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Sep 7, 2013 04:34 AM

Barefoot in the Park

Wild and Impetuous or a Stuffed Shirt? This was a big question during much of the 1960s in America, when being ‘square’ was going to lump you into a previous generation that was openly questioned on many important social issues.

1963’s Barefoot in the Park, by Neil Simon, was an early shot across the bow of ‘square’ America and was an unintended piece of the Pre-Chowhound Era. The newlywed wife (in the 1967 movie, Jane Fonda) is seen as being wild and impetuous, and the husband (in the movie, Robert Redford) was a stuffed shirt. In one important scene, the flamboyant neighbor, Mr Velasco, prepares a sizzling dish of salted eel that you ‘pop’ in your mouth while it is very hot or it will taste bitter. The wife ‘pops’ with much delight, but the husband nibbles.

A scene added in the movie (talked about in the play) has Mr. Velasco taking them to a secret Albanian restaurant on Staten Island on a cold February night instead of the steak-and-potato place around the corner.

It was pretty amazing and funny seeing this version of Chowhound enthusiasm vs MOR reticence played out circa 1963. Not just as a question of ‘personal’ taste (as often happens on Chowhound), but as a question of how Chowhound attitude relates to life and social norms.

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  1. Steve- I love that movie and realize I haven't seen it forever. You make me want to watch it again. Wonder if it is on Netflix?

    While my marriage took place well after 1963 my husband thought I was the rebel as I grew up in a very adventurous home, in many way but particularly food-wise. After 24 years of marriage I still don't think he has forgiven me for his first introduction to Indian food. I have mastered his mothers veal parm though so it balances out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodieX2

      Yeah, I hadn't seen or thought about it in so long until it appeared on cable last week. The scenes that revolve around food are pretty amazing since they come from the early 60's. A secret Albanian restaurant? That sounds right up my alley.

      Many Neil Simon plays still get done, but that one is more in the 'forgotten' realm.

      1. re: foodieX2

        I'm smiling at our similar stories with very different outcomes. I came from the more food-adventurous household (my mom first learned to cook in the Peace Corps -- Malaysian food, and it went on from there). My SO grew up on baked chicken and corn. Practically when we first met, we were in the back seat of my parents' car, and my mom says, enthusiastically, "Let's go to Shalimar." I tell my SO that this is an Indian restaurant, and he looks at me with this look of panic. After a lot of back-and-forth faces in the back seat, we went to Shalimar. He loved it, and 15 years later is pretty good at cooking Indian food.

        Now to hunt down Barefoot in the Park, which I haven't seen.

      2. I absolutely love watching movies and TV shows from the 60s and 70s and keeping an ear out for food references. The one you site is great and I actually remember it from a sort of recent viewing of that movie.

        I once started a thread about this subject but it never took off. Here's a link to it:

        1. Is that the play where the mother in law gets drunk on ouzo and she screams seven days does not a week make at hre husband? I saw a play version on video with Bess Armstrong.. I always think the quickest way a writer can make a character seem like a person is to say something about their eating habits.... Just watched Breakfast Club with the luch scene and it said a lot about the characters.

          2 Replies
          1. re: girloftheworld

            Yes, Bess Armstrong was so terrific in that version, which was staged fro the theatre, videotaped and shown on HBO. The entire video can be seen on You Tube. She was channeling Jane Fonda, and you can see just how difficult a role it is.

            1. re: Steve

              our library has a bunch of plays like that.. I got to see Camelot filmed at The winter Garden with Richard Harris and Cats with betty love them