Entertainment

Pedro Almodóvar's 'Parallel Mothers' Will Make You Crave a Potato Omelet

The important Spanish dish plays a key role in the new film.

Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

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

Almodóvar’s camera lingers on the potatoes glistening, steeped in oil, while Cruz fries them. When she finally unveils the finished product, it gleams, the toasted egg in a perfect mound. But this tortilla is no mere adornment. There’s a purpose to its place that is central to the film’s notions of history and generational conflict.

“The Potato Tortilla (Omelet) in Spanish culinary culture is equivalent to pizza or hamburgers in American food culture,” Almodóvar told Thrillist in a statement via email. “It’s a delicious, popular, and affordable dish. In fact, if a Spaniard decided to bring it to the American market (I don’t understand why no one has yet; the ingredients are very basic), I am sure that it would triumph. It’s the same with Spanish cheeses. Ours are just as good as the French or Italian cheeses, but they are much better salespeople than us.” Indeed, Spanish chef José Andrés, the founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, has described the tortilla española as “the most important dish in Spanish cooking.” All you need? Potatoes, eggs, salt, and olive oil.

While Cruz’s Janis doesn’t spell out the recipe on screen, you can get a general sense of her technique by watching her deftly peel potatoes with just a flick of a knife, cutting them into delicate slices. Cruz makes fine rounds of potatoes; Andrés’ recipe suggests cubing the spuds. She throws a pinch of salt into the pan with the oil and potatoes as they gently bubble. You can practically smell the aromas filling the kitchen, impeccably designed with green and red accents. (Alomodóvar homes are always enviable.)

Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

At the start of Parallel Mothers, Janis becomes pregnant with the child of the aforementioned anthropologist, a married man who is helping her with a family project: locating the grave of her great-grandfather who was murdered by the fascist Falangists during the Spanish Civil War. In the hospital maternity ward, she meets Ana (Milena Smit), a scared teen. 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 runs into Ana working at a cafe outside her apartment, she learns that Ana’s baby has died from a sudden and inexplicable crib death. Janis invites the younger woman back into her life as her suspicions that their infants were switched at birth grow.

Ana arrives at Janis’ door just as she is starting to prepare the omelet. Coming from a privileged upbringing but a broken home, Ana has never cooked a tortilla or peeled potatoes before, and Janis delicately walks her through the steps while wearing a “We Should All Be Feminists” shirt. The instruction is flirtatious but also motherly. Through the omelet prep, Janis is informing Ana about a part of her culture to which she is ignorant. Their generational divide is expressed through a different understanding of history. When Ana becomes jealous of the time that Janis is spending on the grave project, Janis snaps at her: “It’s time you knew what country you are living in!” She explains, “There are over 100,000 people missing, buried in ditches or close to cemeteries. And until we do that, the war won’t have ended.” She encourages Ana to figure out what side of the war her father’s family was on, to investigate her own role in the horrors that unfolded.

Almodóvar uses the gorgeously melodramatic switched-at-birth plot to tell a story about the wounds of a country. Janis’ desire to be a mother, and the lengths she goes to keep the baby she knows is not hers, is born in part out of a desire to pass her familial history down, to remember the crimes perpetrated by the 20th-century Franco regime. “This is a debt that Spanish society has, and until that debt is paid, until these dead are honored, Spain’s war continues there,” Almodóvar told the New York Times Magazine in a profile last year.

The omelet is not disconnected from these themes. It’s a staple of the Spanish diet that Ana doesn’t know how to make. In teaching Ana to wield a knife and prepare the dish, Janis is mothering the young woman, passing down a tradition that is vital to the place in which she lives. It also, of course, looks delicious.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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