Food engages all our senses. Food is nostalgic. Food is heritage. Consider all this and it becomes clear that food tells a story. And it’s such an effective and important storyteller, it’s little wonder we find it so often in books, TV shows, and movies. Sometimes it’s just a scene or even a moment. Sometimes it’s so prevalent it becomes a theme…and that’s just what happens in Recipes for Love and Murder. Much like colour plays a part in telling a story in the show, food is just as prominent. It's even in the title of the show.
Tannie Maria uses food as a means of eliciting clues from suspects and as a way to win over an exasperated Hattie. Most importantly, however, she uses it as a way to connect with the readers of the town newspaper. As the local agony aunt, Tannie Maria gets heaps of letters, and her advice always comes with a recipe. With this recipe-cum-advice column, she brings together lovers, mends broken hearts, and restores bruised egos. Food evokes emotion, provides insight into character, and enriches stories in so many ways. Here are just a few examples of food used to delicious effect in Recipes for Love and Murder.
Food engages the senses
While we cannot taste the food on the show, we can see it. Recipes for Love and Murder pops with colour and this is especially true when it comes to the food – whether it’s plump, ripe strawberries, sticky koeksisters, sizzling bacon, a rich, gooey chocolate cake, ripe, red tomatoes, or fresh, green herbs, the colours make the food come to life (while making our mouths water!).
Food is sexy
Food is popularly used as a metaphor for sex. Remember that highly suggestive Steers advert a decade or so ago? Or the film Like Water for Chocolate? In this Mexican film, the food/sex trope becomes a lot more literal as protagonist Tita pours her tears, passion, and lust into her cooking, just for anyone who eats that food to burst into tears or be consumed with passion too. While our Tannie Maria is a bit more reserved, she does not shy away from the subject either, even likening it to cooking.
And Hattie is more than happy to make insinuations too…using food, of course!
Food mends fences
There’s a reason it’s called comfort food – and comfort is just what Maria provides through her words and her recipes. We’ve seen her mend fences between Dirk and Martine, thanks to her delicious mutton curry. And we’ve seen her resolve a misunderstanding between Regardt and Jessie, thanks to a packet of koeksisters…even though they were just from the Koop and Jessie’s favourite treat is actually koesisters.
Food is bonding
Whether there’s a fence to mend or not, food helps us bond – just reflect how major holidays revolve around food and eating together with family and friends. In Recipes for Love and Murder, Maria and Jessie are often together in the kitchen discussing life, love, and letters. We also see the citizens of Eden running into each other and gossiping (or looking for clues) at the Koop or the food market.
The comfort and bonding that food can provide is epitomised in the roast dinner scene between Maria and Khaya. Having been threatened by the murderer, Maria now has police protection at her home, starting with Khaya. As she prepares a roast dinner she naturally includes a dish for him (food is about sharing, after all). This scene is made all the more poignant by earlier scenes that have reinforced how lonely Maria and Khaya are. The roast dinner provides each character with the company they’ve needed and also allows Maria to finally break through Khaya’s tough exterior as she smooths the feathers she’s ruffled by becoming involved in the investigation.
Food is exposition
If you want to get to know characters better or provide deeper context to a story or location, food can be a great way of doing that. In Recipes for Love and Murder we’ve already had curry and koeksisters and vetkoek and springbok pie, food which firmly places it in South Africa. And in the case of vetkoek and chocolate cake, we learn a lot more as Maria uses these to warm up to the townspeople she wishes to question about Martine’s murder.
Food also plays a part in the flashbacks to Maria’s past as she tries to win her husband’s approval, much like Martine with the mutton curry. Maria’s husband, however, is soon revealed to be an unsavoury character: unlike Dirk, Maria’s husband uses the food as a way to further denigrate Maria and he becomes even more loathsome in the careless way he shovels food into his mouth not savouring or appreciating her hard work at all. Simple scenes like these speak volumes about the characters.
Food is funny
On a lighter note, food provides humour in many ways, harking all the way back to classic comedy routines like slipping on a banana peel or shoving a pie in someone’s face. American Pie took this humour to the next level by combining the “food as humour” trope with the “food as metaphor for sex” trope. Food also makes for great puns and we love cheese.
What’s been your favourite foodie moment on the show so far? Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #RecipesLoveMurder.
Watch Recipes for Love and Murder every Sunday at 20:00 on M-Net channel 101.
Missed an episode? Catch up with DStv here.