Paul Wagner, instructor extraordinaire, is off on some high class wine junkett to an exotic locale. In his place was the ever capable Norma Poole, sommelier of epic proportion.
The assignment for the class was to watch a classic Japanese movie called “Tampopo”, a “Noodle Western” by director Juzo Atami.
“Tampopo” is the humorous story of a woman named who tries to maintain the noodle shop her late husband left her. She is not a very talented cook and the movie revolves around a main story of her journey from modest talent to perfection in the “way of the noodle”.
The overall theme of the movie is love of food, in all it’s forms and ways. From the funny to the sensual and everything in between.
An old woman who is compulsive about squeezing food to determine it’s freshness, much to the chagrin of the grocer.
These are just some of the several vignettes in the film, all outshined by one of a Yakuza (Japanese gangster) and his mistress on a fancy hotel room, Their steamy culinary adventures of the flesh are culminated in a scene where they pass an unbroken egg yolk from moth to mouth, until it breaks and oozes all over.
As a class, we discussed the film and these images and how they relate to wine and culture. Food is an integral partner with wine. They go hand in hand. The Japanese culture worships at the altar of culinary excitement. Food is ingrained as something to be respected, enjoyed with hedonistic enthusiasm and shared with others. Wine, in many cultures, has a similar place.
Even the mob of vagabonds one of the main characters goes to for advice, rummage through the garbage at the finest four-star restaurants and, like true gastronomes, mull over their relative merits and lament the decline in quality of the throw aways of the day.
As Americans, we have a long way to go to get to the point in which we love food and wine to the excesses described in this movie. But we are on our way.
I would recommend this movie, Tampopo, to anyone with an interest in food and wine. Pair it with a good udon soup and some premium sake. Definitely watch it with an open mind, full stomach and a good friend.