Food for the ages

We went to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood this week. It’s a period piece, set in Los Angeles in 1969.

I am a child of that age, and so the many iconic references in the movie resonated with me, like the product packages on the kitchen counters of the movie’s characters.

Something as mundane as a box of Kraft Dinner or Wheaties cereal might seem like a very minor detail, but things like that are anchors for an age just as the songs on the radio are significant.

Having those details authenticates the scenes, because they were in almost every household of the time.

I bet you have foods that you remember from your childhood.

Do you remember Wheaties, and all the champions on the box? I do have memories of the Wheaties commercials and all the famous athletes who told us they had their Wheaties when they worked to be the best.

In our house, Grape Nuts and Muffets Shredded Wheat were the favourite stand-bys.

My Dad used to say that he and his sister had to put the cardboard that came between the layers of Muffets in their shoes to keep from getting cold in Winnipeg winters.

I always thought that was like saying he had to walk to school in minus 40-degree weather all winter. It was just to show me that such experiences built character, made us stronger.

Ironically, many of the products of that age were also supposed to build character.

Kraft Dinner was a fast and inexpensive meal that claimed it was also wholesome. We didn’t have it often, but it was the go-to meal when my parents were going to be late and my brother and I had to make dinner for ourselves.

Although Wheaties is still around, Grape Nuts and Muffets are no longer sold in Canada (you can still find them in the United States). Kraft Dinner is still an iconic food though, generations later; it is consumed even more often in Canada than in the U.S.

Did you know it’s often listed as an example of typical Canadian food by immigrants when they are surveyed?

The character in the movie – Brad Pitt – ate his KD out of the pot, not even adding milk but just the cheese powder. We used to kick ours up a notch with added veggies and a bit of grated cheese stirred into the sauce.

Two typical examples of how this one little blue box managed to be both a single guy’s simple meal and a balanced dinner for the kids. No wonder they chose it to be featured in a movie.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was an interpretation of a time in history. It created characters that were supposed to be iconic, at least on the screen. But the iconic products it used to showcase that time were real. They were much of what made the characters relatable.

Isn’t it funny how food can be an equalizer? Even in Hollywood, they eat Kraft Dinner and Wheaties. Even in a movie, they eat real food.

Sometimes it might be the martinis and caviar of James Bond’s world and most of us only imagine what that would be like around our own tables.

When it’s something like Kraft Dinner, we can identify with the character like they were someone we know, someone we can understand, at least in that moment.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to suggest that Quentin Tarantino’s portrayal of the world is a normal one.

It’s just that his talent for showing us an authentic normal world is as good as his passion for making a parody of gratuitous violence. He knows how to set a scene, and that can make for staying power.

Classic movie scenes, like classic food, stick with us as representations of our lives.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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