Back in the day, before I started doing this weird job called video games journalism, I worked in hospitality for more years than I’d like to think about. It was always going to happen, my family has a background in it, and my dad’s a chef, so food was just a big part of my life anyway. In turn, I’m lucky enough to know a little bit about cooking, and have gotten pretty good at it! It’s a skill you have to put time into, as it’s not exactly something most people will teach you, which sometimes makes it hard to learn. But, and bear with me here, I honestly think Delicious in Dungeon, Netflix‘s latest anime about killing monsters and turning them into delicious meals, has some surprisingly good lessons about cooking.
How about a point of introduction, first, as you might not have heard of this new anime. Based on the manga of the same name, Delicious in Dungeon sees a group of travellers attempting to make their way through an underground dungeon filled with all kinds of creatures and monsters, as they attempt to rescue one of their members from the stomach of a dragon. The only problem is, they’re flat broke, so can’t afford food. Enter Laios, leader of the party, and monster lover, suggesting that they eat the monsters they kill.
The anime adaptation comes from the acclaimed Studio Trigger, best known for their works like Kill la Kill, Promare, and more recently, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. It’s not got the fanciest animation in town, but it’s still lovingly rendered, and funny as all hell, a lot of that coming from the complete opposing force that is Laios, secret weirdo that wants to eat monsters, and Marcille, the elven mage of the group who couldn’t be more repulsed by the idea.
What I love most about the way it presents cooking is the way that it encourages experimentation. The first episode introduces a dwarf called Senshi, an odd fellow who knows a lot more about cooking monsters than Laios does, thanks to his years spent figuring out how to do so. Laios, new to the whole thing, simply relied upon a guide telling him what was and wasn’t safe to eat, and while I love a good cookbook, it can only get you so far.
There’s also a good lesson to be learned about foraging, too. At one point in the first episode Marcille starts to prepare a spell that will kill a bunch of plant monsters that they want to eat, but Senshi interrupts her, teaching her that you should only ever take as much as you need. This is a genuine rule of foraging too, as whenever you do forage, you should never take it all, and you should especially leave behind anything you can’t physically reach.
With lessons like these, what we’re left with as a viewer is the idea that food is something to be respected, particularly the preparation of food, and the steps we take to even get to the prep part. Cooking definitely isn’t for everyone, we all have our own skills, but it’s one I’m really glad I have, and seeing the joy of it translated onto screen in such a fantastical way lights up my metaphorical kitchen hob.
What’s that I hear you say? The idea of eating “huge scorpion and walking mushroom hotpot” grosses you out? Well, fair, but the show does make it look pretty tasty if you ask me, and really the important thing to learn here isn’t what you make, but that it’s worth putting in the time to learn how to make it. It’s fine, you can make a regular hotpot, but when you do, make sure you really put some time into thinking about why you’re adding what you are. It might just make the food taste better.