Disjiont Storytelling – The Importance of Food

The movie Tampopo depicts the journey of Tampopo, a young woman attempting to become a master ramen noodle chef and the obstacles she must overcome to fulfill this dream. Tampopo enlists the help of a variety of other men as she attempts to make the perfect bowl of ramen. Though the main focus of the plot is on this quest, there is, however, an assortment of seemingly random side-stories that have nothing to do with Tampopo. In fact, these deviations from the principal story serve a key purpose to the film: they illustrate the importance of food.

In the opening scene one of the characters is reading a book that details an old man teaching another man how to properly eat a bowl of ramen noodles. First he tells his pupil to skim the surface of the broth with his chopsticks. The old man goes on, instructing him to admire the pork and to even go as far as to acknowledge it verbally. The old man has managed to transform the menial task of eating a bowl of soup, into a ritual requiring the most delicate and precise actions. He obviously considers food and the process of eating food extremely important. It’s as if our interaction with food is sacred and of the utmost importance.

Old man showing the younger man the importance of the process of eating food.

Throughout the movie there are a few scenes that depict a couple making love with the aid of food. At first these scenes seem completely disjoint and unnecessary, but they are actually vital communication tools that help shape the overall theme of the film. By coupling food with sex, the movie seems to be highlighting the raw and primal aspects of our relationship with food (the couple even plays with raw shrimp and a raw egg during these scenes). This parallel between sex and food, and our desires for both are inherent within us and we should embrace these feelings.

In another scene a man rushes home to find his wife on her deathbed. He seems almost angry with her, and demands that she is okay. In the end, he has one final request: for her to cook dinner. The wife stumbles to the kitchen, obviously in pain, and makes dinner as if it her were her dying wish. She eventually sets the food down on the table, and the family begins to eat. As the family scarfs down the food, she smiles, and falls to the ground dead. This situation is ridiculous, but the idea it communicates is relevant to the entire film. Just as in the scene with the old man, this scene portrays the importance of food. This scene also illustrates the communal aspect of food. By cooking one last meal and watching her family eat, the woman can happily pass away as if cooking food for her family is the most important thing in her life.

Family enjoying dinner cooked by dying mother.

There are many other scenes in the movie that also seem random, but they too are critical to the storytelling of this movie. These scenes all emphasize the importance of food, and how our interactions and experiences with food are vital to human life.

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