Aziz Ansari’s recently released Netflix show Master of None is a hit for many reasons: it’s diverse cast, thoughtful plot lines and interesting structure separate it from the wave of other “must watch” TV shows of today. While all of these components are important to the show’s unique style, there is another aspect that sets it apart: protagonist Dev’s relationship with food.
Food is a major thematic component in the series. In Master of None, food excites, connects and entertains all of its characters. Restaurants set the backdrop for where they have enlightening conversations about parents’ histories, revelations of sexism occur over Instagrams of frittatas and a pasta maker becomes the source of a relationship fight. Aziz Ansari has said that his character’s obsession with food is a reflection of his real life self, but his personal passion mirrors a greater cultural trend that is pertinent to Millennials. (By the way, I know the term “Millennials” is annoying to use, but so is “twenty-somethings”, “Generation Y-ers” and “us youngin’s.”)
Everyone likes food, but the way Millennials like food is something worth talking about. Gone are the days of McDonald’s and TV dinners. We like food that is healthier and greener and overall, trendier. Fast food chains are hurting and fast casual restaurants like Panera and Chipotle are replacing them as the go-to for a quick dinner. This growing business model encapsulates everything Millennials expect from our food now: quality, freshness, customization and even a little bit of an atmosphere. People want to know what is in their food and where their food is from. The discourse on food has gone from whether or not something tastes good, to the deeper topics of the moral implications of dietary habits. Were discussions of veganism and the importance of free-range meat being had between 20-year-olds 10 years ago? Or have they ever happened?
Preparing meals as a past time is even becoming popular. Cooking is a cool hobby now. According to market research company Mintel, 2 out of 3 Millennials classify themselves as “Casual Cooking Enthusiasts.” Whether they’re any good or not is subjective, but the fact that they’re viewing it as a hobby instead of something that’s necessary for their health is worth noting. Buzzfeed (the most trusted media source of our time) has a specialty food section that specializes in sharing recipes; its Twitter has 149,000 followers and over 11 million likes on Facebook. People tag their friends in the comments about desserts they want to make with the same kind of enthusiasm one saves for a night out.
Whether or not Masters of None will be renewed is yet to be seen, but if it is, I’m sure food will continue to be a major influence in the show. If not, the same sort of stressful decision-making choices such as where it is a pair of friends should be getting bubble tea are being had all across America. Foodie culture is no longer just a quirky penchant of a select few; it’s the norm now.