Tampopo: Around the Dinner Table

Just a short vignette from the movie Tampopo becomes one of the most touching scenes. Juzo Itami introduces the inevitable and despairing theme of death, yet is also able to show how much happiness can be taken from some of your last moments. In this scene, a man hurriedly runs home to his wife on her sickbed. In a slight state of denial, he insists that she get up and cook him and their three children dinner. Without hesitation, this mother and wife cooks her last meal and watches her family eat her food exuberantly before she passes away.

This family enjoys their last meal together.

This family enjoys their last meal together.

Although undoubtedly one of the saddest scenes of the movie, the joy displayed by the family transcends the feeling of death. These last moments of happiness center on the pervading theme of the movie: food. Food is a way to connect, a way to show kindness, a way to feel a heightened sensuality; food is universal. The family in this scene decides to spend their last night together gathered around the dinner table, enjoying a delicious meal. This is certainly not how I think about spending my last day, yet the smile of the dying mother right before passing is undeniably genuine. The close up on the mother shows that her smile is one of no regrets. It’s enough for her to see her family happy. While watching this scene, I realize something that’s easy to forget when we all become obsessively immersed with our lives; some of the simplest, essential things such as a meal with family can bring the most happiness.

A humble smile, stemming from her joy of seeing her family enjoying her cooking.

A humble smile, stemming from her joy of seeing her family enjoying her cooking.

Some of my best memories of my dad are of the dishes that he’s cooked for me and my family. As food engages all of our senses, food becomes something incredibly memorable. Just cooking a meal for someone shows how much you care about them. The heart that goes into making food seems like it radiates out from the steam that escapes a dish. Feeling the heat hit my face gives me such warmth. As the three children devour their food, do they realize how much joy their mother must feel? This mother and also wife clearly cares so much about her family that she wants to cook food for them despite being on her deathbed. This scene from the movie shows how food can take care of people, how food nourishes people. Even after death, the father prompts his children not to cry over their dead mother, but to simply enjoy this last meal that she has painstakingly cooked for them. After his wife is pronounced dead, he digs into his bowl with a revived rigor. Even though the scene may seem slightly exaggerated, it only serves to highlight the importance of food as a way to show care, happiness, and bonding.

The next time someone cooks for you, I hope you can see how much love and care was put into the food. Simply enjoy it!

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