Anne Zimmerman lives in and writes from the Bay Area. She is working on a book about the food writer M.F.K. Fisher.
I’ve been going to the movies a lot lately. I go to escape from the world — from a stressful period at work and from the bad economic news that seems to be on the front page of every paper. The movie theater is alluring because it is cool and dark. I can sit alone for a couple of hours, absorb myself in the problems of other people, laugh or cry a little. I walk out of the theater, and the world can’t help but look a little bit newer and shinier. It’s a good thing.
Recently I heard on the radio that, despite the economic downturn and the outlandish price of movie tickets, people are still going to the theaters. What they aren’t doing is buying huge tubs of popcorn doused with fake butter, super-sized boxes of Milk Duds or sour chews, and gas-tank-sized Coca-Colas. Instead, they are doing what all movie theater executives wish they wouldn’t: They’re packing their own snacks.
Had this idea never occurred to the masses before? When I was a kid, packing a pocket full of Junior Mints was the only way we went to the movies. We’d stop by 7-Eleven on the way to the theater and each pick out a bag of M&M’s or a Snickers bar. My mother would stuff the contraband candy in her purse and dispense it quietly once the real movie had begun — never during the previews.
Even when we went to the movies with friends, we weren’t allowed money for large tangles of licorice or other sugar-stuffed candies that would bring us home swollen and giddy. We brought our own treats, stuffed as well as possible into pockets.
So it should come as no surprise that I’ve been breaking the “no outside food” rule for more than 20 years. Lately, I’ve just gotten a little better at it. And by “better,” I don’t mean that my purse is bigger or that I’ve gotten extra good at muffling the sound of a can of root beer opening.
I mean that my movie food is becoming a serious treat.
I don’t really condone the idea of mindlessly munching away in the dark. And yes, I am perfectly capable of sitting through a movie with only a mint or two to keep my mouth happy. But it’s fun to watch a movie and have a treat, and it’s even more fun when the treat is so good you really can’t wait for the opening credits to roll.
One of the last movies I went to was truly delicious. It was set in Spain and brought back all the good memories of traveling abroad with good girlfriends. There was sunshine, beautiful scenery, and more than a little dancing and flirtation. The movie was made even more enjoyable by a very childhood-influenced treat: a buttery cookie punctuated with chopped candy morsels.
My cookies came with chunks of Heath Bar, a candy I never would have eaten as a child, a candy my mother loved and packed into the theater as her treat. To me, a Heath Bar was small and boring, too sophisticated and minimalist for my taste. But now I’m a grown-up with a nuanced sweet tooth. I can appreciate a good Heath Bar and love even more a good cookie that can be easily bagged, hidden inside my oversized purse, snuck into a matinee on a Sunday afternoon, and eaten with true enjoyment as I watch the cinematic joys and terrors of somebody else’s life. It always seems to work out at the end, and I always exit satisfied on many different levels.
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