Irma's Mexican Restaurant is, according to owner Irma Galvan, "just a little hole in the wall," but its built a reputation that's won her the prestigious James Beard Foundation America's Classic award last year. Galvan spoke to Eating Our Words about her participation in the today's Movies Houstonians Love: Meals on Reels film series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "I'm telling all my friends about this," she says. "[The Museum] called me about six months ago to set it up. Since then, I've been thinking, 'Oh, October will never get here.' And now here it is. Finally!"
Galvan's choice for the screening is the 2001 film Tortilla Soup starring Hector Elizondo as Martin Naranjo, a widower with three grown daughters. An excellent cook, he uses food as a way to keep his increasingly scattered family together. Constance Marie (The George Lopez Show), Elizabeth Peña (Selena, La Bamba), Paul Rodriguez (The Deported, A Million to Juan), and Raquel Welch (American Family) costar.
"I choose [Tortilla Soup] because he cooked a lot of good, old-fashioned dishes for his girls. It reminded me when my husband was still alive and I had my kids, I was always experimenting with different things and they were my [taste testers]. In the movie he's a father cooking for his girls, and they're his taste testers."
With the abundance of films which have food as a major component of the story, Galvan had her choice of movies, but quickly settled on Tortilla Soup. "I thought of the movie Like Water for Chocolate. I love that movie, too, but this one just had a little more atmosphere, with the peppers and everything. I really thought it was a little more colorful, with a colorful kitchen, colorful spices, and just an overall better atmosphere."
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Galvan says that she will probably point out a few things for people to look for in the movie. "The movie says a lot about us, our Mexican culture. So I think people should probably look at the way the guy cooked, the kitchen, and the mole, the spices and the peppers. And that he cooked with love. You cook with love for the people you care for. That's the way I feel at the restaurant; I love my customers."
A strong supporter of the MFAH, Galvan is hopeful the screening will draw a large crowd. "I'm doing it for the museum. I really want to help, because they help kids and families so much. This is what I can do to help them. One of the ladies at the museum told me, 'I'm gonna give you some free tickets for your family.' And I told her, 'I don't want free nothing. We're doing this for the museum, so why am I going to get free tickets? I don't want any, okay?'"
Asked if she had any parting words for Eating Our Words readers, she quickly answered, "Never go hungry!"
See Tortilla Soup today at 7 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.