Although food has been part of motion pictures since the silent era, for the most part it has been treated with about as much respect as movie extras: it's always been there on the screen but seldom noticed –– that is until the 1970s and 1980s when food's photogenic qualities were discovered by a handful of filmmakers who made food a star, thus giving birth to a new genre: food films.

To document how food has been treated in movies from the silent era to the present, the author reviewed over 800 American and foreign films. This article, excerpted from the enlarged and updated second edition of the author's book, Food in the Movies, to be released in November, 2009, highlights some of the significant technological, cinematic and cultural forces at work over the past century that helped give birth to as many as thirty food films released in the past thirty years. Some of the more popular ones include: Tampopo (1986), Babette's Feast, (1987), Like Water for Chocolate (1992), Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Big Night (1996), Mostly Martha (2001), and most recently No Reservations (2007). The article also provides a behind-the-scene look at the extraordinary culinary efforts required to prepare the sumptuous dishes we see on the screen.

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