In entertainment journalism, the purpose of the lunch interview is twofold: to help the reporter feel like a normal, social being, and to have an excuse to talk with food in one's mouth.
Interviews are done in any number of ways: over the phone, at a press junket, at the subject's home. Chatting over a meal, though, can be oddly revealing.
This is, after all, where so much of the entertainment industry does business. Deals are hatched, movies are green-lit and fates are decided while breaking bread.
The stakes are significantly lower when an entertainer sits down with a reporter. Since the whole point of the meeting is to talk, stuffing one's face can work at cross-purposes.
When it comes time to write the story, any mention of the meal itself is usually set aside like a stale breadstick, forgotten in place of loftier discussion about film and music and careers.
But sometimes what someone eats and drinks says a lot about a person.
For example, while discussing last year's "Bee Movie," Jerry Seinfeld acknowledged he hardly ever eats cereal anymore. The responsibilities of being a health-conscious father and husband have eliminated one of his most endearing and childlike habits — not to mention a prominent prop on "Seinfeld."
"I don't really drink — I'll have a glass of wine once in a while," said Seinfeld. "But if I'm really bumming about something and want to just go to hell: 1 a.m., a bowl of cereal, milk — just go crazy, eat as much as you can. That feels great."
In one episode of "Seinfeld," the character based on co-creator Larry David — George Costanza — associates the freedom of single life with the pleasures of sitting alone and chomping on a block of cheese. It was the opposite for David's co-star in HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Jeff Garlin.
In his directorial debut, "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With," Garlin looks for love through the holes of a hunk of Swiss. In an interview over breakfast when he was releasing the film, Garlin chose not to eat cheese, but had a bowl of oatmeal ("plain, nothing on top of it"), a bowl of blueberries and a glass of grapefruit juice.
The grapefruit juice, he said, was a tip from a friend — Marissa Jaret Winokur, star of the stage version of "Hairspray" — to help his voice when it was strained. At the time, Garlin was doing voiceover work for the Pixar film "WALL-E."
The actor and comedian credited his healthy meal to the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida, which, he says, "rescued me."
Greg Kinnear, while discussing last year's "Feast of Love," was similarly healthy, but for different reasons.
His spinach omelet with whole-wheat toast was a welcome reprieve for the actor after gaining weight for the role of Bob Kearns in the soon to be released "Flash of Genius."
"I'm coming off of gaining, like, 20 pounds for a movie," said Kinnear. "It didn't go into my face at all, it just went into all the wrong places. For the last few months, I've been eating anything that has a good, doughy, rich sound to it."
The allure of unhealthy food was stronger for Judd Apatow, the director of "40 Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." At lunch while promoting "Knocked Up," Apatow ordered the penne and asked the waitress, "Can you put chicken in there? Is that possible?"
This, though, was resisting temptation.
"My wife is trying to get me to eat better," said Apatow, who is married to actress Leslie Mann. "So it's very hard when I'm alone in New York City not to have a cheeseburger and an ice cream sundae. What you just saw was a deep inner struggle not to have the burger."
If Apatow found symbolism of his devotion to his wife in his meal, the German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck saw good fortune in his.
The director of 2006's "The Lives of Others" is a 6-foot-6 giant who wolfed down a chicken breast while cheerfully discussing the unlikely international success and acclaim of his very first feature film. After carefully buttering a Melba toast, it slipped from his hand, falling on the floor.
"Here, look," Henckel von Donnersmarck marveled, chuckling. "My things do not fall on the butter side." He dusted the backside of the toast and ate.
True to form, a few months later he won the Academy Award for best foreign film.
Chan Marshall, the singer-songwriter known as Cat Power, was less inclined to look for metaphorical meaning. In a meandering interview, Marshall at one point gave a detailed, 10-minute-long description of how to make the perfect cup of tea.
"Stir it," she advised. "Try to get like a tornado going in it."
Her culinary lesson, though, had as much to do with creating — much like her music does — a feeling. While the tea brews, Marshall suggests to pass the time listening not just to music, but also specifically to either Roberta Flack's "First Take," Mary J. Blige's "The Breakthrough" or James Brown's 50th-anniversary collection, "CD one, song number one until song number seven."
While talking about his fourth directorial effort, the actor Steve Buscemi quietly dispatched a mushroom omelet. This reporter, unable to finish his chicken sandwich, geekily noted how emasculating his doggie bag was.