I have joked for a while, in order to shield my ego, that it didn’t matter that I dropped out of university twice due to mental health reasons, because all I’ve ever needed to learn in this life has been taught to me through watching the Simpsons. Although this is mostly a stab at humour – again, something I learned through the Simpsons – there is an element of truth to this statement, as after school viewings of the show over dinner with my little brother, followed by 6pm double Sky episodes has certainly shaped the woman I am today: Animated, gluttonous and prone to using humour in order to mask my fears of economic, political and personal traumas. Welp!
I am Marge. In case you didn’t notice, given my tall, blue hair. Well no I am not, but I’ve always felt a warmness to her character, specifically how she worries and is a woman only comfortable touching the boundaries of where her femininity is allowed, given the Simpsons patriarchal structure – a purposeful reflection of modern times, I’m sure. Sometimes she is brave, for example, when she runs for Mayor or gets her own pretzel company, but the moral of the story always loops back to “at least you tried”, and a male takes over once again. My ex boyfriend used to nickname me Marge, “because I never voice my opinions”, but without making the gruff “hmmmmm” that Marge does when she’s suppressing her inner thoughts. The background of my phone is currently Marge (I know, shoot me dead), but I feel less of an affiliation to her nowadays since my confidence has grown and I’ve ditched that rotten boy.
I started to love the Simpsons in primary school, well before I realised it was hipster to change your Facebook photo to a Simpsons character – I learned my lesson. For me, watching the Simpsons has always been an enormous joy. I’d watch Simpsons characters mindlessly eating their dinner while watching television, as I mirrored them doing exactly the same. Eating mashed potato and tinned spaghetti, in case you were curious. In school, I’d always tend to gravitate to the ‘weirdos’ who could quote almost every episode, like me. My first sleepover at one of my now best friend’s house involved us singing in sync, “plaaaaaying on my peeeeeach tree ahhhhh” as a homage to Lisa into the recorder of her Samsung flip phone. Don’t ask me why. When I watch the Simpsons today I’m warmed by nostalgia and surprised by how clever and socially aware the show still is.
For a moment there I almost forgot I write for a food blog, so allow me to get back to the point. One of my favourite parts aesthetically about watching the Simpsons is the food, but I only recently paid attention to this detail. Although the dishes and meals served are always a part of a sub plot to a bigger storyline and joke, the Instagram account @springfieldcuisine, which displays Simpsons food in screen grabs, allowed me to realise the colours, beauty, textures and humour it had brought to the script without me even realising. Food is woven into the fibres of everyday life, and none more so than for the Simpsons.
The majority of my favourite Simpsons episodes involve food, like when Homer adopts an enormous deep-fried sugar ball, when Springfield steals their lemon tree back from Shelbyville, tomacco (where a plutonium rod combines tobacco and a tomato), the Gummi Venus de Milo or when Homer turns into a donut. I could go on. I won’t though. The Simpsons creators have had no qualms with poking fun at the “greedy” American and have as a result built a cuisine that reflects the social and economic status of their characters brilliantly. I love that they aren’t afraid to touch on uncomfortable subjects like alcoholism, pollution and obesity, and they have been honest enough to showcase how food can be your demise as well as your saviour, and that to me is brilliant. Simpsons food is a way of connecting its characters, mending relationships and making your viewing experience more visually appealing. I love the way Simpsons food looks, whether that be sloppy, grey meals served by Marge to her family, colourful candies, fizzy beer, woven pies or whole fish with three eyes bulging. There truly is something for every character’s appetite.
The point of this piece isn’t to be overly analytical of the Simpsons and its food, but it is to show that the realism – albeit here within the context of this show – has somewhat made me comfortable eating within my own social remits. Entering the working world of food, I was naive to think that I wouldn’t become subject to classism, by trained chefs and people who grew up eating quails eggs for lunch. In a bid to fit in, I would try to read various food critic’s angry restaurant reviews, along with fine food and wine magazines, but would only come back to craving sticky, white, packaged bread instead. What I have realised, what the Simpsons have made me realise, is that that’s okay. Sticky, white, packaged bread is food too, no matter what Gwyneth Paltrow says. Through my recipes for Not Plant Based, I have tried to honour the “cheap” food I love with frequent nods to plastic, melted cheese, processed sausages and home-brand pasta, all while ignoring those who find this “gross”. The Simpsons has taught me not to be embarrassed by my food choices because food can be funny, and personal, and non organic.
My relationship with Instagram over the past year or two has changed significantly, as I have unfollowed all the accounts of models I’ll never look like and unachievable fitness accounts run by people I find painfully boring, in favour of accounts dedicated to stringy cheese toasties, pizza and pasta. “Junk food”, if you like. The number of accounts like this that I follow bulges daily along with my appetite, as I hungrily discovery new photographs of food I’ve never tried but would like to one day. But despite the competition of all these accounts, my favourite still remains to be @springfieldcuisine, as despite never being able to taste a real Krusty burger, this account allows a girl to dream.