Food and the Nintendo Switch
Image: Bon Appétit

The Nintendo Switch is apparently very hot right now — so hot that it's in the kitchen. Bon Appétit, the New York-based cooking magazine/website/YouTube enterprise that was the subject of criticism back in 2020 after allegations of a toxic and racist environment, has slowly been building up its site after a ton of their key talent left in protest — and part of that apparently includes expanding into video games. How very dare they.

Writer Nico Avalle mostly covers food, with articles like "The 69 Best Thanksgiving Recipes" (nice) and "What Is Crab Paste, Anyway?" but a few days ago, they published a piece titled "4 Nintendo Switch Games for Food Lovers" — a list which included examples of games that "get it right" when it comes to portraying food.

"Why does the food in video games pretty much always suck?"

Avalle isn't wrong — food in games is usually a means to an end, a thing which heals you, or keeps your survival going for a little longer. "Almost universally," says Avalle, "it feels like video game developers view food as nourishment and nothing more, dooming their characters to exist on pixelated meal replacement bars and nutrition shakes." Even though all of us are games writers and not food writers, it's hard to disagree.

But what are the four games?

Overcooked

Well, for "Cooperative Kitchen Chaos", the recommendation is of course to play one of the brilliant, stressful Overcooked games:

"After 15 minutes or so, you’ll find yourself using kitchen lingo out of pure convenience: “Hot behind!” I say, dashing past my friend with a saucepan. “You call that a julienne, you f**king donkey?” she says, checking my knife skills. What fun!"

Stardew Valley

If it's more of a farm-to-table thing you're looking for, look no further than Stardew Valley, says Avalle:

"Want to raise goats to produce award winning chèvre? You can do that. Do you dream of owning a riverside vineyard? You can do that too. Want to channel Gerald Stratford and go all in on growing massive pumpkins and other big veg? You can and definitely should do that."

Breath of the Wild

Avalle describes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a "fantasy for foragers" with all of its mushrooms, fruits, and animals waiting to be turned into steak, but notes that BOTW's greatest skill is in encouraging curiosity through food:

"Where BotW stands apart from other adventure games, culinarily speaking, is that food is not only an essential tool for survival, but it’s also an engine for more exploration. While hunting for boar in the forest, you may stumble upon a bushel of spicy peppers.

Cooked into a dish, these provide Link with frostbite resistance, which will allow you to explore frozen mountaintops without harm. There, you might find an herb with a cooling effect, giving you access to scorching hot deserts, where another new ingredient might point you in another new direction."

Cooking Simulator

And finally, what every chef needs: a little bit of zen. Unlike a real kitchen, though, Avalle finds peace in Cooking Simulator, which imagines a world in which people aren't constantly yelling at you to make pommes purée:

"In a nutshell, Cooking Sim is my unapologetic brain softener where nothing matters, and that’s the point.

Even the things I don’t like—it feels like it was made for PC, so the controls on the Switch version are a bit clunky, and I still have trouble lining things up while chopping and pouring no matter how much I practice—are a constant reminder to step back and take stock. If I ruin a dish in the game, it costs me nothing, and no one has to suffer through a burnt dinner. None of this is real, I think, you’re doing this to relax. And I do."

Other than making us incredibly hungry, this piece makes us think: If Bon Appétit can write about the Nintendo Switch, does that mean we can write about food? We definitely have the qualifications — most of us eat food at least three times a day!

Oh, and in case you're wondering — crab paste is "a mixture of fermented crab guts and roe" with vinegar. You use it for basting meats, apparently.

Which games on the Switch do you think are great examples of "getting it right" when it comes to food? Let us know in the comments!

And Bon Appétit, if you're reading this: we love you very much, and you are welcome to our turf, as long as you share what you've been cooking.

[source bonappetit.com]