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Netflix’s Anime ‘Flavors of Youth’ Traces the Link Between Food and Memory

Recommendations on a movie and two TV shows to stream this weekend, plus a roundup of the week’s entertainment news

Netflix/Flavors of Youth

This post originally appeared on September 14, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.


Welcome back to Friday afternoon, the time of the week that feels like finding a bonus onion ring in a regular order of fries. I’ve got a few recommendations for things to watch this weekend, including two animated delights and an oddball celebrity cooking show. Without any further ado…


When food memories tug at the heartstrings

Netflix/Flavors of Youth

Flavors of Youth, a new Japanese anime film on Netflix, is a quiet, intense saga about three millennials who are trying to recapture parts of their lives that have faded from view. Food is one of the bridges that helps these lonely souls reconnect with their former selves.

The first of three chapters, “The Rice Noodles,” explores how a downtrodden businessman yearns for a taste of the soup that he ate growing up in a small town in China. He has rosy memories of eating these noodles for breakfast with his grandma, and also fondly recalls downing bowls of the soup at a shop where he developed his first crush on a girl. When his grandma falls ill, the noodle lover returns home to pay his last respects, and also close a chapter of his life.

It’s a heavy little short film, with a glimmer of hope at the end, and plenty of lovingly drawn scenes of noodle soups coming together. The message, it seems, is that you can never return to the thrills of your youth, but those memories can live on through small rituals like eating a bowl of noodles.

The two segments that follow “The Rice Noodles” don’t have the same culinary focus, but food does enliven the storytelling in both tales. In “A Little Fashion Show,” an aspiring clothing designer bakes an elaborate chocolate cake for her famous runway model sister, only to see her ignore the modest birthday party and attend a boring fashion event instead. And in “Love in Shanghai,” arguably the best story of the bunch, an architect remembers a teenage friendship that blossomed in a bustling block of shikumen-style apartments, where big family meals were the backdrop for many important conversations.

Flavors of Youth is getting mixed reviews from the anime fans out there, but as someone who is not a close follower of this genre, I liked its sweeping cityscapes, inspired food sequences, and general emotional intensity. This is not something you want to put on to get the party started, but after a particularly rough week, you might find these earnest tales to be comforting, or perhaps even cathartic to watch.

Make sure to skip past the closing credits for an easter egg, of sorts, tucked away at the end that ties all three of these stories together.


Streaming selections du jour

YouTube

Cooking With Jeff Goldblum

Watch it on: YouTube

The gist: Over the last few years, Jeff Goldblum has really leaned into his meme potential through a variety of oddball projects, including this delightful two-part cooking series from Funny or Die and the supermarket chain Kroger. The first episode features Goldblum and LA Times critic Jonathan Gold (who died two months ago), making French soupe au pistou together, while discussing food writing and sense memories. The second episode shows Goldblum and his Jurassic Worldco-star Bryce Dallas Howard preparing avocado toast while chatting about the the trials and tribulations of being new parents. Goldblum is not a great cook, but he is a stellar improviser who keeps the conversations light and lively throughout the kitchen bits.

BoJack Horseman, “Chickens”

Watch it on: Netflix

The gist: Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s acclaimed animated series about a washed-up Hollywood horse-actor returns for its fifth season today. As Eater contributor James Hansen recently pointed out, the show is full of bizarre plotlines that center around food, and this episode from Season 2 is no exception: It’s about an attempt to reconnect a half-witted human-chicken with the farm that raised it (which happens to be run by far more sophisticated human-chickens). This installment also has a great subplot wherein BoJack buys burritos for everyone on the set of a show he’s working on to make them fall asleep, so that he can get some facetime with the director.

If you’re new to the BoJack phenomenon (as I was until recently), it’s worth knowing three things about this show before diving in: 1) It’s extremely funny. 2) It has been widely praised for its nuanced depiction of depression and addiction. 3) The storytelling is mostly episodic, so there’s no harm in jumping right in at any point.


In other entertainment news...

  • The new Chef’s Table cast list is awesome. I’m particularly excited about the episodes featuring barbacoa master Cristina Martinez, Savannah superstar Mashama Bailey, Italian meat maestro Dario Cecchini, and Indian restaurant visionary Asma Khan. On a related note: My colleague Pelin Keskin takes a deep dive into the processbehind casting shows like Chef’s Table, with input from filmmaker David Gelb on how he and his team arrived at this cast, which is far more diverse than previous seasons of the show. Keskin notes: “I wish I wasn’t this impressed, or excited, to hear these stories, because I wish it hadn’t taken this long for it to be a reality.”
  • On the other side of the food entertainment spectrum, the Food Network is teaming up with People for a new special this fall that will determine the sexiest male chef on TV.
  • Parts Unknown won several Emmys last weekend, including a posthumous writing award for Anthony Bourdain. And in other Parts Unknown news, the first eight seasons of the show are leaving Netflixon October 1.
  • The Chew went off the air for good last Friday, but thankfully, Carla Hall landed a cooking segment on the third hour of Good Morning America, which is now in the culinary talk show’s old time slot.
  • When he’s not jamming with Cheap Trick and speaking to prisonersabout sobriety, Andrew Zimmern is busy spinning up a million new media projects, including, apparently, a children’s book called AZ and the Lost City of Ophir that he hopes to turn into “its own entertainment franchise,” per the NYT.
  • Speaking of Andrew Zimmern, here’s a nugget of wisdom from the TV host about having mentors: “If you say to yourself, ‘I don’t know everything, I need to learn from other people,’ I think that’s a really great place, stylistically, as a creative person, to take off from. You try to learn from everybody.”
  • And finally, if you come over to comedian Aparna Nancherla’s house for dinner, she will probably play the Jurassic Park soundtrack for you.

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something hearty to make between now and Monday, consider scoping out this chili recipe from Houston’s El Real Tex-Mex Cafe.

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