• Giorgio Pintzas Monzani

Food Movies, Episode Two: Frida

Here we will discuss a film which many have labelled one of the best biographical films ever.

Created in 2002 by American director Julie Taymor, it represents, in an excellent way, the life, the psychology, the soul and the pain of one of the greatest painters of all time: Frida Kahlo.

We are certainly not here to analyze or discuss the works of the painter, nor to make a criticism of the classic film.

And above all, do not expect stories about the painter's social life or her "long tablecloth" lunches.

Instead, we are going to see two scenes and frames from the film, that bring food and the culture of it to a level almost equal to the surrealism of the Mexican artist.



Photo: Familia Kitchen


A FIRST DAY OF MARRIAGE... TURBULENT AND FOOD'S FAULT

"What a wonderful mole," Frida exclaims.

"Lupe's special recipe (...) She brought it down for us while you were sleeping". And boom... all in the bin.

So begins the very first morning of marriage for Frida and Diego Rivera.

Not bad, huh?

The wedding between the two Mexican artists was, in fact, celebrated the day before:

Party, food, alcohol and hymns to Central American communism.

However, it is not the celebratory dinner and its dishes that we will talk about, but the following breakfast.

Frida stayed in bed longer than her spouse, and so, once she woke up, she found a delicious and special dish in the kitchen.

It was black mole, a typical preparation of the area and the state of Oaxaca.

Mole’s name comes from the ancient Aztec language, indicating a generic sauce.

The black one contains as many as 34 different ingredients, including: chilis (at least 6 different types), breadcrumbs, corn flour, nuts, peanuts, avocado, chocolate and many aromatic components.

That morning it had been prepared by Diego's ex-wife, Lupe, as well as the mother of his children, who lived upstairs: without Frida's consent.

Once she realized that her new husband was not the expert cook, she threw the dishes in the garbage and stormed upstairs.

Thus opens a pivotal scene in Frida's story and feeling.

"He lives for it (mole). So, if you are here to stay, you better learn how to do it." Says the ex-wife.

In short order, Frida finds herself in Lupe's kitchen, discovering the secrets of mole, accompanied by some excellent tequila.

Thanks to the food and the scents, the ingredients, and the "cooking lesson", the tension between the two women is eased, and from now on they will cease to be enemies.

Frida, sitting at this homely, colorful and authentic table, understands that she can only accept Diego for who he is.

Cause and cure: both roles in this scene are filled by food, by a dish.


AMERICAN BREAKFAST...

Diego is called to exhibit in the new museum of modern art in New York: surprisingly, he asks Frida to accompany and follow him to the conquest of "Gringolandia".

And there it was, the "capital" of the thirties: glitz, modernity, sensuality and freedom; words that in the eyes of the Mexican painter seemed like dreams.

Unfortunately, reality did not take long to reveal itself.

Diego changed neither his personality nor attitude: his behavior towards Frida continued to be stained by betrayals, which, according to him, "is not a lack of loyalty, but only of fidelity".

Just in the first period of her stay in the American territory, Frida finds herself in confidence, even of an erotic nature, with one of Diego's lovers: Gracie.

It is precisely in an exchange of jokes between the two women that we see a transformation, an evolution, on Frida's part.

Kahlo explains to the young American:

"You weren't the first, and you won't be the last…

Diego's how he is, and that's how I love him; I cannot love him for what he's not."

But what about the food? The food culture?

The scene takes place in a New York diner: already, in itself, a very different place compared to the colors, and harmony of Coyoacan (Frida's homeland).

Even the dishes mark a certain diversity.

The menu: "Two loose eggs, hot cinnamon bun, two black coffees". No mole, no pozole, no tequila.

The change, the resignation, the sadness of Frida's mature words, finds contour in a sad, simple and fast diner food.

A modernization of the concept of conviviality, which plays a bold function to the speech of the "new" Frida.

From Lupe's familiar kitchen, where Frida hears for the first time what she didn't want to hear about Diego; to the misanthropic diner in New York, where it is she who reveals to Gracie, but above all to herself, that life doesn't have the colors "de la revoluciòn".

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