By The Epicurious Editors
Upon its release in 1989, When Harry Met Sally was met with both critical and box office success, earning an Oscar nod, five Golden Globe nominations, and more than $92 million. 25 years later, it remains one of cinema's most beloved romantic comedies. The Rob Reiner-directed film was written by Nora Ephron, a well-known food lover who previously wrote about a food writer in Heartburn and later wrote and directed Julie & Julia. And when Epicurious asked her what her signature dish was, Ephron replied, "If there is a Nora Ephron signature anything, it is that there's slightly too much food."
While Ephron definitely wasn't talking about her films when she said that, the quote could easily apply to When Harry Met Sally. The "I'll have what she's having" scene in Katz's Deli is now famous, but it's only one of many food-focused moments that take place as Harry and Sally bicker like enemies, grow into a deep friendship, and ultimately, fall in love. As we witness the ups and downs in Harry and Sally's relationship, starting with their catastrophic initial meeting and ending with a charming interview at the end of the film that reveals they've finally (spoiler alert, if you've been under a rock for 25 years) gotten married, food plays a prominent and often hilarious supporting role.
Apple Pie à la Mode: When the newly acquainted Harry and Sally, played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, drive halfway across the country together, the situation quickly heads south. Harry spits out grape seeds in the car--without rolling down the car window first--and then proceeds to hit on Sally, his girlfriend's good friend. And then there's Sally's high-maintenance approach to ordering food, which was inspired by Nora Ephron and first comes on display when Sally and Harry stop at a roadside cafe. It takes Sally almost a full minute to order a salad and a slice of apple pie à la mode is one of the running jokes of the film, and as annoying as it can be, in the end, Harry finds it endearing--he even mentions it when he confesses his love for Sally on New Year's Eve, 12 years later, saying, "I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich."
Pecan Pie: While When Harry Met Sally is a classic rom-com, it's also a celebration of platonic friendship. During an afternoon at a museum, Harry starts talking in a funny voice, encouraging Sally to imitate him. It's easily one of the most charming and romantic scenes in the film, and significant because it reveals Harry's growing love for Sally. In a confused expression of that love, Harry makes Sally repeat, over and over again, "But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie," drawing out the syllables. Back and forth they go, "pecan pie," "pecan pie," "pecan pie," and it's a beautiful moment about the silliness of friendship, its intimacy and joy. It also shows how love can sneak up on you, even over an imaginary piece of pecan pie.
Pastrami Sandwich, Katz's Delicatessen: on Houston Street was already famous to local New Yorkers, but When Harry Met Sally brought it to the masses. The line "I'll have what she's having," spoken by a woman at a nearby table (director Rob Reiner's mother) following Sally's fake orgasm, is one of the most famous lines in cinema, even inspiring a recent flash mob-style prank. In the scene, Harry and Sally chow down--he has pastrami, she has turkey--and argue about sex, all as Sally takes apart her sandwich and puts it back together again in the way she prefers. Harry is certain the women he sleeps with have a good time, but Sally wonders if perhaps the women are faking it. And when Harry scoffs at the possibility, the usually uptight Sally proceeds to show him what a fake orgasm looks like, and how it is indistinguishable from the real thing.
Coconut Cake: Throughout When Harry Met Sally, we see snippets of interviews with elderly couples, talking about how they fell in love. These are some of the most touching and funny moments in the film ("I knew the way you know about a good melon"). When love has finally conquered all in the end, we see part of Harry and Sally's own interview, and their interview closes the film. Completing one another's sentences, they reminisce about their beautiful wedding and their amazing wedding cake. It was coconut cake with chocolate sauce, and, of course, because love will not change your essential personality, Sally explains why it was so important that the chocolate sauce had to be "on the side." Harry nods in agreement. He now understands "on the side." Falling in love helped him figure that out.
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