To say “food is a love language” has become a one–liner spoken ad nauseam, but it cannot be denied that some foods truly do create feelings of warmth, comfort, and love. Filmmakers clearly understand food’s connection to love, specifically the correlation between eating noodles and falling in love. Captured countless times in some of cinema’s great love stories, these scenes showcase that the power of pasta and the power of love are not mutually exclusive phenomena.
Lady and the Tramp (1955), dir. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske
There are few images in film more recognizable than Lady and Tramp barrelling towards their first kiss as they eat the same string of spaghetti. The spaghetti is essential to the scene, as no other food, or any other pasta for that matter, could so amusingly and convincingly lead two to fall in love as spaghetti does. Lady and Tramp become so immersed in their delicious bowl of spaghetti that neither realizes the one string of pasta is leading them to actualizing their romantic spark. Once their lips do meet, there is a mutual recognition of the changed dynamic in their relationship, that might not have happened without that magical bowl of pasta. The scene is so beautifully animated, and perfectly captures the innocence and sense of discovery associated with first love that Lady and Tramp experience.
The Apartment (1960), dir. Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder’s classic The Apartment explores the complexities of love and romance, using an apartment, a broken compact mirror, and some tennis racquet spaghetti. In one scene, the irresistible Jack Lemmon is cooking dinner for Shirley MacLaine, the tortured beauty and object of Lemmon’s unrequited affection. As he cooks spaghetti, he pulls out a tennis racquet which he uses to strain the pasta, leading to a hilarious exchange between the two (MacLaine: “You’re pretty good with that racquet.” Lemmon: “You should see my backhand!”). It is a charming scene that shows why Lemmon is a massive star, and how his sensibilities (and his spaghetti) ultimately wins MacLaine's heart.
Heartburn (1986), dir. Mike Nichols
Heartburn, an adaptation of Nora Ephron’s semi–autobiographical novel documenting the collapse of her marriage, is full of biting, sometimes vicious humor, not to mention a genuine sadness about a woman falling out of love with her cheating husband. However, the film also showcases how Rachel (Meryl Streep) and Mark (Jack Nicholson) fell in love before it all fell apart, including the film’s best scene in which Rachel and Mark sit in bed and share spaghetti carbonara. The two eat the pasta out of a huge bowl as if there’s no camera filming them, chit–chatting about what’s on TV, and finding a rhythm with one another that seems once–in–a–lifetime. It’s a scene that spotlights the small, intimate moments that define relationships, filled with effortless realism and charm that make you believe that with spaghetti carbonara, two people could truly enjoy spending their everyday lives together.
In the Mood for Love (2000), dir. Wong Kar–Wai
Wong Kar–Wai’s moody masterpiece In the Mood for Love may not feature spaghetti and meatballs, but its scenes surrounding its protagonists consuming noodles are as thrilling and romantic as all the other entries. In the film, the unfulfilled passion between Su (Maggie Cheung) and Chow (Tony Leung) is seen in their subtle exchanges, as they work together and share the mutual betrayal of their spouses having an affair while sharing noodles. Their feelings are never acted on, but in moments like these, when they share noodles, they clearly also share a deep connection that is both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
Brooklyn (2015), dir. John Crowley
Brooklyn, starring the magnificent Saoirse Ronan, is the type of film filled with uninhibited romance and sentimentality that don’t really get made anymore. In Brooklyn, Ronan’s character Eilis has just immigrated to Brooklyn from Ireland. Feeling extremely homesick, she meets and falls in love with Tony, an Italian–American, who could not be more different from her. In preparation for meeting Tony’s family, her boarding house friends teach Eilis how to properly eat spaghetti, while playfully yells “splash!” anytime Eilis doesn’t perfectly twirl her pasta on her spoon. Filled with Ronan’s overwhelming charm and sincerity, the scene perfectly encapsulates the nerves around meeting your boyfriend’s family and wanting to impress them, as well as a whole–hearted attempt to learn about a world other than yours, which was more–than–common for many intercultural relationships formed in New York in the 40s and 50s. The scene also has an incredible payoff in a subsequent moment where Tony’s family all watch carefully as Eilis nails her spaghetti twirl.