Unexpectedly, there is a lovely and funny foodie moment in the 1973 dystopian sci-fi Soylent Green, with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. (based upon the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison). In a fictional world where there is almost no real food, the two characters stumble into a bit of it and turn it into a comically rapturous feast: Soylent Green lunch scene on YouTube. (2:09).
The film is set in NYC in 2020, where 40 million mostly starving and desperate dwellers fight for their food rations. Environmental devastation has largely destroyed the food supply, so people live on Soylent brand food cakes, said to be made of plankton and vegetable extracts.
In this scene, Heston and his elderly roommate (played by Robinson) sit down to a meal Robinson has prepared from some precious “real food” that Heston has stolen from a crime scene earlier. Robinson brushes aside the plastic fork Heston has taken out, and instead proffers a treasured single set of real metal cutlery from an old leather case. Old school.
Then begins a meal of a piece of lettuce each, a tiny saucepan of beans or stew, and two small apples.
In a balletic interaction over a soundrack of chamber music, in a conversation wordless but for appreciative grunts and noises, we see Heston discover the miracle of real food for the first time (literally), including (almost) how to shine and eat an apple. Robinson goes from rapt anticipation, to ecstatic imbibing, to astonished recognition, to imploring Heston’s shared appreciation, to mellow afterglow, on one lettuce leaf. Both men are transported by their tiny serving of beans.
It does inspire one to enjoy the bounteous and exquisite world of real food that we have.
A good reminder of what we have.