For her article in our Food on Film series, Claire Thomson takes us to Stars Hollow.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls is a comforting classic, allowing viewers to step into the lives of the mother-daughter duo of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. A thoroughly heart-warming television dramedy, Gilmore Girls remains beloved primarily because of its simplicity. It focused on the basics and could not have got them more right.
Set in the picturesque, small American town of Stars Hollow, the uplifting show is most notable for its fast-paced dialogue; relatable pop-culture commentary; and for Lorelai and Rory, the beating hearts of the show. They are two irreplaceable characters whose relationship, like any mother and daughter, is a rollercoaster of love, loss, friendships, fights, and above all, junk food.
“It’s a religion. It’s a lifestyle.”
In comparison to influencer culture nowadays, the Gilmore girls do not succumb to the pressure of dieting trends or healthy eating. The absence of fruit and vegetables throughout the show and their consistently empty fridge does not fulfil the “goals” of a modern viewer, yet within the show it is accepted and almost encouraged. The audience is always sitting in suspense, waiting for the next slice of pizza to be eaten; the next phone call to be made to Al’s Pancake World for a mystery takeaway; or the next visit to the much-loved Luke’s Diner, which Lorelai would not get her ultimately happy ending without. Amy Sherman-Palladino never tries to disguise the copious amount of food consumed, and instead it becomes a personality trait for the characters. Despite not following the typical healthy lifestyle and eating habits that are seen as desirable in the current climate, many critics have argued that the food habits of the two protagonists are yes, unrealistic, but also dangerous to a young audience. With the “perfect body” plastered all over social media, it cannot be denied that the show sets an impossible standard, as the audience sees two young female characters eat so much junk food whilst remaining stick thin.
“I guess we should strike escargot off the list of Friday-night dinner foods”
Fancy (“good”) food and fancy (alcoholic) drink of course must make an appearance in this cosy classic. For centuries people have shared food around a table with family and loved ones and the Gilmores make no exception, with 71 Friday-night dinners at Emily and Richard Gilmore’s house. Despite the many disagreements that occur at these dinners, they never went without an over-the-top meal, with the girls often being served pot roast, sweetbreads, and squab. Regularly, Emily’s food habits would be at the centre of the family awkwardness, for example, adding parmesan cheese to frozen pizza or stating loudly and clearly that walnuts do not belong in salads. Of course it must not be forgotten that leftovers of any sort must not be brought to Friday-night dinner, and dinner starts at 7pm and not one minute earlier or later. Food is often shown to depict extreme emotions, whether that be a mother-daughter-grandmother argument or the key scene, which made viewers well up with tears, when Rory is finally ready to “wallow” after her first break-up. As in real life, there is always food for happiness, to celebrate, or on the other end of the scale, for sadness, a break-up, a death, an argument. Food plays an important part in day-to-day life but often the true meaning of it is forgotten. Alongside the quick wit, and compassion, Sherman-Palladino perfectly encompasses this concept of food equalling true love.
“The Pop-Tart tasted like freedom and rebellion and independence”
Food in society shines light onto a class system and more often than not reveals a lot about a person or character. It can be a sign of wealth or poverty, or of a character’s morals, control, and strength. From the first episode of the seven series long television show, the contrast between Lorelai’s upbringing and her current lifestyle is introduced, creating a storyline that is developed throughout the show. Beginning in Luke’s Diner — a family-friendly, classic American setting — the audience is presented with Lorelai and Rory’s coffee addictions (348 cups of it throughout the show). This is quickly open to comparison with Lorelai’s upbringing and the decadent meals she feasted on, which included ingredients like lobster, scallops, and foie gras. The crucial difference between the food served mirrors Lorelai’s rebellion against affluence. Her love of processed foods, sugar, and desserts of any kind is part of her escape from the close-minded and suffocating environment that she grew up in, hence the Pop-Tart tasting of freedom. Amy Sherman-Palladino also uses food as a parallel to the characters’ personalities. Sookie is an eccentric, disorganised person, whose food is over the top and often ends in a disaster (it’s got to be said, we wouldn’t love her without her clumsiness), and Luke’s somewhat average taste in food and his focus on a balanced diet coincides with his introverted aura and all round respectable personality.
“I’ll eat to that!”
Gilmore Girls would never have been complete without the crazy creations and outlandish diets of its quirky characters. Amy Sherman-Palladino takes a mundane necessity of life and elevates it to encompass the character’s personalities and lifestyles. The show will always be remembered as one of contentment and reassurance in even the hardest of times, and undeniably there will never be an episode without a cup of coffee or some form of sugary treat.