Best Picture Dinners: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

5 years ago

Of all the movies nominated for an Oscar Best Picture award this year, I had a feeling Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close would be a tough one. I read the novel, so I know the story behind it, but as someone who still, despite my wishes and efforts to the contrary, struggles hard with the events of September 11, I would have probably chosen not to see it had it not been for this Best Picture Dinners series.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not a movie that lends itself to thoughts of a meal. It is a film infused with the images and emotional reminders of what was, for so many, and for the boy at the heart of the film, The Worst Day. But here's the thing of it: when there's emotional upheaval, food can provide comfort. And that's how I decided to design this meal: comfort, inspired mostly by the film, but also by the lives lost that day.

I was not in New York on September 11. I was at work in Washington, D.C., and, at the time, lived in an apartment that overlooked the Pentagon. I'm not going to give the full measure of my experience here, because it's far better than a lot of people's, and certainly not worse, but I will say that it sticks with me, that it has never gone away, and that it doesn't take much to put me back in the dark place I found myself as I lived through it and watched it all happen. After I saw this movie, I dreamed of people falling from high heights for three days.

I'm not going to recommend an appetizer for this meal. This is not a dinner to ease into—it starts quickly, with a stiff drink, because that's what I remember all of us needing that day—stiff drinks with people we loved, all of us telling our stories again and again while we watched the news unfold in an infinite loop.

This was the movie for which a single classic cocktail came to mind before I'd even seen the film: a Manhattan. Kitchen Riffs offers a history of the drink along with the recipe, and this blogger and I agree: rye is the better base spirit for this drink than bourbon, especially in context of this film. Bourbon is too Southern, too sweet, and too soft for a drink to accompany such a hard movie to watch.

For the main course, I wanted a dish that is both comforting and slightly mysterious: pot pie, which provides a full meal, but which requires you to dig in and uncover the deliciousness beneath the surface. What's under there isn't a secret for long, but there is a measure of exploration required to get to the heart of the dish. It is evocative of a story that starts with one quest and continues into another, more desperate one. Any of these pot pie recipes would work great for this meal:

Since we served no appetizer, I'm going to end this meal with two desserts. The first honors Heather Ho, who was a pastry chef at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. Heather was at work that day, and, like everyone else in the restaurant, didn't make it out alive. She is the cousin of a good friend of mine, and though I never met her, I got to hear stories about her and how amazing she was. She was, according to Shuna Lydon of Eggbeater, so proud of Food & Wine publishing her Banana-Bread-and-Butter Pudding recipe, and that's what should be the first dessert.

But there is one more sweet dish to serve. There's really only one food mentioned during the movie, and it's the perfect item to round out this menu: Fig Newtons, which the story's hero packs as fuel for his quest to reconnect with his lost father. If you want to make your own from scratch, try this fig bar recipe from Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker.

What foods did Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close evoke for you? Share your movie-inspired thoughts in the comments below.

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also the Food Section Editor for BlogHer.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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