Quentin Tarantino’s films are perhaps most famous for the disparate elements they manage to juggle. They’re masterclasses in visual style, dialog, costuming, violence-as-metaphor, violence-as-just-regular-violence, and overall atmosphere. Among the many running themes of Tarantino’s oeuvre is food as a device to reflect the power dynamic between two parties or, at the very least, to bring people together to move the story forward. In the Tarantino-verse, it’s over meals that plots are hatched, interrogations go down, and the very nature of morality is pontificated upon.
Tarantino has spoken about his use of food to underscore power dynamics before. From SS Colonel Hans Landa using strudel as an interrogation technique to Jules Winnfield taking the bite right out of the middle of someone else’s half-eaten burger, characters in Tarantino films often mark their territory by claiming food or forcing food on one another. Other times, food is an equalizer. There’s a real sense of camaraderie in sharing a bowl of stew in a snowbound cabin, enjoying the wonders of a $5 milkshake, or bullshitting at a diner about life, tipping, and Madonna’s sexual proclivities.
All of this is to say, food in Tarantino’s films feel present and supremely relevant, no matter which era the stories are set it. So to celebrate the director’s latest opus, Once Upon A Time In … Hollywood, we decided to rank our 12 favorite foods from his catalog. These are the dishes presented on-screen; the food we legitimately want to eat. Sadly, as much as we desperately long to try Teriyaki Donuts there’s no food actually identified in that scene. So the amazing Jackie Brown didn’t make our list.
12. Bill’s Sandwich in Kill Bill Vol. 2
Learning about death is a crucial element to growing up. That rite of passage is often through the loss of a beloved pet like, say, a goldfish. We’re dealing with that and ham sandwiches here. Bill, an assassin wrangler, is making sandwiches while he informs The Bride of their young daughter’s dalliances with piscicide. These aren’t Spanglish-level best-sandwich-in-the-world affairs. This is a simple-yet-comforting white bread sandwich that hits that perfect note of nostalgia and accessibility.
Let’s break it down: Bill starts with standard white American bread — Bimbo to be exact. Then he adds a slice of American cheese followed by a slice of Swiss. With two cheese slices as a base, we’re already super on board with this sandwich. Next comes a slice of turkey followed by a slice of ham. This isn’t deli-level quality either. It’s clear these meats and cheeses came out of a grocery store package. Finally, Bill uses his massive chef’s knife to apply Best Foods mayo and yellow mustard.
We know this sandwich isn’t going to win any awards. But, damn, if it doesn’t take us back to the halcyon days of our youth — back when moms or dads would throw together something exactly like this and give it to us with a side of neon orange Goldfish.
11. White Cake in Django Unchained
If slaveowner Calvin Candie’s teeth are any indication, the man eats way too much of this cake. However, Leonardo DiCaprio’s line reading of “white cake?” with an h-heavy emphasis on the “wh-” is inspired. It sends a shiver down your spine in a way that makes you not want to eat what looks like a delicious piece of, check’s notes, triple (!) layer cake.
So why, then, is this ranked so low? Well, as good as it looks, does anyone really want to eat food prepared via forced servitude? That feels very, very wrong. It shouldn’t be a controversial statement in 2019 to say, “no, I’ll pass on the food made by the slaves.”
In fact… there’s far too much food still produced through slavery today. Maybe we should avoid those foods too.