Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Welcome to Dinner & a Movie

The three things I love most in this life are Asian culture, gourmet cooking, and classic films. So when the webmaster of ThingsAsian offered me my own weblog, there was no need for deliberation over what the theme would be:

Welcome to ThingsAsian Dinner & a Movie. In this daily weblog, throughout the course of each month, I will be sharing with our ThingsAsian readers the process of choosing a classic Asian film, selecting recipes from the country in which the film takes place, designing a menu, shopping for ingredients, setting the table, preparing the meal, enjoying it while watching the film, and finally, writing a film review.

For my inaugural ThingsAsian Dinner & a Movie, I have chosen the 1993 French-Vietnamese classic, The Scent of Green Papaya, directed by Tran Anh Hung. The story of how I first came to see The Scent of Green Papaya is an interesting one that goes all the way back to my high school days. My best friend from high school is Betty Bullock, a Japanese-American woman who is an administrator in the staff development department at the University of South Alabama Medical Center. Although we live thousands of miles apart and rarely see each other, Betty and I have kept in touch over the years, and share a love of Asian film.

Each year, I receive press copies and write reviews of all the Asian entries in San Jose's Cinequest Film Festival for the ThingsAsian website, and in 2003, the best of the batch was a Japanese film called Firefly Dreams. I was so moved by the film that I sent it to Betty for her to enjoy, with the request that she return it so that I could circulate it among my other friends as well. A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from Betty's husband Jimmy, asking whether Firefly Dreams was available for purchase. Before I could reply to tell them to keep the tape, a package from Betty arrived in the mail. Enclosed was an extremely apologetic note, explaining how one of her children had accidentally rolled over on the remote control while the videotape was in the VCR and taped over the first few seconds of the film. What Betty didn't know was that the videotape of Firefly Dreams was just a promotional copy. As a peace offering, she had also enclosed a gift of two of her favorite Asian films, one of which was The Scent of Green Papaya.

All's well that ends well, and after years of catching my eye on the shelves of the foreign film section of my local video store, thanks to my friend Betty, I finally got to see The Scent of Green Papaya. And while I wouldn't categorize it as my very favorite Asian film of all time, it is so sensuous and appetizing and redolent of Vietnamese food and culture that it seemed the perfect choice for my first ThingsAsian Dinner & a Movie weblog. So without further ado, let's make a Vietnamese dinner and watch The Scent of Green Papaya.