My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Sustain, with sustenance

It occurred to me I always enjoyed what I ate when I was with him

On an early morning of a February Friday, I woke up and went to get my third shot of COVID-19 vaccine. Hours later, side effects started to affect my body. From chills and a fever to aches and a headache, I was not feeling great.

When I woke up Saturday morning, my family helped me by preparing a warm breakfast. Whenever I don’t feel well, I am doubly reminded of the care and attention that loved ones provide for me stored in simple acts, like that morning, in a bowl of porridge and a cup of peppermint tea.

I wish my heart would break and get it over with

The word “sustenance” could be compared to aliment or nourishment. It could also mean to support or maintain. Both could be achieved by food, as told by Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen.

In the book, Yoshimoto introduces grief from the very beginning. It shakes the world under her characters’ feet, and the instability shocks them. Day by day, grief unveils its new faces and force the people it occupies to continue on despite its presence. They need to continue to sustain their own lives.

But right now there’s this katsudon. Go ahead, eat it.

Kitchen is a dedication to sustenance. Here, food plays a vital character, not as an aid to cure grief, rather a companion. Food brings warmth to our bodies, giving us a chance to hold our own, at least for a short while. After that we take in some more, and the everlasting cycle of nourishment continues.

Food is also a communal experience. Cooking a dish, making a hot drink, and eating with someone, all feel like well wishes for the maintenance of each others lives.

And the kitchen is at the center of it all. To me, a kitchen is a protective bubble where I can (and have to) be present. Preparing a dish demands attention, and to my pleasure, it requires me to leave my thoughts outside the confines of the cooking area. It’s also a shared space, where in certain times of a day it will fill with members of a household, assembling meals together.

It was the hour when everyone was headed for someplace warm

In Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Jeffrey Wright’s character Roebuck Wright, a food journalist, is asked in a talk show why he writes about food.

Roebuck recalls the life that he chose is one imbued with loneliness, and how despite that, anywhere he would be, there was always a “table set for him”. Maybe a restaurant or a cafe he can walk into, with people and especially food that will be there to offer an experience of companionship.

“It is the solitary feast that has been very much like a comrade, my great comfort and fortification,” he said solemnly.

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microscopicals by sara

microscopicals by sara

tiny stories by a tiny 23-year-old writer • she/her/hers