Every culture has its version of meat-and-potatoes; those classic home-cooked meals that evoke feelings of comfort from the very first bite. Think hot roast dinners with gravy, to spice-laden curries. Soul Food (1997) shows us how it’s done every Sunday at Big Mama’s, where we feast our eyes on the comfort foods of the Deep South.
Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried catfish, collard greens, biscuits and gravy – you might see a trend here. So it’s no big surprise when matriarch, Big Mama passes away from diabetes after years of cooking these family favourites. The death strikes a blow to the close-knit family and drama unfolds at every turn. But in the end, it’s the memory of Big Mama’s food and the importance of being a united family (no matter what), that brings them all back together.
And that’s the strange pull of comfort food – we don’t crave it because it’s good for us, or even because we’re hungry. It allows us to relive happy memories and, if you think about it, it’s the closest thing we have to time travel. Feeling bad? Reach for that indulgent treat – happiness, here we come!
Soul Food isn’t a favourite food film of mine, and there are a couple of themes that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste – namely, a woman should always put her man first and money is the key to happiness. But positives can be found in the classic 90s soundtrack of Boyz II Men, BLACKstreet, Timbaland and Outkast, and some pretty great 90s fashions to boot. Paired with some naughty-but-nice Southern comfort food, I can overlook these details, just. Everything in moderation, right?
Food on Film: Episode 8
Soul Food (USA) directed by George Tillman Jr., 115 minutes, 1997
Good for those who
Understand the pull of comfort food, combined with sass talkin’ women who can throw epic shade.
We rate it
2 out of 5
It’d be a sin to watch this movie without some proper soul food, so get your friends together and make a batch of Mary’s Newtown Fried Chicken and a few sides of Captain Melville’s Bacon Mac n Cheese. Remember to wear loose pants.
More Food on Film episodes
Episode 7: Chocolat (USA)
Episode 6: Eat Drink Man Woman (Mandarin)
Episode 5: The Lunch Box (India)
Episode 4: That Sugar Film (Australia)
Episode 3: Big Night
Episode 2: Babette’s Feast (Denmark)
Episode 1: Tampopo (Japan)