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Food Reactions


Muddling along somehow
Holy cow, it's been over a year since I touched this thing. Time flies. Anyways, I had a conversation with myself, which is extremely sad, about how in the Pokemon anime, every reaction to food is either complete bliss or complete disgust, with no middle ground or variation on those two types of reactions. So, instead of leaving that as a sad conversation with myself because I'm a complete loner, I decided to turn that into consolidating my thoughts for a forum post.

So, here I am. Unimaginative food reactions aren't a problem simply within the Pokemon anime. Just about anytime there's food served, it's revered or reviled with no spin on the reactions. The problem is, this quickly becomes boring if you consume enough media. So, how can we fix this? The answer is, change it up.

Let's suppose three people, named A, B, and C, eat at a restaurant that served them poor quality food. Person A tells the waiter that they thought the food was fine and keeps eating because they're too nice to criticize anyone. Person B eats in silence because they don't like interacting with anyone and don't care about their personal situation. Person C tells the waiter the food was awful and demands a refund because they're one to get shit done, even if their actions don't appeal to those around them.

The disparate reactions in this scene do a couple things from a literary perspective. First, it generates conflict between the characters. Person A may berate Person C for their antagonistic behavior, which sparks an argument between them. Person B may then peace out of there because he doesn't feel like listening to their argument, and the waiter may be confused and exasperated by the mixed reviews and not know what to tell his manager. Second, it offers exploration into the characters themselves. By making how they react to their food say something about the character themselves, it lets you solidify their character and/or offer an avenue of growth.

If we're looking for pop culture references... for anime, one memorable example I can think of is Gurren Lagann - specifically, the scene where Nia cooks a bunch of food that's simply revolting to everyone except Simon, who enjoys it to the confusion of everyone else. Now, it's not a great example, since there isn't any character implied in that scene aside from Simon and Nia are suited to each other, but it's a step up from unanimous enjoyment.

A better example would be Cowboy Bebop's egg eating scene. Again, not a perfect example, because there is little character interaction in this scene, but it does convey the idea that Spike and Jet suffer their fate and loneliness without complaint.

I suppose the most obvious example is Food Wars... but only one example comes to mind, when Nakiri rejects Yukihara's dish, despite its impressive flavor. That offers insight into her spiteful and prejudiced mindset about cooking and offers an avenue of growth to her character. That scene has my seal of approval. The rest of it is fan service. Nothing wrong with it, but the reactions themselves don't affect the story or characters in any way.

I'm sure there's better examples from anime out there, and I'd be thrilled to know if there are any (a comment or PM on that matter would be much appreciated) but that's all I got.

As far as other media goes... Game of Thrones uses reactions to food to flesh out their characters, from Robb Stark eating the miserable fare of Walder Frey's feast without complaint to the Black Brothers having a fit over the fare Craster provides for them. I've been racking my brain for ten minutes, and I can't think of another example. Ah well, can't have everything.

In summary, in food and life in general, things aren't simply good or bad. People respond to the same stimulus in different ways, and exploring those differences is key to turning your literature from bland and lifeless rehash of the same old reactions to a work popping with character and tension.

So, there you have it, my personal advice on how to have your characters react to food without making me pull out my own hair. Whether you're here because you wanted writing advice or simply because you were bored, I hope this helps.