Another great video essay from Matt Zoller Seitz: Feast, a tribute to images of food on film.
Cooking, perhaps more than any activity, lets an actor exude absolute physical and intellectual mastery without seeming domineering or smug. Why is that? It’s probably because, while cooking is a creative talent that has a certain egotistical component (what good cook isn’t proud of his or her skills?), there’s something inherently humbling about preparing food for other people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a workaday gangster footsoldier giving lessons on how to cook for 20 guys, like Richard Castellano’s Clemenza in The Godfather, or a hyper-articulate, super-fussy kitchen philosopher like Tony Shalhoub in Big Night, (“To eat good food is to be close to God…”), when you’re cooking, it’s ultimately not about you; it’s about the people at the table. Their approval and pleasure is the end game.