Picture this: You’ve just started Howl’s Moving Castle for the first time. Grandma Sophie had smuggled her way into the moving castle and woke up the next day to cook breakfast using Calcifer. And then, Howl Jenkins Pendragon comes in, pushes her out of the way, and proceeds to make the most beautiful eggs and bacon you have ever seen. They sizzle and pop, glistening with grease in the frying pan and you’re mesmerized. Nothing could’ve prepared you for that kind of Anime Food, but you know you’ll never be the same.
The food in anime feels like it is designed to pull the viewer in and immerse them in the act of delicious things being cooked in the most attractive way possible. This isn’t just limited to Studio Ghibli works either, a ton of anime use food as more than just a prop. It is a character in and of itself, the act of cooking being this break in the story that you just savor as much as you would the food being cooked.
Hell, an entire genre of anime exists based on that feeling alone. Cooking anime has been popular long before Food Wars: Shokugeki No Soma came on the scene and it’s something I’ve grown to enjoy over the years. Besides, who doesn’t like seeing gorgeously animated dishes while watching their favorite show? But it’s so much more than that.
There is something so earnest and beautiful about how anime tends to treat something as tedious as cooking, making it seem like an act of love more than anything. So today, this is my love letter to one of my favorite things in anime, and in life: Cooking up delicious food.
Food In Anime As A Love Language:
When Haku offers Chihiro some Onigiri in that one scene in Spirited Away and she cries while eating it, you empathize with her. Because, if you grew up in an Asian family, food is often used as a love language there. You eat when you are happy or when you are sad, and even when you’re stressed. Loved ones will bring you cut-up fruit while you’re studying, or your mom will make you take warm milk before bed. It’s a feeling that brings us comfort.
Food in anime feels so familiar, in that same vein. This is why they treat it with so much love and care, with each dish being crafted carefully and prettily displayed. Even the phrase they say before eating, ‘Itadakimasu!’ is such a beautiful sentiment, giving thanks for the food they had received.
As a child, my family didn’t push me or my sisters into cooking, so I never did much of it. Hell, I couldn’t even light a match before my parents would start screaming at me. No, I discovered my passion for the culinary arts through anime.
But seeing those decorated plates of Omurice in anime made me want to try making the dish myself. Glistening bowls of Ramen pushed me to explore my palate and try things outside of my comfort zone. Summer festivals in high school anime with their steaming skewers and tasty Takoyaki added warmth to the scenes where friends met up again. There was just something so inviting and calming about those moments in anime that you just can’t resist.
The Art Of Cooking: Beauty In The Mundane!
I’ve always wondered why Studio Ghibli movies feel so comforting, even when the plot is high-paced and exciting. And it’s the fact that it treats daily chores as something to be enjoyed, which includes making food.
Now, this isn’t me just saying stuff. Hayao Miyazaki himself has talked about Immersive-Realism, or how he romanticizes the mundane in his movies to balance the overwhelming magical events that are happening in the plot. During a rough patch in the plot, or maybe as an intermission, it feels so inviting and comforting to see characters take a breather and prep veggies or silently set up a bento box. It might not add much to the action, but it enriches the plot.
The scenes are set in worlds that are so wondrous and dynamic, but it’s these tiny, humane moments that sit with us. The domesticity in the chaos that, let’s be honest, we all inherently crave in a fast-paced life.
Food in anime isn’t just there to attract viewers. It’s a moment of respite, a token of love, a shot of technicolor in a bleak situation. Simple, but so impactful.