[image description: Two perfectly cooks pancakes sit on a white plate with a yellow-orange rim on a blue-green tablecloth. The addition of ears, nose, eyes and a mouth turn the pancakes into the face a smiling cartoon bear. Text reads “Bonnie Bearcake the small god of Playing With Your Food 230”]
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All creatures that live need to eat. It’s like breathing, or sleeping—some things may do it in ways we don’t entirely recognize, but everything does it. Stop and you’re dead.
At its most basic, eating is hunting and gathering, picking berries off a bush or snaring rabbits in a field. But even then, the youngest among the group will begin finding ways to enjoy themselves, making counting games with small, sweet fruits, building poppets out of bunny bones and scraps of fur. As the cuisine advances, so do the games.
Play can even happen during the cooking process. What is experimentation in the kitchen but a kind of play, a wild game of what-if leading inevitably so something greater and more delicious than it was in its rawest form? Chefs play with spice and texture, even as children play with form and physicality. It all comes down to enjoyment, in the end.
And look where we are now! Cakes shaped like miraculous castles, chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, pancakes with smiling faces, cookies with human shapes and silly stories latched to their gingerbread feet. The games go on. The games advance. And while Bonnie may not be a socially acceptable god at every table, she’s at the root of every culinary advancement after fire, and there’s a chance that whoever lit the first controlled campfire did it because they were just goofing around.
Without her, we might not be here. Remember that as you take your next bite of smiley-face pancake, and give gratitude to the god who set your table, who filled your plate, who started that food fight.
Mashed potatoes wash out.
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Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world: