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Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest cooking games ever


More than once on TikTok in the run up to Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom I have seen a video that seems to have been born from a simple wish: that cooking in real life was as much fun as cooking in Breath of the Wild is.

It's always the same. A pot. An armful of ingredients. Chuck them all in and the ingredients jump around for a bit, and then? Bam: dinner.

I always watch these videos a couple of times, revelling in the pure joy of it. And that's the thing: cooking in Breath of the Wild really is distilled joy. The animation lasts for maybe a few seconds, but it's often my favourite part of the game.

Sometimes it feels like, if you're not interested in taking on Ganon or whoever it is, Breath of the Wild is just itching to be whatever game you want it to be. It can be all about climbing mountains. All about Moblin combat. Or, it can be all about cooking. And, really, I'm starting to think it might be one of the best cooking games ever.

For something so streamlined, its cooking feels remarkable real for starters. I'm not saying I regularly dump ingredients in a pan and they jump around and then turn into the dish I'm after. But Breath of the Wild gets at some of the deeper truths of cooking. The mystery of it, for one thing.

10 Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting The Legend of Zelda Tears of the KingdomWatch on YouTube

Example: Breath of the Wild doesn't really teach you how to cook, and I think that's on purpose. You'll have a bunch of ingredients in your inventory, and hey, out in the world here's a nice fire with a pot on it. But there's no prompt to cook. No button suggests itself as being the way to get things moving. I remember my first time at this spot in the game. I was stumped and then annoyed.

And then I realised I had to think for myself a bit. I had to choose the ingredients in a menu, put them in my hands, and then return to the game itself. Suddenly I had the prompt to cook - because Link was holding the stuff to cook with! In other words, I had to experiment and fumble my way through it. You know, like cooking.

This experimentation gets to the heart of it, I think. I have loads of cook books in my house, but that's because I love them as a form - the images, the interplay of story and recipe, the sheer promise of what I might make. But following instructions always gets me a bit anxious - I am no fun when I'm sticking to a recipe.

Cooking in Breath of the Wild.Watch on YouTube

So give me something like a Niki Segnit cook book, which teaches you to approach cooking as an experiment. In The Flavour Thesaurus, she points you towards harmonious pairings. In Lateral Cooking, she takes, say, a biscuit apart and gives you the biscuit continuum - change this variable and this happens, change that variable and you get something else.

Experimental cooking! This is what I love in the real kitchen, and I do believe it's the best way to approach cooking in Zelda. Particularly if you're not interested in defeating Ganon or any of that stuff. If you're after Ganon, get a few great recipes for food that restores health or boosts this or that and you're off. But it feels like such a waste! Instead, I love to ignore all that, look at whatever's in the inventory, chuck it in and see if what turns up at the end is disgusting or not.

In other words, Breath of the Wild understands that cooking is an adventure - probably because it comes from a developer mindset in which everything should be an adventure. This is why it brings to mind Niki Segnit's books more than any others - because those books are about self-expression and experimentation and cooking as if you're heading off into the woods and who knows what will happen?

Also: deep down cooking is magic. One of my favourite experiences with cooking was making syrup. Sugar, water, heat. And then you have to wait. You have to wait for the sugar and the water to slowly turn golden. And the tension comes from the fact that if you stir it - and you'll really want to - if you stir it, you'll ruin it.

And if you don't: voila! Something very special, and something that feels like it had no real reason to emerge from what you've been doing. Zelda's creators would understand that. After all, they put the transformative magic of making food right at the heart of this astonishing game.

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