a tray topped with a teapot, teacup & saucer, sugar pot and creamer pitcher, Melanie says, “I thought you might like some tea.” Lydia takes a sip from the teacup, and as Lydia talks to Melanie about her late husband, she says, “You know, sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I think ‘I have to make Frank’s breakfast,’ and I get up and there’s a very good reason for getting out of bed until… until, of course, I remember.”
The next notable food scene occurs back at the Tides Restaurant, which sort of acts as a place of refuge in the film. A female server calls toward the kitchen: “Sam…Three Southern fried chicken. Baked potato on all of them.,” and another female server says to the bartender: “Two Bloody Marys, Deke.” A fisherman named Shoules is seated at a booth with multiple plates of food on the table in front of him, although we are unable to see exactly what is on the plates. A man enters the restaurant, walks up to the bar, takes a seat and orders: “Scotch. Light on the water.” One of the servers then asks Shoules if he wants some more coffee. In this scene we also see a mother and her two children seated at a booth eating lunch. Judging by the baked potatoes on their plates, presumably they are the table that ordered the “three southern fried chicken.” In addition to their plates of food, there is a bread basket on their table. Aside from the trio’s lunch, the only other food item that we can clearly make out is a slice of pie on the counter, which Shoules helps himself to upon switching seats from his booth to the bar counter. Finally, the last food or drink moment in the restaurant scene occurs when the man who had ordered the scotch, chugs his entire glass before leaving to drive.
The final food or drink moments in the film occur back at the Brenner residence and include a fruit bowl sighting on the coffee table, a large coffee percolator on the same coffee table in the next scene along with teacups & saucers, and lastly, after Melanie is attacked, Mitch asks Cathy to get some brandy. Cathy brings over the bottle with a glass, and after Mitch pours brandy into the glass, he brings the glass to Melanie’s lips.
For my culinary homage to The Birds, I wanted to use the film’s restaurant as inspiration, especially since The Tides Restaurant featured in the film is an actual restaurant that still exists to this day. Since I unfortunately was not able to get my hands on a menu from the early 60s, I settled for a meal inspired by their current menu, however, I figure they probably had the classic seafood restaurant staples of crab cakes and chowder on their menu 57 years ago. To make my menu vegan, I used these in lieu of crab cakes and made a vegan Bodega Bay chowder complete with oyster cracker topping.
Then to accompany my vegan seafood, I went with not one, but two alcoholic drinks: a martini inspired by Mitch & Melanie’s drinks on the dunes, and a brandy seeing as the drink appears in multiple scenes of the film. Also, to end the meal, I included a cup of tea paired with a few vanilla wafers, which seemed like they could have been what Mitch was holding a box of in the kitchen after the first dinner.
Finally, for the table setting, I used a green fabric inspired by the green suit Tiddi Hedren wears throughout the film, as well as created a little menu card based on the actual sign for The Tides Restaurant as it appears in the film.
Thank you so much for tuning in for October’s installment of food & a film! If you are in the Halloween spirit and would like additional food & horror film pairings, check out the entries for Jaws, Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Ghostbusters, The Exorcist, Beetlejuice, and Halloween. Be sure to check back next month for a new entry for the month of November. Until then!