Sweeney Todd: Not as Delicious as I'd Hoped... | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Pin It
Favorite

Sweeney Todd: Not as Delicious as I'd Hoped... 

Every year for my birthday, my mother makes me a tourtière. Never heard of such a thing? It's a French-Canadian meat pie. I think Mom's version is made with ground pork and just a touch of tomato, and is baked in a buttery pie crust. It's savory, filling and delicious.

Perhaps it was my penchant for meat pies that made me so fascinated by the story of Sweeney Todd, which I discovered as an undergrad while working on a paper about cannibalism in film (think Ravenous, movies about Hannibal Lecter and campy offerings such as Eating Raoul, Bob Balaban's Parents, and Matt Parker and Trey Stone's weird and catchy Cannibal the Musical).

Supposedly based on a real person, although historical evidence is slim to non-existent, the version of the story that was made into a Sondheim musical recently adapted into film by Tim Burton, tells the tragic tale of a barber who is unjustly imprisoned after a powerful judge takes a liking to his wife. Upon his return to London, he finds that his wife is dead by her own hand and his daughter is the evil judge's ward. However his old landlady, Mrs. Lovett, is on Fleet Street right where he left her, churning out the city's most disgusting "meat" pies using god-knows-what as filling. Good meat was expensive and hard to come by in those days. And cats are very quick.

Todd takes up residence above Lovett's shop, and unleashes his anguish upon the unshaven men of London: Put it this way, when Todd suggests a close shave, he's not offering his clients fuzz-free cheeks. The bodies tumble down a chute into the basement, where Mrs. Lovett grinds up 'em up and pops 'em into pies, a move which seriously improves the quality of her wares.

Enough plot summary, though...While the movie gave me pleasant chills a few times, I just didn't feel any connection to the characters. Thus, any concern I had for the ongoing well-being of Sweeney or Mrs. Lovett was intellectual, not emotional. It's easy to make me cry, so if a movie doesn't, well, that's saying something. But I still found it enjoyable, just not great. My favorite parts? A couple ditties about meat pies, of course. Here are some excerpts:

Before: From "The Worst Pies in London"

...These are probably the worst pies in London.
I know why nobody cares to take them!
I should know!
I make them!
But good? No...
The worst pies in London...
Even that's polite! The worst pies in London!
If you doubt it take a bite! ...


...Is that just, disgusting?
You have to concede it!
It's nothing but crusting!
Here drink this, you'll need it.
The worst pies in London
And no wonder with the price of meat
what it is
when you get it...

After: From "God, That's Good"

...Are your nostrils aquiver and tingling as well
At that delicate, luscious ambrosial smell?
Yes they are, I can tell.
Well, ladies and gentlemen,
That aroma enriching the breeze
Is like nothing compared to its succulent source,
As the gourmets among you will tell you, of course...

...
MRS. LOVETT:
What's my secret?
(To a woman)
Frankly, dear — forgive my candor —
Family secret,
All to do with herbs.
Things like being
Careful with your coriander,
That's what makes the gravy grander — !

I'd say watch it on DVD, if you're so inclined.



Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Suzanne Podhaizer

About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Bio:
Contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the former Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose,... more

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Food News

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation