Francis Ford Coppola


in conversation with

Ruth Reichl


Things that Francis Ford Coppola has given up:
Goose fat
Certain oils
Sugar in coffee
Turning into Orson Welles or Marlon Brando

Francis Ford Coppola is an award-winning director, writer, and producer of such films as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. His most recent film is Tetro, a drama that is his first original screenplay since The Conversation. He also owns and runs Francis Ford Coppola Presents, a company whose endeavors include a winery, restaurants, resorts, a literary journal, and pasta sauces.

Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet and a recipient of four James Beard Awards, is the author of four critically acclaimed books, most recently Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. Coppola and Reichl spoke over the phone in the summer of 2009, Coppola from his Northern California home, Reichl from New York City, to discuss Coppola’s cooking, the role of food in cinema, and the importance of family dinners.


FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: When I involved food in my films it wasn’t something I did for that reason—it’s just that I like to cook, I like to eat, so it’s natural that you’re portraying scenes in which people are cooking and eating. And if they’re cooking, you might as well tell folks how to do it, you know, so if there’re recipes in the projects, there’s nothing wrong if people like that.

RUTH REICHL: At first I just wanted people to be able to taste the food that I was writing about. I’m sure you have the same sense: you want them to feel that when they’re with your characters, that they’re right there, really at that table. The thing I discovered early on was that the vocabulary of food you have as a writer does not convey the sensual aspects of eating. “Delicious” doesn’t tell you much. So you end up writing around the food, and trying to evoke the flavors with words that have absolutely nothing to do with food.

FFC: Wine writers have been doing that for years. The vocabulary for trying to express the various nuances of wine have gotten really amusing.

RR: It’s gotten ridiculous! I think the wine writers have gotten to the point of absurdity, where the terms don’t mean anything. And the idea is actually to make it mean something to people, so they understand.

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