The role of food in our daily lives extends beyond its vital function of sustenance. Its variety of tastes, shapes, and colours are central and even symbolic in numerous social gatherings. Memories of specific life events may be associated with a particular dish. Food itself may also conjure a multitude of emotions, ranging from pure joy to intense disgust. The delightful Japanese ‘ramen western’ directed by Juzo Itami entitled “Tampopo” explores the breadth of sensations and feelings associated with delicious dishes. This is accomplished through clever and diverse vignettes, as well as a central story of hope and determination.
Tampopo (Nobulo Miyamoto) is a widowed single mother trying desperately to continue operating her failing ramen noodle shop, “Lai Lai”. A chance encounter with truck drivers Goro (Tsutomo Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) encourages Tampopo to begin a quest for developing and perfecting her ramen recipes. We lovingly watch Tampopo blossom into a supreme ramen queen with the help of self-pronounced ramen experts, occasionally and amusingly tricking fellow competitors into divulging their own secrets! Over the top parodies of westerns and humorous sketches with cuisine as the central player are interspersed throughout the film. Every story told conveys different sentiments experienced with various foods present, including anticipation, elation, fulfillment, nostalgia, frustration, erotica, envy, tranquility, and appreciation.
Tampopo translates in English to the word “Dandelion”. This particular flower has had many uses over the course of history varying from weed to herbal remedy. The range of functions of this plant mirrors the endearing central character’s journey of self-discovery and growing confidence. Blood, sweat, and tears pour into every bowl of ramen subsequent to her decision to improve her craft. Her perseverance and diligence are qualities in which we all strive to emulate in our lives. Passion behind various work or home projects further stimulates us to ensure a high quality outcome. Thus, the achievement of that goal can be extremely rewarding, both or either personally or financially rewarding. As a treat, some would opt to eat delicious ramen to celebrate the fruits of their labour!
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