Importance of the “Parallel Mothers” Potato Omelet Recipe

Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit | Sony Pictures Classics

Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit | Sony Pictures Classics

Whenever there is food in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Parallel mothers, now in theaters it looks luxurious. In one of the first moments, the character of Penélope Cruz, a fashion photographer named Janis, serves a plate of jamón ibérico to her guest, a forensic anthropologist who will ultimately become her lover. The meat shines positively. But the dish that gets the most screen time is the humble potato omelet – the tortilla española – that Cruz cooks in the middle of the film.

Almodóvar’s camera lingers on the shiny potatoes, soaked in oil, while Cruz is frying them. When she finally unveils the finished product, it glows, the egg grilled in a perfect mound. But this tortilla is not just an adornment. There is a purpose in its place which is at the heart of the film’s notions of history and generational conflict.

“The potato tortilla (omelet) in Spanish culinary culture is equivalent to pizza or burgers in American culinary culture,” Almodóvar told Thrillist in an email statement. “It’s a delicious, popular and affordable dish. In fact, if a Spaniard decides to introduce it to the American market (I don’t understand why no one has done so yet; the ingredients are very basic), I am Of course that would be a triumph. It’s the same with Spanish cheeses. Ours are as good as French or Italian cheeses, but they are much better sellers than us. Indeed, the Spanish chef José Andrés, founder of the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen, has described tortilla española as “the most important dish in Spanish cuisine”.

Although Janis de Cruz does not spell out the recipe on screen, you can get a general idea of ​​her technique by watching her skillfully peel the potatoes with a simple stab of her knife, slicing them into delicate slices. Cruz makes nice slices of potatoes; Andres Recipe suggest cubing the potatoes. She throws a pinch of salt into the pan along with the oil and the potatoes while they gently bubble. You can practically smell the aromas that fill the kitchen, impeccably designed with green and red accents. (Alomodóvar’s houses are always enviable.)

parallel mothers omelet
Sony Pictures Classics

At the beginning of Parallel mothers, Janis becomes pregnant with the child of the aforementioned anthropologist, a married man who helps him with a family project: to find the grave of his great-grandfather who was murdered by the Phalangist fascists during the Spanish Civil War. In the maternity ward of the hospital, she meets Ana (Milena Smit), a frightened teenager. They go their separate ways but reunite by chance shortly after Janis makes a shocking revelation: The baby she brought home does not share her DNA. When she meets Ana who works in a cafe outside her apartment, she learns that Ana’s baby has died from a sudden and inexplicable death in the cradle. Janis invites the young woman to come back into her life as her suspicions that their babies were switched at birth grow.

Ana arrives at Janis’ door just as she begins to prepare the omelet. Coming from a privileged upbringing but from a broken home, Ana has never cooked a tortilla or peeled potatoes before, and Janis gently guides her down the stairs while wearing a “We should all be feminist” shirt. The instruction is flirtatious but also maternal. Through the preparation of the omelet, Janis informs Ana about a part of her culture that she does not know. Their generational division is expressed through a different understanding of history. When Ana becomes jealous of the time Janis is spending on the grave project, Janis replies, “It’s time you found out what country you live in!” She explains: “There are over 100,000 people missing, buried in ditches or near cemeteries. And until we do that, the war will not be over. She encourages Ana to find out which side of the war her father’s family was on, to investigate her own role in the horrors that unfolded.

Almodóvar uses the beautifully melodramatic plot of Switching at Birth to tell a story about the wounds of a country. Janis’ desire to be a mother, and the efforts she makes to keep the baby she knows is not hers, arose in part from a desire to pass on her family history, to remember the crimes. perpetrated by the Franco regime of the twentieth century. . “It is a debt of Spanish society, and until that debt is paid, until those dead are honored, the war in Spain continues there,” Almodóvar said. said to New York Times Magazine in a profile last year.

The omelette is not disconnected from these themes. It’s a staple of the Spanish diet that Ana doesn’t know how to prepare. By teaching Ana to wield a knife and cook the dish, Janis motheres the young woman, passing on a tradition vital to the place where she lives. It also, of course, looks delicious.

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Esther Zuckerman is Entertainment Editor-in-Chief at Thrillist. Follow her on twitter @ ezdescribe.

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