In Game of Thrones, the significance of meals, soups, and stews cannot be overlooked. I love that important events happen around the table and eating: Joffrey gets murdered/poisoned during feast, the Red Wedding takes place during another feast, many of Olenna Tyrell’s witty and strong speeches are given over food, and some of the secret meetings often involve wine and tea cakes.
Food, in general, plays an important role in literature. Think about Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter’s tea party or Chocolat where chocolate drives village folk to break their Lenten vows. How about Macbeth when he comes newly to the crown and has a feast (complete with scary visions)? And let’s not forget how Harry Potter was denied the ability to sit with his family to eat; often food was shoved into his broom cupboard, or later, his upstairs room, representing a denial of familial blood/bonds.
This of course got me thinking…what about Star Wars? Does Lucas put the same emphasis on meals as our literary friends? I’m going to take a look at the most important scenes involving food.
Episode I – The Phantom Menace
The most important meal scene here would be when Qui-Gon, Padmé, and Jar Jar take refuge with Anakin and Shmi on Tatooine due to the sandstorm. This scene is very essential as it ties together some speculations, as we see Qui-Gon revealing to Anakin that he is a Jedi and Qui-Gon’s speculation that Anaking has Jedi reflexes due to the fact that he can drive (fly?) a podracer.
In one sense, it’s a meeting of the past and future. We see the old way of life and the Jedi Order with Qui-Gon Jinn. We see the future and the change in the galaxy with the meeting of this boy.
It’s also a moment where rich and poor come together. We see this clearly with Padmé who doesn’t understand slavery still exists, juxtaposed against Shmi who probably views her as a little naïve for not understanding the Outer Rim.
Episode II – Attack of the Clones
There are two specific meal scenes I want to focus on (sadly, I’d like to focus on when Anakin meets Padmé’s family, but since that was a deleted scene, I will keep it out of the picture (pun!)).
Meal 1: Anakin and Padmé on the Coruscant Freighter to Naboo
This is the first time we see Anakin and Padmé have a real, adult conversation that digs a little deeper into the Jedi life. Padmé teases the surface to see if Anakin’s flirtation could ever turn into something more substantial. We see them connect more as adults on an even playing field, versus what was happening earlier when Padmé was still trying to distance herself as the older and “wiser” of the two.
Here, too, there’s a connection of two different worlds and lifestyles meeting each other. There is the secular, political world which Padmé is a part of and the reclusive, temperate world that Anakin has sworn his life to.
Meal 2: Anakin and Padmé on Naboo
This meal is almost as if our characters were leveling up in a video game. They’ve approached each other with caution in Meal 1 and now they’re sparring flirtatiously (or should I say they’re having aggressive negotiations?) in Meal 2. The walls separating their worlds between them both have melted away a bit. Anakin now teases the Jedi and his master, Obi-Wan, slowly pushing aside their world. We see Padmé begin to pull Anakin into her world: not only are they literally on Naboo, her home planet, but also figuratively as he begins to grow more in love with her as a person.
Instead of two worlds meeting, we have two lives overlapping. This scene reminds me of a Venn diagram: Padmé, politics, wealth on one side with Anakin, Jedi, and isolation on another.
Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Nothing to note.
Nothing to note.
Episode IV – A New Hope
The only scene in this movie with a meal involves Luke conversing with Uncle Owen while Aunt Beru silently watches the exchange. It’s here where we find out that Luke has a father, who for some reason, is mysterious and not much is known about him. Luke also vents frustration about staying on Tatooine for another harvest.
The meal itself seems normal enough if you’ve ever had a meal with a teenager, but the difference with this meal is the emphasis on Luke’s father. Luke is clearly interested in knowing more and is intrigued by the detail that Old Ben knew him, but Uncle Owen squashes that conversation quickly.
The main difference in this meal is that while the meals in the Prequels are pulling people together, this meal seems to be pushing people apart.
Episode V – Empire Strikes Back
Meal 1 – Luke eats a meal in Yoda’s hut
Again, similar to ANH, this meal is one of discord and tension as opposed to harmony. Luke is impatient and wants to find a Jedi Master. This little green being has invited Luke into his home and is trying to be hospitable, to bring warmth and friendliness to the meal, but all Luke wants to do is leave. How horrible! It reflects so poorly on him. Yoda also seems to be gauging Luke to see if he will open up to becoming more patient and is testing him.
Instead, the meal falls apart to the point that when Yoda is revealed to Luke, Yoda almost refuses to train him. The two Force-sensitive beings are pushing apart at this meal instead of coming together as they should be to save the galaxy.
Meal 2 – Lando’s betrayal
There’s not much to this meal time, but damn is it memorable. This is the Star Wars version of the Red Wedding. Han and Leia think they are going to a friendly meal with Lando, only to find that he betrayed them all.
Interestingly though, this is the first and only time we really see formal dining in the Star Wars movies. If anyone is wondering how the meal turned out, you should watch this version.
Out of all the meals in the Star Wars movies, this has to be the biggest antithesis of what meal times should be. Meals should be about coming together, letting bygones be bygones (temporarily) and as we saw in the Prequels, worlds meeting in a friendly manner.
We definitely have different worlds meeting together in this meal, but it is the opposite of opening your mind, sharing warm conversations, and attempting to be friendly.
The Empire and the Rebellion stirred together with some betrayal left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. (That was the greatest line I’ve ever typed)
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Though not necessarily a meal, I wanted to include the scene of Leia handing Wicket the rice cake because it speaks back to my theme of bringing different worlds together. In this instance, which is different from the Prequels, Leia’s act of sharing a meal with someone completely different is what saves her life and topples the Empire.
It is often mentioned that food is a great way to bring together different cultures, even if they cannot speak the same language. We see this with Wicket and Leia on Endor. Despite their differences, the food helps Wicket overcome his hesitation to befriend Leia. In turn, he helps her take down a scout trooper and she goes with Wicket to his village. This helps her save her friends (who were also going to actually become the meal), disable the shield around the Death Star and bring down the Empire. And this all became possible because of a rice cake, imagine that.
Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Meal 1 – Rey’s solitary meal
For obvious reasons, this meal was shown to emphasize that Rey was alone. She was a girl on a lonely, desolate planet. I think this meal, though it could have been cut from the movie, was important to show us how isolated she was on Jakku.
In some ways, eating meals by ourselves is sometimes viewed by others with pity. Not many people go to restaurants alone, and even eating at your desk sometimes feels a little shameful. As human beings, we were meant to eat as part of a community. Though, in some ways, I think the American culture has forgotten (or ignored this as we prefer to place an emphasis on being busy), we still put an importance on eating together on holidays. At our root, our cultures like to take coffee breaks, tea breaks, water cooler breaks, so that we have a chance to connect with other beings.
Rey’s act of eating alone in a desert (another place that often symbolizes lack of life) forces us to acknowledge how secluded she is.
Meal 2 – Maz Kanata’s castle
This meal mirrors the meal from TPM slightly. We have four people from greatly different worlds, pulled together around a table for a meal. Whereas TPM was a happen chance, this meal was forced by Han Solo. Finn is an ex-First Order Stormtrooper, Rey is a loner from Jakku, Han is a smuggler, and Maz is…a Force-sensitive being (and totally also a hoarder – say what you want, but if you read any description of her, she belongs on TLC).
This meal is a meeting of the worlds, but not an overlap. Everyone still has their boundaries firmly in place once they leave. Yet here at this meal, they learn a little bit more about themselves. Instead of learning about others as we saw in most of the meals in Star Wars, they each understand a bit more about who they are and what they may have to do.
I was hoping to come away from this analysis feeling like there was a deliberate reason for each meal scene in Star Wars. I think that’s the case for some, but not all.
What I enjoyed observing the most was that the meals in the Prequels were focused on bringing together people from very different ways of life, into an open discussion and understanding of each other.
With the Original Trilogy, meal times were focused more on strife, discord, and a sense of unbalance. The meals highlighted tension for our characters and the larger political scene at large. Leia’s sharing of the rice cake with Wicket is the only instance in the OT where we see something closer to what we saw in the PT.
With TFA, I think the meal scenes were much more deliberate and placed within the movie for a reason: to help us understand the characters better.
With Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaching, food plays an important part in our lives. Though we love to gather around our tables and eat during the holiday season, do we also keep an open mind and realize that at any meal, we have a meeting of the worlds? Do we try to keep ourselves from discord and tension (and hopefully betrayal)?
Did I miss any meals that you think should be part of this list?