Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest cooking games ever
More than once on TikTok in the lead-up to Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom I’ve seen a video that seems to have been born from a simple desire: that cooking in real life was as fun as cooking in Breath of the Wild.
Always the same. a pot. bunch of ingredients. Pop them all in and the ingredients jump around a bit, then? Pam: Dinner.
I always watch these videos many times, basking in their pure joy. And here’s the thing: Cooking in Breath of the Wild is truly a distilled pleasure. The animation only lasts a few seconds, but it’s often my favorite part of the game.
At times, it feels as if if you’re not interested in facing off against Ganon or whatever, Breath of the Wild is dying to be whatever game you want it to be. It could be all about mountaineering. All about the Battle of Moblin. Or it could be all about cooking. And really, I’m starting to think that it might be one of the best cooking games ever.
For something so simplistic, its cooking feels remarkably real for the uninitiated. I’m not saying I regularly dump ingredients into the pan and then they jump and turn into the dish I’m after. But Breath of the Wild understands some of the deeper realities of cooking. The secret is for one thing.
Example: Breath of the Wild doesn’t really teach you how to cook, and I think that’s on purpose. You’ll have a bunch of ingredients in your inventory, and hey, in the world there’s a nice fire with a pot on it. But there is no prompt to cook. There is no button to suggest the way to move things. I remember my first time in this place of the game. I was confused and then upset.
Then I realized I should think a little more about myself. I had to pick ingredients on a list, put them in my hand, and then go back to the game itself. Suddenly I got a call to cook – because Link kept things to cook! In other words, I had to try and stumble upon it. You know, like cooking.
I think this experience gets to the heart of it. I have a lot of cookbooks in my house, but that’s because I love them as form—the pictures, the interplay of story and recipes, and the sheer promise of what I might make. But following directions always makes me feel a little anxious—I don’t have much fun sticking to a recipe.
So give me something like Niki Segnit’s Cookbook, which teaches you to treat cooking as an experience. In The Flavor Thesaurus guides you towards harmonious pairings. In a side cook you take, say, a separate biscuit and they give you the string of biscuits – change that variable and this happens, change that variable and you get something else.
Experimental cooking! This is what I love about a real kitchen, and I think it’s the best way to approach cooking in Zelda. Especially if you’re not interested in defeating Ganon or any of that stuff. If you’re after Ganon, get some great recipes for food that restores health or enhances this or that. But it looks like a waste! Instead, I like to ignore it all, take a look at whatever is in the inventory, dump it and see if what turns out to be disgusting in the end.
In other words, Breath of the Wild understands that cooking is an adventure – perhaps because it comes from a developer mindset where everything should be an adventure. That’s why it brings to mind more Niki Segnit books than any other – because these books are about self-expression, experimentation, and cooking like you’re heading into the woods and who knows what will happen?
Also: Deep cooking is magic. One of my favorite culinary experiences was making syrup. Sugar, water, heat. And then you have to wait. You have to wait for the sugar and water to slowly turn golden. And the tension comes from the fact that if you move it – and you really want to – if you move it, you will destroy it.
And if you don’t: voila! Something very special, and something that seemed to have no real reason to get out of what you were doing. The creators of Zelda will understand that. After all, they put the transformative magic of making food at the heart of this amazing game.
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