I can still remember the first time I saw “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when Gene Wilder pushed open the giant doors that led into the chocolate room. The eccentric creations of Wonka are introduced as the camera pans across every child’s dream of candy cane trees and chocolate pumpkins, only ending with the satisfying crunch of Willy Wonka taking a bite of a daffodil teacup.
So begins the recent release of Andrew Rea’s cookbook, “Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers.” As a college student, food in movies has always been a source of inspiration, and scenes around a dinner table may be a climactic moment such as the asparagus being flung against the wall in Sam Mendes’ “American Beauty” or Roy Neary’s mashed potato sculpture of devil’s tower in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
A quick glance through the photographs reveals that Rea is dedicated to remaking those beloved creations that have movie audiences sighing at the screen, just wishing a scrap could fall off a character’s plate and into their mouths. However, he is no stranger to entertaining movie and food lovers everywhere.
One year ago, under the username “Binging with Babish,” Rea began uploading videos of his interpretation of movie and TV recipes to YouTube. Following posts on social media platforms such as Reddit, Rea’s channel took off to the pleasure of these “foovies.”
Recipes I tried
Chocolate Truffles from “Chocolat,” Page 48
Giant Pancakes from “Uncle Buck,” Page 72
Butterbeer from the “Harry Potter” series, Page 34
Cooking from the book
With 41 recipes, each accompanied by a high-quality photograph, Rea provides a brief intro to the movie scene from which the recipe originates. Following the standard cookbook layout of yield, ingredients and method, there is a short quote from the scene as well. Each recipe is meticulously thought out by the creator as a way to honor the specific scene in each movie while enjoying the meal in real life.
I first made the chocolate truffles from “Chocolat.” The ganache was smooth and creamy and mimicked the passionate creations of Vianne in the film. The recipe provides for a variety of options for flavors including vanilla, whiskey and mint. The cocoa powder exterior was a bit dry at first bite, but the truffle’s sweet interior overpowered the initial taste.
Next, I attempted the giant pancakes as featured in the 1989 film “Uncle Buck.” Coming from someone who has only ever used pancake mix to make pancakes, I was more than ecstatic when I got large, fluffy pancakes as a result. This recipe was probably my favorite of the three I tried, and biting into my warm, golden creations was just as satisfying.
Finally, I attempted the “Harry Potter” fandom favorite Butterbeer. Seeing the caramel colored liquid in a sturdy mug was enough to make any Potter fan squeal, however, the cream soda base was overwhelming, and it was through adding a few drops of butterscotch syrup to the concoction itself that it produced a more significant flavor.
The foam, I dare say, was the best part, especially watching it rise over the glass rim.
What could be better?
With all praise aside, “Eat What You Watch” is not for the faint of heart. Many of the recipes require very specific ingredients (I’m looking at you, escargots in garlic butter) that can definitely not be purchased at the local Walmart.
What is even harder is the “making everything from scratch” mentality. As a college student, it’s hard to find the time to make the homemade tortillas, pico de gallo, refried beans and guacamole that go into the fish tacos from “I Love You, Man.”
In addition to availability and time constraints, the book could be improved with suggested brands to use as the Butterbeer. Though one would think that the cream soda wouldn’t matter, a specific brand may make all the difference.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by this cookbook. Andrew Rea provides a narrative with each recipe (“Murder and war crimes take a backseat when the flaky confection is finally eaten: a satisfying plop as the whipped cream is doled out, an audible crunch emanating from the layers of pastry and butter, and the sounds of our hearts breaking as Hans plunges a cigarette into his dessert” for the strudel from “Inglourious Basterds”), as well as a countdown of his favorite moments involving food in movies.
The entire cookbook is well thought out and provides an in-depth narrative featuring the wonderful world of food in movies. The recipes, though tricky, are intriguing and left me wanting to try more. Plus, Rea’s beloved meals will make you look like a master at your next movie night.