Let's Go on a Picnic With Wes Anderson!

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Niko Tavernise/Focus Features
Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman go camping on an idyllic island.
The Dinner: Hot dog, potato salad, and chips, at The Frankfurter (1023 Alaskan Way).

The Movie: Moonrise Kingdom, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: Hot dogs figure prominently in Wes Anderson's new escape tale, since one of the two 12-year-old runaways is a Boy Scout ... er, Khaki Scout, and Scouts love to go camping and eat hot dogs. The Scout in question is orphan Sam (Jared Gilman), and the girl he takes camping is malcontent Suzy (Kara Hayward). He's a thoroughly prepared camper, and he even packs along mustard for their hot dogs. (Later the island's only cop, played by Bruce Willis, will treat Sam to another dog--clearly a totemic taste of childhood for Anderson.) Hot dogs are summer food, but Moonrise Kingdom is set at the very end of summer, with a storm approaching; and though it's 1965, the '60s haven't quite arrived on the island of New Penzance. Anderson wants to keep summertime innocence and youth going just a little bit longer. Even if his young lovers--and we use the term in a pre-sexual way--yearn for grown-up romance, his film savors the bygone textures and flavors of late childhood. Since he was born in 1969, he's not remembering but recreating this vintage world, something like a ship in a bottle. But the movie is full of genuine feeling and food ...

A number of meals are consumed in Moonrise Kingdom. At their family home, called Summer's End, Mrs. Bishop (Frances McDormand) commands her family come to dinner via megaphone. It's a large house, filled with two small boys, weary old husband (Bill Murray, of course), and precocious/frustrated daughter Suzy, ever on the lookout with her binoculars. Meanwhile, over at Camp Ivanhoe, the Scouts are chowing down with their compassionately befuddled Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton). There also, over two summers, Sam has learned how to cook and camp--skills he hopes to employ on his and Suzy's great escape. Not only will he bring hot dogs, with mustard, but also Tang. (Orange-flavored Tang, naturally, since Anderson would never choose grape.)

As a former Boy Scout myself, I couldn't help rooting for Sam and Suzy's trek to what they imagine will be grownup freedom (eventually a campsite on a cove). But I also recognized the band of thuggish, weapon-wielding fellow Scouts in pursuit. They're bloodthirsty enforcers in a quasi-military organization, only held in check by Norton's Scoutmaster. Was Anderson ever a Scout, bullied and harassed in pinecone wars? If so, the press notes don't say. But his emotional surrogate, Sam, appreciates the neat uniform and fussy rituals (tents must be pitched just so). He's not trying to escape structure; he loves structure (like Anderson); the point is to create a new and better campsite for two, equipped with portable record player and kitten.

For that reason, Moonrise put me in the mood for outdoor food, picnic food. Located on the Seattle waterfront between Piers 54 and 55, The Frankfurter is a red food shack that serves dogs to go. It's perfect finger food to take to the nearby Waterfront Park or to gawk at the big white Ferris wheel being installed on Pier 57. For my pre-movie dinner, I selected the bockwurst, potato salad, and a bag of Tim's potato chips ($10.44 total, tax included), enough to carry in a little stack to the nearest bench with a view. It's plain tasty summer food, better and cheaper than the stuff at the concession stand at Pacific Place. (The Frankfurter regularly sets up stands at summer events like Bumbershoot, the Fremont Fair, and Folklife; too bad they don't subcontract at theaters.)

Even if not cooked over a fire, my bockwurst still recalls hot dogs poked on sticks and held over campfires. Like marshmallows and s'mores, they're in a food group called nostalgia. (See also: Proust's madeleine.) Anderson has admitted he never had an escapade of mad puppy love like the one imagined in Moonrise, but it's the remembered feeling that counts--even if one experienced only in storybooks from the middle-school library. (There are several key scenes in which Suzy reads from such adventures; and the movie concludes with a church steeple silhouette image that seems designed for such a book cover.) New Penzance is the summer home Anderson may've wished he could've had, the Bishops are the sort of family into which an orphan might hope to be adopted, but his film is still rooted in reality. Adulthood--and in the movie, concerned adult pursuers--always catches up with you. Sam and Suzy are innocence, while experience is represented by Mr. Bishop, Scoutmaster Ward, and Capt. Sharp (Willis).

In a key moment, Sharp tells the fugitive kids, "Don't let go." It comes during the movie's climactic adventure sequence, but the advice applies further than the film. Don't let go of those youthful memories and feelings, Anderson is telling us. Sometimes they're triggered by the smoke from a campfire, the sand between your toes, or the taste of a humble hot dog.

 
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