May
27

“Chef”…a Movie for Food-Lovers of All Kinds!

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PLUS an EASY RECIPE FOR VEGAN CUBAN SANDWICHES…

We recently saw the new movie, “Chef,” starring the many fabulous talents of Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr. and Oliver Platt and last, but definitely a rising star, Emjay Anthony as “Percy.” Having seen the appealing trailer for this film several times, I was looking forward to seeing it, mainly because comedies that are clever, thoughtful and mature are almost as hard to find in theaters these days as a really great bag of popcorn, but don’t get me started on that.

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Whether you have seen the film or not, (and there will be no spoilers found here), it is obviously all about food and I do love a great movie about food. Loved Julie and Julia, Big Night, Ratatouille, loved Like Water for Chocolate, omg loved Chocolat! I think “Chef” is the first movie about food that I’ve seen since becoming vegan, though, so did that affect my interest in, opinion about and reaction to the film? The answer to that question is yes, yes and, a most resounding, yes!

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The theme in “Chef” that spoke to me most strongly was how each person’s connection with food is so very personal and even intimate, at times. The movie endearingly portrays how people actually have both simple and complex relationships with what they eat, which parallels, enhances and sometimes, even rivals their relationship with other people in their lives. How one prepares food is as important as how we serve and eat it—I felt that “Chef” portrayed how love and passion is the first ingredient in every recipe!

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Perhaps the best and altogether most personally offensive scene in the film happened in the beginning when a giant, dead pig wrapped in plastic was carried into the kitchen of Chef Jon Favreau’s restaurant and deposited on the counter for butchering. I truly do not know whether this is a realistic portrayal of the goings on behind the scenes of your local restaurant. But I think it’s ever so important for people to see where their food (and by food, I really mean meat, especially) comes from.

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Right from the word “go, the viewer is reminded that all the beautifully plated food that arrives in front of you at a restaurant or that sits wrapped in plastic and frozen in the supermarket was a whole, living breathing animal at one time. It’s amazing to me how disconnected most people are to this obvious fact and how repulsed they were (from the audible moans and groans in the theater) at this scene showing the actual animal from where all the many, many Cubano sandwiches are derived for the next 2 hours of the film. In this case, it’s a pig but I’m sure a calf, chicken or duck would have elicited a similar revulsive reaction.

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As in almost every movie I’ve seen recently, there is a passing negative comment about veganism and it would seem to natural for “Chef” to be no exception. The John Leguizamo character lightly ridicules the little boy, played by Emjay Anthony, for a momentary eating hesitation with a derisive, “What are you, a vegan?” comment. Yes, we are usually the butt of jokes, it’s true, but I see it as an affirmation that we are out there in growing numbers and influence. This scene reminded me that most children are taught at a young age to ignore their honest feelings of compassion about eating the animals they read about in books and delight in at petting zoos.

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I can understand how this movie may be challenging to watch for vegans, vegetarians, and possibly animal lovers of all kinds. It was difficult at times for me but, truthfully, it affirmed my own personal decision to eat a plant-based diet. Maybe it will even turn some omnivores into herbivores! The evolving connections between the Chef and his son, his friends, his ex-wife and the restaurant reviewer form the universal themes of the story but Chef’s relationship with food is the show. Even if you have to cover your eyes (like I did) during the pig scene and are turned off by the Cubano sandwiches (like I was), “Chef” is rich with relatable human ideals and a story of entertaining and emotional journeys.

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If you do see the movie and you are hankering for a Cuban Sandwich without the animal derived ingredients, here’s an easy recipe that is sure to please….

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Ellen’s Easy Vegan Cuban Sandwich Inspired by “Chef”

Ingredients

  • Crispy long sandwich rolls or bread cut into 6 inch slices
  • Overripe (black) plantains, sliced
  • Sour pickles, sliced
  • sliced tomatoes
  • iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Vegan Mayo (Veganaise)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Sliced vegan cheese (almond-based or soy based is good)
  • Vegan Bologna or Vegan Ham (Tofurkey)
  • Earth’s Balance

Method

  • 1) Sautè both sides of the plantain slices in a frying pan in some Earth’s Balance for 5 or so minutes until soft and golden and set aside
  • 2) On the inside of the crispy long rolls, spread a thin layer of vegan mayo and Dijon mustard on both sides
  • 3) Layer pickles, cooked plantains, vegan cheese slices, vegan bologna or vegan ham, lettuce, tomatoes slices on bread
  • 4) Spread a thin layer of Earth’s Balance on the outside of the roll, both sides
  • 5) Spray frying pan with non-stick spray or melt some Earth’s Balance and heat it up to medium high
  • 6) Set sandwich in to brown for 2 minutes, putting pressure on it with another pan or spatula. Turn over and repeat.
  • Note: If you have a panini maker, then by all means, use it! 

Enjoy! xox

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Comments

  1. jennifer says:

    great blog post ! found it while searching pinterest for “vegan cubano” because like most people, I have been craving cubanos since that movie. but since animals are no longer food in my life either, I didn’t know how to replicate it. I found a delicious recipe called for firm tofu and seasoning and mushrooms which I will give a try, but then saw yours and it actually LOOKS like a cubano. Which is funny because it didn’t even occur to me that there would be vegan ham out there! I don’t buy processed vegan faux meat often so it’s not in my radar but honestly, I have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing the post. I especially liked what you said here: “This scene reminded me that most children are taught at a young age to ignore their honest feelings of compassion about eating the animals they read about in books and delight in at petting zoos.” wow so true and not obvious!

    • Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you so much for your comment! Please let me know how your cubano sandwich comes out! Feel free to share Vegan American Princess with anyone who might be leaning the same way but doesn’t know how easy it is to be more plant-based. There are many faux meats on the market and they seem to get better and better as the vegan trend is growing. I am occasional faux meat eater as there is definitely a place for them in many recipes (like the Cubano) but I try to keep my food as whole as possible. Check out my post on 6 different ways to make fake bacon! I appreciate your kind words and thanks for reading!

  2. You are so right about the reaction of the audience to seeing the actual origin of their food. I’m always put out by the amount of comments throughout the internet, by people who think it’s somehow “manly or clever” to make moronic comments about meat. The fact that there are people in the world who actually have enough compassion not to eat animals really gets on certain people’s nerves. It’s easy for them to “dismiss” us by joking about how we always make sure everyone knows. I wonder why kindness is considered such an unappealing trait? Absolutely nobody knows I’m a vegetarian unless they’re offering me meat, or somehow it’s necessary for me to tell them. I don’t do it to be special, and I don’t do it because I “don’t like food”, as a particular podcaster has decided is our “problem”.
    That movie is at the local library, maybe I’ll check it out. I didn’t think it sounded particularly interesting based on the description on the box, and the commercials weren’t intriguing, but you’ve made it sound better than both of those things.

    • Dear Stacey,
      There are definitely a couple of scenes that will make an herbivore squirm, but I find that this happens pretty much on a daily basis. Let mw know what you think of it, if you see it!
      Best,
      Ellen

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