PLUS an EASY RECIPE FOR VEGAN CUBAN SANDWICHES…
We recently saw the new movie, “Chef,” starring the many fabulous talents of Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr. and Oliver Platt and last, but definitely a rising star, Emjay Anthony as “Percy.” Having seen the appealing trailer for this film several times, I was looking forward to seeing it, mainly because comedies that are clever, thoughtful and mature are almost as hard to find in theaters these days as a really great bag of popcorn, but don’t get me started on that.
Whether you have seen the film or not, (and there will be no spoilers found here), it is obviously all about food and I do love a great movie about food. Loved Julie and Julia, Big Night, Ratatouille, loved Like Water for Chocolate, omg loved Chocolat! I think “Chef” is the first movie about food that I’ve seen since becoming vegan, though, so did that affect my interest in, opinion about and reaction to the film? The answer to that question is yes, yes and, a most resounding, yes!
The theme in “Chef” that spoke to me most strongly was how each person’s connection with food is so very personal and even intimate, at times. The movie endearingly portrays how people actually have both simple and complex relationships with what they eat, which parallels, enhances and sometimes, even rivals their relationship with other people in their lives. How one prepares food is as important as how we serve and eat it—I felt that “Chef” portrayed how love and passion is the first ingredient in every recipe!
Perhaps the best and altogether most personally offensive scene in the film happened in the beginning when a giant, dead pig wrapped in plastic was carried into the kitchen of Chef Jon Favreau’s restaurant and deposited on the counter for butchering. I truly do not know whether this is a realistic portrayal of the goings on behind the scenes of your local restaurant. But I think it’s ever so important for people to see where their food (and by food, I really mean meat, especially) comes from.
Right from the word “go, the viewer is reminded that all the beautifully plated food that arrives in front of you at a restaurant or that sits wrapped in plastic and frozen in the supermarket was a whole, living breathing animal at one time. It’s amazing to me how disconnected most people are to this obvious fact and how repulsed they were (from the audible moans and groans in the theater) at this scene showing the actual animal from where all the many, many Cubano sandwiches are derived for the next 2 hours of the film. In this case, it’s a pig but I’m sure a calf, chicken or duck would have elicited a similar revulsive reaction.
As in almost every movie I’ve seen recently, there is a passing negative comment about veganism and it would seem to natural for “Chef” to be no exception. The John Leguizamo character lightly ridicules the little boy, played by Emjay Anthony, for a momentary eating hesitation with a derisive, “What are you, a vegan?” comment. Yes, we are usually the butt of jokes, it’s true, but I see it as an affirmation that we are out there in growing numbers and influence. This scene reminded me that most children are taught at a young age to ignore their honest feelings of compassion about eating the animals they read about in books and delight in at petting zoos.
I can understand how this movie may be challenging to watch for vegans, vegetarians, and possibly animal lovers of all kinds. It was difficult at times for me but, truthfully, it affirmed my own personal decision to eat a plant-based diet. Maybe it will even turn some omnivores into herbivores! The evolving connections between the Chef and his son, his friends, his ex-wife and the restaurant reviewer form the universal themes of the story but Chef’s relationship with food is the show. Even if you have to cover your eyes (like I did) during the pig scene and are turned off by the Cubano sandwiches (like I was), “Chef” is rich with relatable human ideals and a story of entertaining and emotional journeys.
If you do see the movie and you are hankering for a Cuban Sandwich without the animal derived ingredients, here’s an easy recipe that is sure to please….
Ellen’s Easy Vegan Cuban Sandwich Inspired by “Chef”
- Crispy long sandwich rolls or bread cut into 6 inch slices
- Overripe (black) plantains, sliced
- Sour pickles, sliced
- sliced tomatoes
- iceberg lettuce leaves
- Vegan Mayo (Veganaise)
- Dijon mustard
- Sliced vegan cheese (almond-based or soy based is good)
- Vegan Bologna or Vegan Ham (Tofurkey)
- Earth’s Balance
- 1) Sautè both sides of the plantain slices in a frying pan in some Earth’s Balance for 5 or so minutes until soft and golden and set aside
- 2) On the inside of the crispy long rolls, spread a thin layer of vegan mayo and Dijon mustard on both sides
- 3) Layer pickles, cooked plantains, vegan cheese slices, vegan bologna or vegan ham, lettuce, tomatoes slices on bread
- 4) Spread a thin layer of Earth’s Balance on the outside of the roll, both sides
- 5) Spray frying pan with non-stick spray or melt some Earth’s Balance and heat it up to medium high
- 6) Set sandwich in to brown for 2 minutes, putting pressure on it with another pan or spatula. Turn over and repeat.
- Note: If you have a panini maker, then by all means, use it!