March 28th, 2012, 8:41 am

Culinary Book of the Week: The Hunger Games

Why The Hunger Games is a Culinary Book

First off, I'm going to be at the University of Miami Hurricon on April 7th, selling original art and sketches at a table and hosting a Harry Potter fandom panel. Keep watching this blog and my Facebook for details, and email me if you would like a particular comic strip or a commission. I will draw a strip or drawing on request and provide simple free sketches based on your descriptions.

Now, onto The Hunger Games goodies. For those of you that don't know, this trilogy is about a girl named Katniss volunteering for a murderous reality show in her innocent sister's place. (As an article in the Miami Herald pointed out, Katniss has become a surrogate mother for young Prim and takes on a lot of responsibility for her age.) This blog has spoilers, however, so you have been warned.

Despite being a nightmarish dystopia set against the backdrop of celebrity life and reality shows, I believe that the Games are well named for a reason. Each book title in the Hunger Games trilogy represents a different stage in Katniss's life:

1) The Hunger Games- When Katniss merely fights to survive and support her family, whether by hunting game or surviving the harsh arena. We are talking about The Hunger Games today.

2) Catching Fire- Katniss after the Hunger Games, unwittingly stirring a rebellion and the Capitol's wrath at the same time.

3) Mockingjay- This fictional bird becomes Katniss's new identity, a political symbol for the rebellion and the most dangerous one for her sanity.

Food represents security and the first threshold, to borrow Hero's Journey terms, in The Hunger Games. Katniss's biggest worry is making sure that her sister won't starve, that she won't get caught hunting game outside of the boundaries, and that little Prim won't end up chosen as a tribute for the Hunger Games. Using the word "hunger" also masks how many levels of difficult exist in the arena, since the readers think that death is the only worry while playing. These games do not involve deception or cultivating a particular image. That changes when she boards the train to the Capitol.

Before the death battles in the arena, food provides nourishing satisfaction and hope. Katniss samples the delicacies that the Capitol chefs provide while learning how to tolerate the stylists and answer the interviewer's questions properly. She knows the luxury won't last, that the Capitol people can't understand what it means to starve, but this brief break gives her the hope, allies and time to survive the oncoming battle. When she mentions that stewed lamb is her favorite meal, for example, it reappears when she plays her role as a star-crossed lover. And in the end, Katniss uses her knowledge of berries to survive without killing "love interest" Peeta, thus securing her a final victory.

Peeta, the boy tribute from Katniss's district, also secures their victory by handling deceit more smoothly. I haven't gone in detail about baking in my comic, but cooking in general involves stirring, mixing and cooking ingredients so that they produce a particular product. Peeta does the same thing as a baker's son, and he also knows how to create a product out of cultivated lies. For example, Peeta has learned how to burn bread so part of it is edible and gives it to a starving Katniss; he succeeds in the job and gives Katniss a chance to recover so that her family can live. In the Capitol Peeta saves Katniss's life again by confessing love for her , giving her the lie to win sponsors and entertain the viewers. Although their relationship exists to save them from the Hunger Games as a team, they share genuine tender moments that the deception can't mar.

This has come out like an incomplete essay; maybe I will submit it for a student seminar, mayhap. Go reread the book with these thoughts in mind, and tell me how food is used in the film version.

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