Food on Film: Goodbye Lenin!

13 Feb

He knew how to have a (Communist) Party..

This German movie, from 2003, is a sweet-and-sad comedy in which a widow – a politically active defender of the GDR -falls into a coma and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her son Alex and daughter Ariane try to conceal this from her, scared the shock will finish her off, and in doing so are stretched to preposterous lengths to recreate the old East which is also falling away around them.

Alex learns to recreate her favourite – and utterly naff – tv programmes and tirelessly scouts out vile and outdated foodstuffs – including pretty grim looking pickled gherkins.

It’s a film that conjours up the time of a food not just the place. It’s easy to think about foods of a place (the best pasta I ever ate in Sienna one dusty Summer or the first time I tried pho in a dirty hot cafe in Hanoi) but sometimes it’s poignant and fun to think about food that was eaten years ago, rather than miles away.

For me it’s the Findus Crispy Pancake (eeuuuurgh), the utterly amazing Artic Roll, or the slightly crapper Vienetta.  Tutti-frutti Gino Genelli made a big impact on me when I was little, and in retrospect it would seem that I ate alot of icecream. I remember begging my mum to buy slices of processed ham that had cartoon characters formed into the meat –  Jeez : how gross! – and spending what could have been hours in the local newsagent trying to work out the most ingenious combination to maximise my pocket money on penny sweets and pic n’mix.  It’s strange to think of  all of these flavours, some of them questionable, which are lost now.


2 Responses to “Food on Film: Goodbye Lenin!”

  1. epokeefe February 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    You’re right about it being “fun to think about food that was eaten years ago”. The Germans who lived in the East when there were two Germanys are very nostalgic of the cars they drove, the identical coffee table found in everyone’s living room, the food they ate and many other things that didn’t survive reunification. I now live in Germany and often relish the memory of foods of my American childhood.

    • wouldliketoeat February 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

      That’s really interesting – thanks for your comment! I know when I went to Berlin they had these “Trabi” tours that explored the city the East of the wall, which seemed a little melancholy but very sweet.

      I always feel like – probably due to my love of Hollywood movies – I have a fondness for American food beyond what is natural for a girl from Birmingham! Pop Tarts, Jell-o, Riesens, Tootsie rolls, Taco Bell – they all carry an exoticism for me that’d probably make most Americans laugh!

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