There’s nothing quite like watching a movie scene full of mouthwatering food to send a surge of cravings to your gut. It’s only natural to get hungry while watching Tita cut into chicken and rose petal sauce in Like Water for Chocolate, or to feel ravenous for Clemenza’s meatball sauce from the Godfather. While it’s emotionally safe to admit that slow-panned shots of feasts make us ready to raid the fridge, there’s a whole different subset of movie foods that conjure a far more confusing desire.

Just as a smashed Airhead on the sidewalk can awaken childhood sensory memories of chowing down on White Mystery flavor (which was always grape), some movie foods draw out a nostalgic hunger despite how gross they are. Hunger is a fickle sensation that responds to both the most gorgeous sensory triggers and seemingly unappetizing fare, and few phenomena prove this more than movie scenes that look delicious against the odds.

The Giant Cookie From Honey I Shrunk The Kids

Is there any cookie in the history of children’s movies that holds more singular power than the giant oatmeal cookie from Honey I Shrunk the Kids? While there’s nothing counterintuitive about getting hungry for a cookie, in the context of this movie this hunk of sugary goodness has seen some things. 

Honey I Shrunk the Kids

Buena Vista Pictures

Let's just say that creme filling is off-white now. 

First of all, this cookie has been sitting in the grass long enough there’s no denying it’s served as an outhouse for nearby bugs. If the sweet protective Ant (RIP king) didn’t previously use the cookie as a urinal, you know another bug has by now. Even if the cookie somehow escaped the many potential body horrors, it’s been on the ground long enough to gather that specific bitter taste of dandelions and grass.

Nonetheless, despite the gross truth looming over this giant cookie, it looks like pure dessert heaven on the screen. The sheer size of the cookie with its generous creme filling and perfectly soft crust is what snack dreams are made of.

When the kids chow down on gooey handfuls of this confection, it’s the hygiene equivalent of snorting coke off a bathroom seat. Maybe that's why they love it so much.

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The Christmas Oranges In The 1994 Little Women

Holiday scenes consistently take the cake when it comes to drool-inducing food shots. The 1994 Little Women serves as a great example of this trend, with meal scenes so delicious you can almost handle Marmee’s endless aphorisms. And yet, among the legitimately ornate breakfast shots, the Christmas orange is a scene stealer.

Little women orange

Columbia Pictures 

All I want for Christmas is YOU

Before continuing, the obvious should be noted: There is nothing automatically gross about oranges. Oranges are a delicious vitamin-filled fruit that have saved many from the ails of scurvy and helped countless people get drunk at brunch. However, the March family was living in a time where only the top 10 percent of people (if that) could afford home refrigerators, as they were a relatively new invention. Oranges can last a month in the fridge, but only stay fresh about a week at room temperature.

This orange, while probably still edible, had no doubt been passed through countless unsanitized hands, and shipped via horses that kick up their own waste. Had it been grown in the March’s backyard, or delivered in the age of refrigeration and easy sanitation, the appeal would be fully intuitive.

And yet, there is something so juicy and tempting about this unpeeled orange. Even without seeing the flesh of the fruit, you can tell it tastes like a vacation from the toils of the war.

The Open Half-And-Half Container From The Big Lebowski

There are few characters who wholeheartedly dig into a greasy meal or strong drink with the stony conviction of The Dude. Regardless of how you feel about the movie overall, The Big Lebowski left a major cultural mark by giving White Russians a comeback in the late 90s. The countless shots of The Dude gazing absently into his swirl of coffee liqueur, cream, and vodka make 1pm weekday drinks look like a swank treat (rather than a casual cry for help). 

big lebowski

Gramercy Pictures 

We should wake to eggnog year 'round. 

Given the magnetism between Jeff Bridges and everything he drinks, it’s hardly surprising the movie opens on him embodying a hangover as he saunters under fluorescent grocery lights. What is surprising, however, is just how delicious the opening scene’s container of half-and-half looks. When The Dude sniffs the bright purple cardboard, we know he’s checking to make sure it’s not curdled, but there’s something so visceral about that moment that feels appealing. It’s hard to decipher whether it’s the foreshadowing to a delicious hair of the dog, or if it’s just the unbridled dairy, but that container of half-and-half looks more revitalizing than freshly squeezed lemonade on a humid day.

In real life, drinking half-and-half straight from the carton is a solid way to give yourself a stomach ache and sour breath. But this scene centers the half-and-half like it’s on the cover of Vogue, this moment gives the half-and-half space to truly strut as a gross but viable snack option. Every time this half-and-half appears on-screen to seduce hapless viewers into milk cravings, the dairy industry gets a boost, and the gut flora of lactose intolerant people everywhere suffer.

The Breakfast Pasta From Elf

If there is any character who needs full-scale rehab for his sugar addiction, it’s Buddy the Elf. But let’s be honest, if Buddy didn’t have the manic eating habits of an eight-year-old left to babysit, then he would lose a major dose of his charm. One of the most slapstick ongoing bits in the movie is the disconnect between Buddy’s relationship with food and the habits of all the adults around him. This dynamic reaches its peak during the breakfast pasta scene, where we see Buddy sitting down to a gorgeous plate of noodles, that he quickly douses in maple syrup, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, M&Ms and giant hunks of Pop-Tart.

Elf breakfast pasta

New Line Cinema

The five essential food groups

In a matter of seconds, this breakfast has the power to make the most well-fed person on earth hungry. The tower of festive sugar perfectly straddles the line of deeply gross and highly tantalizing. While a full serving of this breakfast would make even the most iron-stomached person either shit their pants or fall into a five-hour depressive nap, the sheer chaotic magnetism of this meal is unparalleled. There is something about combining the festivities of the holidays with a carnal desire to feast that makes this circus of candy look like a Michelin star pastry.

And yet, it doesn’t take very much actual consideration to quickly be reminded of how deeply disrespectful it is to ruin the sanctity of a Pop-Tart by breaking it into hunks over pasta. Or conversely, how cursed it is to sully the reputation of freshly boiled noodles by soaking them in milk chocolate sauce. The genius of this disgusting and beautiful meal is that if one food was altered it would make complete sense. If you swapped the pasta with pancakes, then the parade of sugar would still be overboard, but the consistency and flavors would match up. Similarly, if the chocolate syrup was a true sauce with savory and salty elements blended in (almost like a Mole) then the breakfast could firmly sit on the savory side of things while still being adventurous. But as is, the power of this meal is just how proudly gross it is, and how many of us would gladly ruin our whole day for it.

The Burnt Turkey From The Santa Clause

In 1994, Tim Allen was at full power. He was getting into philosophical conversations with Wilson on Home Improvement, he was voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (which released in 1995), and it was long before he happily attended Donald Trump’s inauguration. But perhaps one of most beloved roles Allen took on in the mid-90s was the ultimate divorced dad Scott Calvin, who haplessly becomes the new Santa after accidentally killing the old one. Because the movie includes multiple trips to the North Pole and several Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings, there are plenty of gratuitous food shots that are genuinely drool-inspiring.

However, one of the most surprisingly mouthwatering moments in the entire movie is when Allen fails as a father by burning a Turkey on Thanksgiving. The scene opens with a deceptive shot of a perfectly cooked turkey, which is quickly revealed to be on TV, before showing us Allen’s smoked out kitchen where he attempts to fire-extinguish the charred meat. While the burned bird isn’t meant to inspire hunger, the smoke and pageantry make this turkey almost fragrant through the screen.

The Santa Clause

Buena Vista Pictures

Smoked turkey is seriously the only good turkey

Sure, most meat eaters prefer a turkey that is moist and juicy, but this crispy-topped Thanksgiving failure looks crunchy in a viscerally satisfying way. Rewatching this scene makes the appeal even stronger, as it’s arguably not that burned, and you can fully spot the salvageable meat underneath the scorched layer. Unsurprisingly, though, Allen and his fictional son Charlie aren’t up for the creativity of giving this meat a chance, so they waste it all (alongside a full table of decent looking sides). Regardless of how unappealing the movie wanted this meat to be, it will eternally stand out as simultaneously gross and charming, just like Tim Allen.

 

 

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