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Food: The Heart of Art.

“Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too.”

― Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea


The obsession with food as an artistic expression has taken a front seat in today’s world. From Renaissance paintings to Ghibli cinema, food has been finding its way into art for many years. Ghibli cinema has all of us drooling over the crisping bacon and eggs in Howl’s Moving Castle and the most flavorful ramen in Ponyo. Food in Hayao Miyazaki’s animations doesn’t only showcase the vibrant parts of an individual’s life but also the dreamy metaphors of friendships.


Food in the Ghibli Universe.

Some of the most heartiest moments in the Ghibli universe are shared over food. From Totoro’s little gift of nuts and seeds to Satsuki that later sprouts into a huge tree establishes the metaphor of their enriching friendship. Similarly, the greed of possessing everything in Spirited Away turns Chihiro’s parents into pigs when they consume things that they were not supposed to. Food doesn’t only drive the warm & fuzzy feeling in the audience but it gives us lessons on moral codes as well - not engaging in gluttony and protecting those you love most. In Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie gets homeless and eats a plain meal of bread and cheese which reflects her living conditions but when she encounters the moving castle - she cooks the most scrumptious bacon and eggs which reflects the homely comfort of the castle.


Food and Literature.

We’ve seen literature enthusiasts go gaga over food in a literary way? Wow! They’d go home after a hectic day and cook themselves an exaggerated meal and post it with literary captions on their social handles. Trust your English teachers to fit into the aforementioned category.

Food occupies a very important place for literature scholars. There can be two main reasons; They deal in abstracts all the time. Food is tangible and beautiful. In addition, Now this is contradictory to the first reason, but also not really. Food is excruciatingly poetic. The entire process of cooking; right from envisioning a dish, to picking the right ingredients and then prepping them, then the process of cooking and then plating up, the actual eating, and then even doing the dishes. Every single step can be (and is) romanticized. The fact that something so poetic can also be so tangible is almost impossible to resist for people who study literature because through cooking they get to see a different, more visceral kind of art being created.

Speaking more academically, it is well established that food/cooking traditions are the most important expressions of culture in any society. Since students of literature are essentially readers of culture, interest in food is inevitable. Food also has a level of tactile satiation that literature often falls short of. Scholars read about food and it's very enticing, but they know that it isn't as good as the real thing. And since the real thing is within reach, they go for it. Also, most people in books seek food and warm drinks for comfort. Scholars then derive double comfort because along with the food they also think of the book that brings them happiness.

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