Films for Foodies: The Silence of the Lambs
"Tell me, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?" Oh, now I want lamb!
Movie studios scramble to have big-name stars headline their films, but in many of my favorite movies food is the star. Few things are better than pairing a foodie film with a great meal so we can enjoy ourselves just as much as the folks onscreen are enjoying their own aliments. In this series, we'll highlight a movie in which food plays a leading role and suggest one or more local spots to provide an accompanying feast for you. Pull up a table and dim the lights, the show's about to begin.
Synopsis The movie, based on the novel by Thomas Harris, begins with rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling being given the task of interviewing incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter to obtain his help in the pursuit of another serial killer, Buffalo Bill, who skins his victims. Lecter, a former psychiatrist, is in prison for killing and eating multiple victims. He seems to take a liking to Starling, and after a U.S. senator's daughter is kidnapped, presumably by Buffalo Bill, Starling is instructed to offer Lecter a transfer to another prison if he helps in Buffalo Bill's capture.
During their conversations, Lecter is able to coax Starling into telling him about her childhood, even though she was warned not to give him any details of her life. As part of his deal with the FBI, Lecter is flown to Tennessee, where he does help Starling with the case in exchange for more personal information. While Starling is out hunting down Buffalo Bill, Lecter brutally kills two guards, escapes and disappears.
Warning: Go directly to page 2 to avoid spoilers!
Poor Dr. Lecter. It's hard to eat when your mouth is covered like that.
Starling ends up in Ohio at the home of a man who she believes is a childhood friend of Buffalo Bill but who turns out to be the serial killer himself. A game of cat and mouse throughout the dark house ensues, and Starling eventually shoots and kills Buffalo Bill just as he cocks his gun to shoot her.
Later, at her graduation from the FBI Academy, Starling gets a call from Lecter, who's now in Bimini. He assures her he won't come after her, but she says she can't promise the same. Lecter says he has to go, because he's "having an old friend for dinner," and as the film ends, Lecter stalks his former prison warden through the streets before disappearing into the crowd.
Why this is a foodie film Even if you've never seen The Silence of the Lambs, you probably know the iconic line from the clip above. In both the novels (there are prequels and sequels to The Silence of the Lambs) and the film, Dr. Lecter is portrayed as a gourmet with a very refined palate. It just so happens that he's also a cannibal, so sometimes his meals include questionable meats -- though they're always served as if prepared by a three-star chef.
Lecter makes his feelings about the subpar food he's served in prison abundantly clear, and he also makes sure people know about his cannibalistic proclivities. Though it's not shown in this film, in the sequel, Hannibal, Lecter hosts a lavish dinner with human ingredients for the main course.
A TV show called Hannibal premiered this year, and it focuses much attention on Lecter's cooking and gourmet sensibilities. The TV program, more so than the film, is a feast for the eyes, but the film is such a classic that it can't be overlooked.
Best food scene While food and cannibalism are discussed in the film more than they are actually pictured, there is an epic scene where Lecter is being brought dinner by two prison guards and, well, take a look:
What you should eat Okay, so The Silence of the Lambs isn't overtly about food, but I'd bet Anthony Hopkins's delivery of the line about liver with fava beans and Chianti is part of what won him the Oscar for Best Actor. To honor that, I recommend you go to Charivari, the winner of Best Foie Gras in this year's Best of Houston® 2013.
The duck liver (because I couldn't find a place that sold human liver in Houston -- go figure) at Charivari comes to the table generously portioned and pan-seared until the outer layer is almost crispy and the interior practically melts when you cut it open. It's served with brown sugar-glazed apples in a marsala-wine reduction that chef Johann Schuster terms "Budapest Style."
Lecter was more into Italian food than he was Hungarian food, but you can rectify that situation by picking up a bottle of "nice Chianti" to go along with your foie at just about any wine shop in town. Ask to see if they have a recommendation on what might be Dr. Lecter's favorite.
Let's steer clear of human liver and partake of some lovely duck liver from Charivari, shall we?
Photo by Heather Vidrine
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