The first five minutes are enough The Taste of Things, to fall in love. Not of Juliette Binoche or Benoit Magimel, but of their cuisine. In full light, on the wooden table or on the stove, the protagonist is the food which takes up all the space available. So much so that it overshadows everything else, with all due respect to the beautiful love story between the two protagonists. Because here the evident passion is for dishes and recipes, right from the first images. The ingredients speak, cooked or raw, cut, caressed, moved, poured from one container to another. Always in the foreground, always attractive, so much so that the film at times seems to be a cross between food porn (of quality) and ASMR videos (in which you can hear the sounds produced by food). And more than once you have the impression of smelling the food coming out of the pans, or the flavor of the morsel arriving slowly and elegantly on the tip of a fork.

The meaning of Il Gusto delle Cose, the French film with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel, finally also in Italian cinemas (it was released in France on November 23, and was awarded at Cannes for best director), it is not so much (or only) in the love story between a gastronome and his personal cook. But in a phrase, which if repeated today even far from the French countryside of the late nineteenth century is still true: iTaste is culture and memory. Dodin says this to his young pupil Pauline, the only time she tastes a food, marrow, that she doesn’t like.

This film is above all culture and memory of French culinary art, with references, quotes, anecdotes, recipes and bottles of wine, popular and precious ingredients. But not only. It is also a taste for authentic, sincere and sometimes ugly things like those lumpy carrots that come out of a garden that is still not very Instagrammable. It is the taste for the things of life, not just cooking.

For this reason, without giving spoilers, we have gathered together some curiosities that can be useful for those who have already seen the film and have already fallen in love with it, or for those who want to give it a try.

The book that inspired Tran Anh Hung

Marcel Rouf wrote it in 1924 and it is titled “The Life and Passion of Dodin-Bouffant, Gourmet”. The film is, by choice of director and screenwriter Tran Anh Hung, a sort of prequel. The novel begins with the sudden death of Eugenie Chatagne on her way home from the market. The French-Vietnamese director instead preferred to tell her life alongside Dodin. Many think that this is a true story, but in fact the gastronome Dodin-Bouffant never existed. However, Rouff himself, in addition to being a writer, was a renowned culinary critic. So much so that with Curnonsky he is recognized as the inventor of gastronomic guides. Together they wrote the 28 volumes of “La France gastronomique: Guide des merveilles culinaires et des bonnes auberges françaises”.

Eugenie’s favorite book

The book that Eugenie shows to Pauline is that of Marie Antonin Careme, chef and writer who first defined the codes of haute cuisine. He wrote the “Art de la Cuisine Française” in 1833: 5 volumes, where in addition to hundreds of recipes and menus, presentations and mise en place proposals are also discussed. Inside there is the history of French cuisine and also instructions on the organization of the kitchen (from which the concept of the brigade was born). Carême is also credited with the invention of the chef’s hat and the reclassification of sauces into groups starting from the four mother sauces (bechamel, Spanish, velvety, tomato).

Careme and Escoffier, the most celebrated chefs

Certainly Auguste Escoffier who for Dodin “allows us to dream of the future”. For the director it was important to give precise cultural references. “Only 13 years have passed since the death of Antonin Careme and the birth of Auguste Escoffier – he said – who with Cesar Ritz and his hotels, built a culinary empire in Europe – in Monaco, London and finally in Paris. Escoffier and Ritz were the first to understand the importance of illuminating a beautiful place with high-profile cuisine. Even today, Escoffier remains a point of reference and inspiration for many chefs.”

Gagnaire’s dishes, three Michelin stars in Paris

Behind the dishes of Il Gusto delle Cose is the supervision of Pierre Gagnaire, three Michelin stars in Paris (but also 15 restaurants with 12 stars in total). The director and the chef did not know each other before shooting the film. He personally tried and tested the recipes designed for the film, adding and removing ingredients and dishes. He cooked the main dishes for three days, for the director, and for the crew who filmed his movements, so that the actors could replicate them in the most realistic way possible. However, he didn’t cook during filming. He appears in the film as the culinary officer de bouche of the Prince of Eurasia.

Who actually cooked in the movie

On set, the task of supervising the kitchen was entrusted to Michel Nave who worked with Gagnaire for 40 years. Just to shoot the Pot au Feu scene, Nave used 40 kilos of meat: raw, for the first images, and then it had to be perfect to see and film in all stages of preparation. He cooked behind the set, in often precarious conditions, but he confessed that he had a lot of fun.

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About the Pot au Feu (original title of the film)

Pot-au-Feu is a very popular dish, which corresponds to our boiled meat. Careme called it “the staple food of the nation’s working class.” So, when Dodin proposes to serve it to the prince of Eurasia, his friends raise their eyebrows. Can an inelegant, inglorious, fat-smelling dish (to use Dodin’s words) transform into food worthy of a king? However, a deluxe version of the dish can be eaten in Paris at Pierre Gagnaire

The first meal

Thirty minutes of film, more or less the initial ones, focus on lunch. The butter is clarified, the fish is gutted, the sauté is cooked and the liquids are filtered and filtered again. Tran follows every detail with her room. The most choreographic dishes are the seafood vol-au-vent (the director’s favourite, and on the menu at Gagnaire); then there is the turbot with vin jaune sauce; rack of veal with braised lettuce; and omelette norvégienne (Baked Alaska in English), the flambé dessert with ice cream inside.

The food was really good

Often during film shoots, fake food is usually used, modified according to the shooting needs. Here, however, everything was real. And very appetizing. So much so that the actors often continued to eat the dish even after filming ended. Sometimes they were even scolded for this, because the plates were used for other images.

Because Binoche and Benoit “work” well together

Luckily for the director, both Juliette and Benoit are gourmets in real life. They love food and they love to cook. This is why they are so comfortable with the film, the movements, and the ingredients. They didn’t have to study before getting in front of the camera. Chef Nave guided them in the various steps voice-over, a voice which then disappeared during the editing phase.

Where to find recipes

Now at home, for those who want to try some French recipes seen in the film, there are a couple of books that can be useful. French Country Cooking – Postcards from a village immersed in the vineyards of Mimi Thorrisson (Guido Tommasi Editore, 2016) where there is Pot Au Feu, Turbot with Vin Jaune Sauce and various other wonders. And then the super classic The Art of French Cuisine by Julia Child recently published in Italy by Giunti.