What Was the Best Fictional Meal Ever?

From Rear Window to Ratatouille
Graham Roumieu

Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, and TV host

Trimalchio’s feast in The Satyricon is about as great as it gets. Wild, over the top, outrageous, and absurdly funny. Hard to beat for sheer excess.

Bee Wilson, author, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat

For sheer voluptuous fantasy, I’d choose the lobster and french fries Grace Kelly orders in for James Stewart in Rear Window. Stewart grumpily implies that it’s too perfect, but from where I’m sitting, it looks just perfect enough.

Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group

It’s unclear to me whether George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London is a novel or nonfiction, but I’m taking the liberty of choosing the scene in which a character fantasizes about the dinner he’d have if he could afford it: oysters, borscht, crayfish, “a young chicken en casserole,” beef with stewed plums, potatoes, salad, suet pudding with Roquefort cheese, and “a litre of Burgundy and some old brandy.”

Linton Hopkins, chef and owner, Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta)

Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party captures both the languid and the sparkling moments of sharing a great meal.

Padma Lakshmi, host, Top Chef

The movie Ratatouille is one long, rolling meal. It introduces children to the joys and technical aspects of cooking without dumbing anything down. My daughter and I relish watching it together.

Christopher Kimball, founder, editor, and publisher, Cook’s Illustrated

Purely on the basis of conviviality, the annual Christmas Eve fete described in The Pickwick Papers would be the ultimate repast. The apples were “hissing and bubbling” and there was a “mighty bowl of wassail.” No overwrought 20-course tasting menu could possibly compete.

Adam Rapoport, editor in chief, Bon Appétit

I love the scene in Tampopo, the greatest food film ever made, where the hobo breaks into a kitchen in the middle of the night to whip up a crispy yet custardy fried-rice omelet for a little kid. Twenty years ago I saw this, and I’m still hungry.

Sarah Silverman, comedian, We Are Miracles (HBO, November 23)

In Albert Brooks’s Defending Your Life, one of my all-time favorite movies Brooks and Meryl Streep are dead and in this kind of limbo where you can eat anything you want and never gain a pound.

Corby Kummer, senior editor, The Atlantic

Harriet the Spy has an irrational love of tomato sandwiches. They were entirely too white-bread for the house I grew up in but I knew I wanted to love something as much as Harriet loved those sandwiches.

Ruth Reichl, food writer and editor

I’d choose William Carlos Williams’s poem “This Is Just to Say”: “I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox / and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast / Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold”

Todd English, chef and author

In the movie Vatel, a chef meticulously creates lavish, sumptuous banquets fit for a king—in this case, Louis XIV. In the 17th century, as today, we are often remembered for our last dish.

Marcus Samuelsson, chef and owner, Red Rooster (New York)

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