A New Orleans waitress, determined to own her own restaurant, is unexpectedly turned into a frog.
Released in 2009, The Princess and the Frog marks one of the final hand-drawn animated Disney films, as well as marks the first Disney film to feature a Black Princess. The film is also the first Disney Princess film set in 20th century America (1920s New Orleans to be exact), and is the first Disney film to feature a Princess with a paying job, as well as feature a Princess as a business owner. In addition to being a milestone film for several reasons, The Princess and the Frog is an incredibly food-centric film, especially since it revolves around a woman who is intent on opening her own restaurant. Therefore, due to the film’s culinary-tinged narrative, as well as the many onscreen food moments, it is easy to see why this Disney film would be an excellent choice for a food & a film pairing. Furthermore, since The Princess and the Frog is the first Disney film to feature a Black Princess, as well as seeing as the film is set in New Orleans, it felt like a particularly good time to feature it during Black History Month, and during the time of Mardi Gras.
We are graced with the very first food moment four minutes into The Princess and the Frog when Tiana is making gumbo with her dad. The scene starts with a close-up of the gumbo pot on the stove and we then cut to a shot of Tiana and her dad, James, at the stove with the pot of gumbo in between them. As we watch the closeup of Tiana stirring the gumbo we hear James say, “Mmm. Gumbo smells good, Tiana,” and Tiana replies, “I think it’s done, Daddy.” After James asks her if she is sure, he takes a spoonful of the gumbo from the pot and says, “Okay, I’m about to put this spoon in my…”; however, before he can taste the gumbo, Tiana snatches the spoon from her dad’s hand, takes a bottle of Tabasco and adds a few drops of hot sauce into the pot. Upon adding the Tabasco, Tiana takes a fresh spoonful of the gumbo and tastes it herself before deciding that it’s good to go. Tiana then feeds her dad the spoonful of finished gumbo and James replies, “Well, sweetheart, this is the best gumbo I’ve ever tasted!,” before telling his wife, “Eudora, our little girl’s got a gift.” Eudora replies, “I could’ve told you that,” and James continues saying, “A gift this special just got to be shared.” Tiana then opens the front door to their charming shotgun cottage and announces to the neighbors, “Hey, everybody, I made gumbo!” We then hear a woman say, “Ooh, that smells good,” as well as a man say, “I got some hush puppies, Tiana. Here I come.” The film then cuts to a shot of Tiana, her parents, and their neighbors all eating bowls of gumbo on the front porch of Tiana’s family’s cottage.
Later that night during Tiana’s bedtime, James tells Tiana, “You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces. And when I open up my own restaurant, I tell you, people are going to line up for miles around just to get a taste of my food.” Tiana then corrects him saying, “Our food.” and James responds saying, “That’s right, baby. Our food.”
We then cut to a morning scene in the same bedroom as an adult Tiana comes home from one of her waitressing jobs at Cal’s. Tiana deposits her tip money into an old Bissmans Coffee tin labeled “Restaurant Fund.” In Tiana’s bedroom we can also see a stack of cookbooks including French and Cajan cuisine cookbooks. After this scene, we cut to Tiana reading Ladies International Cookery magazine while riding the streetcar on her way to work at Duke’s, her other restaurant job.
The next food moment in the film comes just seconds later when Tiana is at Duke’s, receiving a massive tray from the kitchen, stacked with numerous plates of food. On the tray we can see a bowl of grits, a plate of fried eggs and bacon, another plate of waffles with butter, syrup and sausage, and another with fruit and more grits, as well as several glasses of orange juice. After Tiana delivers food to some of Duke’s patrons seated at the counter, we then see her drizzling honey on beignets before dusting them in powdered sugar. Tiana then serves a plate of her beignets to a serviceman who proceeds to give her an approving salute upon tasting them.
Throughout this scene at Duke’s we see Tiana pouring coffee in addition to balancing numerous plates as they come out of the kitchen. On the chalkboard located beside the kitchen window, we can see the “Specials” at Duke’s are shrimp creole, fried chicken, and red beans. As Tiana talks to patrons, Buford, the chef, asks Tiana through the kitchen window, “Are you talking about that dang restaurant again?,” and Tiana replies, “Buford, your eggs are burning.” We then see Tiana loading up her tray with a plate of beignets and a teacup & saucer before pouring coffee into the teacup. Tiana then asks Buford, “Where are my flapjacks?,” and Buford adds a plate of flapjacks to Tiana’s tray, as well as gives her another tray with a bowl of grits and a plate of eggs and bacon, and then places a final plate of flapjacks (complete with a melting tab of butter) onto Tiana’s head.
A few seconds later Tiana puts a plate of fresh beignets down in front of ‘Big Daddy’ La Bouff who tells her, “keep them coming till I pass out.” A few moments later, ‘Big Daddy’ La Bouff ends up shoving one of his beignets into the mouth of his daughter, Charlotte (‘Lottie’), to keep her from continuing to interrupt him. After ‘Big Daddy’ and Lottie tell Tiana about the Mardi Gras ball they are throwing that night for Prince Naveen, Tiana tells Charlotte, “Oh, Lottie, that’s swell. A little word of advice. My mama always said, the quickest way to man’s heart is through his stomach.” Lottie then asks Tiana to make 500 of her “man-catching beignets” for her ball that night and gives her a ton of cash for the order. Buford, stunned that Tiana has finally got the funds to get her restaurant, stands in the kitchen window, mouth agape, as the fried egg on his spatula proceeds to slip off the spatula and onto the counter bell, ringing it.
A couple of minutes later after Tiana puts a down payment on the building for her restaurant, Eudora comes up behind Tiana and says, “Table for one, please?.” Eudora then holds up a stock pot adorned with a red ribbon and Tiana says out loud, “Daddy’s gumbo pot.” After the two enter the building, we then have the musical number “Almost There,” and the interior of the building becomes an imaginary version of Tiana’s restaurant, ‘Tiana’s Place’. We see Tiana tasting the red wine, placing a strawberry on top of a slice of cake, and signing off on a menu of “jambalaya, grillades, crawfish étouffée, bananas foster.” We then see chefs in the kitchen preparing gumbo and Tiana adding spice to it, as well as see another chef chopping carrots, radishes and peppers before Tiana takes his knife and chops them all at warp speed. Tiana also stirs whipped cream in a mixing bowl with a whisk before adding dollops of the whipped cream to various confections on a large dessert table covered with cakes, pies and layered mousse desserts. During the number we also see a champagne toast, Tiana eating a cherry (which was meant to top a cake), a boy eating spaghetti & meatballs covered in sauce (which Tiana wipes off as she wheels past him), and a chef cooking shrimp in a skillet (which Tiana adds liquor to, causing it to flambé).
After the “Almost There” number, the next scene to feature food is at the masquerade ball where Tiana is positioned at her beignet station, dusting the beignets with powdered sugar. In addition to the beignets, which are the main food featured at the party, we also see plenty of glasses of red wine, as well as a massive tiered Mardi Gras-themed cake.
Following the masquerade ball, the next food moment in the film comes when an alligator says to Frog Prince Naveen, “You’re going to taste so good basted and battered and fried!” A little later we cut to Lottie and Faux Prince Naveen having champagne in a gazebo before we return to the swamp where Tiana and Naveen meet Louis, the alligator. Upon hearing about Tiana’s restaurant dreams, Louis asks her, “Now, this restaurant of yours, is it going to have étouffée?” Tiana then replies, “Jambalaya, gumbo. It’s going to have it all.,” to which Louis responds, “I’ve always wanted to try red beans and rice, muffulettas, po’ boys.” Naveen then interrupts the conversation saying, “Stop, Louis. You two are making me so very hungry.”
We then hear food mentioned again upon the presence of the frog hunters when one says, “I can taste them frog legs already.,” and another replies, “Bet they taste real good with the sauce piquant, right, Pa?”
A little while later, Louis continues talking about food when he says, “You know what would make me feel better? Crawfish smothered in remoulade sauce…. With some Bananas Foster sprinkled with pralines.” Tiana then asks him, “How about some swamp gumbo?,” to which Louis replies, “That will do.” Naveen then says, “Sounds delicious. I’ll start with a pre-dinner cocktail and something to nibble on while I wait. Thanks.,” before Tiana promptly corrects him, “No, no, no, your royal highness. You are going to mince these mushrooms.” We then have a sequence where Tiana shows Naveen how to mince mushrooms, and we then see Tiana stirring the swamp gumbo in a makeshift stock pot created from what looks like a pumpkin. A minute later, we see the trio enjoying bowls of Tiana’s swamp gumbo.
We then have yet another gumbo moment in the swamp when Tiana and Naveen go to meet with Mama Odie who happens to have a clawfoot tub filled with gumbo. Mama Odie tells Tiana to taste the gumbo and shoves a fingerful of it into Tiana’s mouth before asking, “Well?.” Tiana shares her input, telling her, “Hit is hard with a couple of shots of Tabasco and it’s the bee’s knees.” Mama Odie then calls to her python, Juju, who dutifully adds a couple of drops of hot sauce into the tub. Upon tasting the result, Mama Odie exclaims, “That’s got some zing to it! That’s just what it needed.”
Lastly, final food or drink moments in the film include the champagne and colorful minced produce that Naveen presents Tiana with; Lottie exclaiming, “Cheese and crackers!,”; as well as the final scene of the film at ‘Tiana’s Place’ where people are seated at tables with food and drink, and where Naveen presents his parents with a silver cloche covered tray, which he reveals contains his signature minced produce.
When it came time to decide on my vegan menu pairing for The Princess and the Frog, I certainly had a lot of options to choose from between the food mentioned in the film, as well as the entirety of New Orleans cuisine. In the end, however, there really was only one clear option— gumbo. Not only is gumbo the first food featured in the film, but it also makes additional appearances throughout the film (e.g. swamp gumbo, tub gumbo), therefore solidifying it as the quintessential food component of this pairing.
For dessert, there were also quite a few options I could have gone with; however, similarly to the case of gumbo, there was one dessert that was clearly the only true option to go with— beignets. Not only are beignets featured heavily throughout the film, they are also an essential of New Orleans cuisine, and might I add, absolutely delicious.
In addition, this pairing would have not been complete without a bottle of Tabasco, just in case the gumbo needs to be hit hard with a couple of shots to make it the bee’s knees. Also for beverages, I included a glass of red wine (the drink served at Big Daddy’s Mardi Gras party), and also included a cup of chicory coffee (due to its popularity in New Orleans, and as a result, was most likely what Tiana served at Duke’s).
Finally for the table setting, I found a fabric that I felt is reminiscent of the film’s whimsical art direction, as well as added a bud vase containing a giant magnolia blossom, seeing as it is the official state flower of Louisiana.
And that does it for this month’s installment of food & a film! For more Disney-related content feel free to peruse the entries for Lady and the Tramp, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Alice in Wonderland.
Thanks so much for tuning in, and be sure to check back next month for another new entry!