“Dad, I think you’re addicted, and you shouldn’t play tonight.”
That’s my seven year old acting like a parent, out of concern that I’ve been playing video games too much lately. He’s not entirely wrong.
We picked up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch a couple of months back, and I can’t stop playing. It’s a problem. And while there is plenty of action firing bomb arrows at moblins and struggling to solve imaginative puzzles, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is actually . . . cooking?
Before we get into the culinary quests, though, let’s just say that Breath of the Wild is by far one of the best video games I’ve ever played. It’s a massive world that encourages deep exploration and rewards smart thinking. But the most impressive thing about Zelda is how all the attention to detail intertwines to create an immersive, unified experience. That includes the attention to food. What could have been a one-off, throwaway bit is actually central to how you play (and survive) the game.
There is some main plot to defeat some monster, yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s fine. Most games have that. It’s the discovery that’s much more fun. Zelda is a forager’s dream. Meadows, river banks, beaches and mountaintops all hold items you can pick: mushrooms, apples, honey (but watch out for the bees!), and so much more.
Plus, for the carnivores out there, you can fish and hunt, or visit a local bodega to buy ingredients like rice and milk. And everything you pick up goes into your inventory and can be used throughout the game.
Which is when the real fun begins.
There are stone fire pits scattered across the map. When you come across one you can reach into your inventory and pull out five ingredients. Throw them all in a pot and after a jaunty little song, it reveals your food creation.
At minimum you can throw just mushrooms into the mix and create a simple mushroom skewer, or throw boar meat on for a seared steak. But it’s way more fun to see what you can come up with by mixing and matching. I find myself channeling my inner chef as I spend several minutes examining and handpicking the best ingredients, trying to balance my salty and sweet flavors.
This is for a meal, mind you, in a video game.
IGN has the full list of all the recipes you can make, and they can quickly get all Michelin star-like. For instance: Combine mushroom, a bird egg, goat butter and rock salt to create a mushroom omelette. Throw salmon, rock salt, rice and goat butter together for a Salmon risotto. Then polish the whole thing off with a slice of pumpkin pie made from pumpkin, goat butter, cane sugar and wheat. (That’s a lot of goat butter.)
Even the in-game descriptions of each meal in the game are sumptuous in their own right, and could appear in an issue of Bon Appetit.
What’s interesting, and completely weird for me to type out loud here, is that making meals in Zelda actually makes me want to cook more in real life. I realize that’s insane. If I threw a whole apple, wild honey and a steak into a pot over an open flame the result would be inedible. Not to mention the fact that moblin is totally not in season right now. But in a weird sort of way, my Zelda adventures are making me feel like maybe I could be more adventurous when I cook in real life, too.
I can’t recommend Breath of the Wild highly enough for both gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s fun, and all the foraging, experimenting and cooking is really quite . . . addicting.