Films for Foodies: Waitress

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.

Waitress (2007)

Synopsis Waitress was originally an independent film shown at Sundance, but it was so well received that Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired the rights and distributed it across the country. So if you've seen it, thank Fox.

The story takes place in a small town in the Deep South, where Jenna (Keri Russell) is a waitress at Joe's Pie Diner, owned by the gruff and curmudgeonly Joe (Andy Griffith). At Joe's, Jenna gets to flex her creative muscle by inventing unique pies, often inspired by her life, like the "I Hate My Husband" pie, because, well, she does.

Jenna is trapped in a loveless marriage with the controlling jerk Earl (Jeremy Sisto). When she finds out she's pregnant, she decides to try even harder to break away from her husband and get out of town. She thinks pies might be her salvation.

She begins seeing her prenatal physician, Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), who has just moved to town with his wife, a resident at the local hospital. After several appointments, the two begin an affair, and Jenna worries alternately about ruining Jim's marriage, being killed by her own husband for cheating on him, and her impending motherhood.

Go directly to page two to avoid spoilers.

At the hospital before the baby is born, Jenna runs into Joe, who is there for an operation. He gives her a card, but she's too preoccupied to open it. While she's in labor, her doctor's wife comes in to check on her, and Jenna can tell by the way she looks at Dr. Pommater that the two are truly in love.

Once Jenna has her baby, a girl she names Lulu, her husband grows suspicious that she loves the baby more than she loves him. Feeling a renewed strength, she informs him that she hasn't loved him in a long time, and that she wants a divorce. Earl is escorted out of the room.

Later, while preparing to leave the hospital, Jenna remembers the card Joe gave her. She opens it, and finds a check for more than $200,000 and a note encouraging her to start a new life. Jenna's coworkers then tell her that Joe is in a coma and has left the pie shop to her.

On her way out of the hospital, she runs into Dr. Pommater and ends things with him because she knows he has a good life with his wife. The movie then skips ahead several years, and we see Jenna and her daughter making pies then closing up Lulu's Pie Shop for the evening and heading home.

Why this is a foodie film

Well, to state the obvious, this film is about a diner and involves a lot of pie. The pies serve as markers of major events and emotions in Jenna's life, demonstrating how great a role food plays in some people's stories. In Waitress, pies serve as chapter markers, guiding the viewer through the story.

So there's the film scholar's take. The other reason this is a foodie film is all the gorgeous food shown in it. Yes, it's diner food, but the diner is clearly a step above the average greasy spoon. The movie also portrays (comedically) what it's like to be a waitress in a small town, where pretty much every customer is a regular.

Best food scene

The best scenes are the short snippets showing Jenna making pies. They're pithy and visually alluring, so much so that people have actually created recipes for each pie Jenna mentions in the movie.

Unfortunately, Waitress is kind of a sleeper hit, so there aren't any clips of the film (that I can find) on YouTube beyond what's in the trailer. The video above does show most of the pie scenes though, and the music it's set to ain't that bad.

Sidenote: Can anyone tell me what language those subtitles are?

What you should eat Um, pie, duh.

But seriously, doesn't this movie just make you crave pies of all sort, both sweet and savory?

If it's savory meat pies you're after, look no further than Blackbird Foods. Chef and owner Angela Rowley bakes English-style pies, as well as pies with a more Cajun influence, and sells them at farmers markets and bars around town. Check out Blackbird Foods pies at the Hay Merchant and at Eastside Farmers Market on Sundays.

For something a little sweeter, you might have to wait a while, unless you feel like a drive. If you know me at all, you know I'm borderline obsessed with House of Pies. The one on Kirby is still closed for repairs, resulting from a fire that happened back in early November, but the one on Westheimer between Fountain View and Hillcroft is still open for business. I recommend the Bayou Goo pie. It's much better than the name suggests.

And then, of course, if you want your pie delivered right to your door, there's Goode Company, whose Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie is the stuff of legend.

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