Be sure to download the spreadsheets at the end of the post!
Have you ever watched all three Godfather movies in a row? Sure you have. Well, maybe I and II anyway. Do you know all the lines, not just the famous ones about fishes and cannoli? Hey, both of those have to do with food! Akiko and I noticed that too, along with all the other moments in the films that made us notice how hungry we were. How about the meatballs that Paulie tries to show Michael at a tense moment? Coppola did love dark interiors, didn’t he?
Or Hyman Roth’s birthday cake in Havana? Akiko particularly loves the sound the knife makes as it slices through the layers of what must be a dense, buttery yellow cake, finally clinking the plate at the bottom:
Or how about the oranges, about which entire essays have been written? As Al Pacino might have said in a lesser movie, Any Given Sunday, “The oranges we need… are everywheeeeeere!”
I decided to start watching the first film just to see how much eating and drinking took place. There was a lot of it. So I got scientific and went back to the beginning. I wrote down every time someone ate or drank on screen and started a spreadsheet. After finishing the first movie, I thought: I could watch this again, and eat and drink everything they did! A light bulb went on, and I fired up Part II. Spoiler alert: by the time Fredo died, I wasn’t sure any more whether I could handle the gastronomic challenge of two films in a row. But I pressed on to Part III anyway, pen in hand. I’m not sure which was more difficult: imagining eating gnocchi after the excesses of Parts I and II, or watching Andy Garcia’s hand on Sofia Coppola’s during the gnocchi-making scene.
Nevertheless, I had four spreadsheets in hand (two for Part II) and I was hungry. You can download these same spreadsheets at the end of this article! I asked Akiko, “Would you be up for hosting a marathon party?” She was. So we set the date at our Chicago condo back in 2007 and invited any friends we thought would be up to the task. We had some idea what they would be in for, but they had no idea! Other than nine hours of Godfather viewing, that is.
We managed to serve every single item listed in the following spreadsheets, on time. We did have to pause the first film a couple of times, since there’s a nasty stretch from 29 minutes until 59 minutes in where you’re serving things that are all over the map. Other than that, the day was a blast!
As far as I know, this event has only happened once. What tips do I have for those hoping to replicate that day? Number one, prep as much as possible in advance. That’s good advice for any dinner party. Number two is to serve tiny portions. Especially for the drinks. Look at the first film: in the first 40 minutes, you’ve got red wine punch, dark liquor, a red cordial, anisette and scotch. That’s five drinks in 40 minutes, which will kill the party pretty quickly unless you’re dealing in thimble-sized portions. And the coursing of the first film doesn’t exactly work out either. You start with lasagna, then move on to wedding cake, oranges, fish and cannoli. A bite of each will do, even with open-minded guests!
My fondest wish is that the Godfather eating-drinking marathon becomes a world-wide tradition, along the lines of Wagner Ring cycles, minus the unfortunate connotations. I will guarantee that your understanding and appreciation of the films will be magnified when you experience food and drink as the characters do. Coppola obviously put meticulous thought into the culinary aspects of the story. When you eat with your guests as a family, you become part of a larger experience than just watching the movies by yourself. And at the end of the day, when you’re sharing tea with Connie and the die-hards who have stuck around for all three Godfathers, you’ll have something that you can talk about for the rest of your lives. I know that we have!