Struggling to find culinary inspiration for dinner in the depth of your food cupboard or fridge? Look no further than the BFI’s latest online collection, ‘Eating In’. Available to explore now for free on BFI Player. From fine dining to comfort food this newly curated selection of films is drawn from the BFI and regional and national archives. As part of the hugely successful Britain on Film project. Bringing together a feast of culinary delights to tickle your tastebuds. As well as a chance to sample home cooking and local fayre from the length and breadth of the UK.
The mouthwatering selection spans almost a century of making, cooking and eating. From the gigantic appetite of Herbert Campbell as Little Bobby (1899) through to A Love Supreme (2000), a director’s sumptuous homage to his mother’s cooking. Nostalgic childhood favourites, regional delicacies and recipe tips for the thrifty are all at hand. Whether you’re after artisan cheese, homemade samosas, a full turkey dinner or a sweet treat.
The collection also reflects the challenge of feeding the nation during two world wars. Alongside how an increasingly multicultural society saw postwar Britain’s culinary landscape burst into colour with changing tastes and attitudes. As a more sophisticated and diverse palate entered British life.
Collection highlights include:
Manufacture of Stilton Cheese (1920)
A treat for cheese-lovers, this delectable short film produced by early film pioneer Charles Urban reveals the near-miraculous process by which curds are cut from whey and coagulated milk becomes Stilton.
Party Dish by X Marcel Boulestin (1936)
Decades before Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver. Celebrity chef Marcel Boulestin was on a mission to inspire Britain’s home cooks and popularise French cuisine. Here in a gas industry-sponsored film he makes a quick veal escalope.
When The Pie Was Opened (1941)
Surrealism, avant-garde sound montage, and irreverent wit might be the last thing you’d expect from a government-sponsored film about wartime cookery. But director, artist, animator Len Lye specialised in the unexpected. A simple tale of a mother cheering up her daughter with a pie from her rationing-stricken pantry is skilfully crafted into a charming work with real artistic depth.
Chinese Restaurants in Plymouth (1966) (The Box, Plymouth)
Chef Moyra Babington meets Mr Kim Wong at The China Garden, the largest Chinese restaurant in Plymouth. Hakka or Cantonese cuisine was rising in popularity in the UK at this time, its braised meats, pickles, dumplings and seafood were a popular choice for diners, experiencing a stir-fried noodles boom.
Black Country Food (1972) (Media Archive Central England, University of Lincoln)
With Britain’s entry into the Common Market on the horizon, 1972 was a good time to celebrate all the Midlands food we’d shortly be exporting. Tasting the plain, good ‘fittle’ of the Black Country this local news report offers samples of traditional delicacies such as black pudding, scratchings, faggots groaty pudding and chitterlings to local shoppers, all washed down with lashings of prize-winning Black Country beer.
Boxing Day (1973)
Dorothy Sleightholme, Yorkshire’s answer to Fanny Cradock, makes a meal of turkey leftovers in this seasonal offering from the Farmhouse Kitchen which ran for almost 20 years on ITV from 1971 to 1990. Tired of turkey sandwiches? We get advice on how best to spruce up those straggly scraps with not one, not two, but seven gut-busting recipes, from vol-au-vents to pate, you can’t go wrong, it seems, with a dollop of cream and a dash of sherry.
Caribbean Restaurant (1986) (Media Archive Central England, University of Lincoln)
Bringing the tastes of Montego Bay to a wintry West Bromwich. Far removed from the traditional Black Country fare of groaty pudding and grey peas, dishes on the menu show there is more to Caribbean cuisine than staples like rice and peas with a colourful feast from across the Caribbean including Jamaican Lobster Ochi Rios, Martinique Chicken Montique, Tobago Sole and Curried Prawns in Pineapple from Trinidad.
A Love Supreme (2000)
Nilesh Patel’s debut short is a sumptuous, hypnotic homage to his mother’s cooking, as he films her making samosas. Inspired by Raging Bull, it’s all shot on 35mm in black and white, the film was created as a tribute to the director’s mother, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, focusing on her hands and the traditional techniques handed down over generations.
And Don’t forget your essential ingredients. You can stock up with our special selection of vintage food ads, ‘Food Glorious Food’. All drawn from the BFI National Archive’s extensive screen advertising collection; Commercial Break: British Advertising on Screen.
BFI Player is also available through a range streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and the Roku Channel in the United States.
About Britain on Film and Unlocking Film Heritage
Britain on Film is one of the largest and most complex archival projects ever undertaken by the BFI. With over 10,000 titles made accessible for free online, many previously unseen. One of the most successful archive projects Britain on Film has had over 75 million online views to date. Unlocking film heritage for everyone in the UK was a key strategic priority for the BFI (2013-2018). Bringing together a partnership with Regional and National Film Archives and rights holder collections across the UK. This work included a sophisticated programme of data capture, cataloguing, copying to archival standards and meticulous preservation of original materials. All achieved thorough the searching of archives across the country.
About the regional and national film archives
The English Regional Film Archives and other National Film Archives (listed below) hold significant collections of film and video material specifically relevant to their regions or hold dedicated collections such as Imperial War Museums, preserved in specialised storage facilities and made widely available for education, research, communities and the wider public.