Not So Fond Memories of Cooking Mama

Not So Fond Memories of Cooking Mama

Two months ago YouTube began recommending me videos on Cooking Mama, and it’s entirely my fault. When a rumor spread that the newest entry to the series, Cookstar, contained mining software, therefore causing it to be pulled off the Switch store, I was shocked. At first, it was because of the severity of the rumor. Then, it quickly dissipated and was replaced with a new thought: “There’s a new Cooking Mama? Holy shit I haven’t played that since the Wii.”

Everyone got a Wii for Christmas in 2010, quickly demoting ownership of the system into becoming “uncool”. I don’t remember how I got my hands on Cooking Mama. It was more than likely given to me by my parents as a “safe family game” much like Monopoly or other Hasbro party games. Like all things I am grateful for what my parents gave me. Though I doubt they were paying attention to my consumption habits at the time maybe they did with this one.

Growing up I watched a scary amount of Food Network. In between Justice League, Superfriends, Scooby-Doo, and PBS programming, I was watching reruns of Andrew Zimmerman’s reaction to fermented fish. Anthory Bourdain roam the globe and savor its culinary delights. I can recall my dad and grandma react with disgust to a recipe for Cold Soup (which I now know as Vichyssoise thanks to Mr. Bourdain and Mrs. Child)  while I was fascinated. Whatever was on PBS Create after school, I was there. 

That wonderful combination of nerdy joy and adventurous curiosity made me the person I am today. A complete asshole with a love for food, the arts, and the world that provides them for me. Cooking Mama took those ingredients, sauteed it, and served a series of culinary mini games that could be 100% in an hour or two.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off (preowned) - EB Games Australia

Oh yes, I remember swinging the Wii remote hard enough to break the eggs. Pounding a virtual hand that got in the way of a wonderful soft dough I would later learn was called Mochi. Dicking around with my younger family members to build the most unsightly plate to a perfectly cooked meal. Most importantly, I remember playing it alone.

I poured hours into the game. Perfecting my technique and kicking ass. “THIS IS HOW YOU GRILL A FUCKING HAMBURGER AND OPEN A CAN YOU FUCKING LOSER!” I was building crepes like a pro and dominated curry! Mixed Fruit? Tofu? Get that pussy shit out of here! Give me something with meat in it! Spaghetti in Squid Ink? Perfect!

Then, I stopped. 

I moved onto Lego Batman and Harry Potter. I grew up and got a DS, then a PS3 and 4 after that. The Wii was taken over by my younger cousins along with its games, and my library had been gradually destroyed. I was cleaning the basement when I discovered the lost Cooking Mama case. Out of memory and curiosit, I opened it for one more recipe. It was empty. Lost forever with the rest of my games along with my beloved Lego Batman 2.

I don’t remember if I was upset over the lost. Maybe I was more upset at the inconsiderate dickweeds this world has the gall to call “children”. But, like all things, I moved on. I told myself it wasn’t the end and one day I would be an adult with money and an apartment with a kickass game library. And all my lost Wii games and more would be there. 

God, fuck me and my stupid ass teenage hopes and dreams…

So anyway, when Cooking Mama: Cookstar was being promoted, there were all these odd mentions of “bit-mining” coupled with reports of Switch’s over heating. It was later confirmed that the rumors were false. Mama wasn’t running a shady mining business, her new game just wasn’t good. I breathed a sigh of relief and a new thought began to form.

Cooking Mama owner evaluating legal action over 'unauthorised' Switch  release | VGC

“Why do I care so much? Why am I even watching these videos? Do I want this new game? Shit do I even miss the old?”

When I think about the Wii games I want back on my Switch like my beloved Lego and Epic Yarn, Mama doesn’t make the cut. Then, was I following the development of Cookstar out of nostalgia? Nostalgia isn’t a good reason to spend what little money I have on a game, even if it’s dirt cheap.

I thought harder and realized something. I don’t have very fond memories of Mama. 

Mama and the recipes she taught me never stuck. I learned about Japan’s flare for aesthetic decoration from anime. Spaghetti In Squid Ink from Part Two of Jojo. And Beef In Wine Sauce from becoming a home cook. Mama held my attention because of my love of food, but never taught my young mind anything about cooking.

JoJo's Spaghetti Trick (dubbed version) - YouTube

And that’s okay! I had my fun. Its value was there, but it’s gone now. Mama was just a hazy memory until the Cookstar controversy kicked off. Nothing more, nothing less.

So why was I still watching Cooking Mama videos? A blind curiosity? I now understand why Mama is off the Switch store. I will never spend valuable time and money replaying Cook Off for a mindless hour only to conclude that I was bored. 

It’s said that Cookstar is a bad game. Why want to spend money on a bad game? I’ve already seen Let’s Plays and cringed watching Mama dance to Gangnam Style and say “Oof”. I love that the new game has Beet Hummus, Poke Bowls, and Pountie! But I don’t feel love from it. 

Cooking Mama: CookStar trailer leaks online, revealing first look at its  Nintendo Switch gameplay | GamesRadar+

I don’t know what the soul of Cooking Mama is. I don’t think it’s a valuable resource in teaching people to learn to cook. It probably isn’t the fun party game my family once found it as. Nor could it be very fun to play alone. 

It’s a game that’s fun to stream. Riff at and meme as the internet tends to do in its loving way (especially with the new one), and then forget. There are better sources online to learn to cook from (praise be to him Andrew Rae and Joshua Weissman’s THICCCCCCCC ASS). There are probably more fun cooking and food related games available like that Overcooked one I’ve been hearing about.

But, in a way, it can be. There’s a YouTube channel called GameTim where he has a series titled: Cooking With Cooking Mama. I lost myself in his content and watched more of his videos than I’m proud of in such an amount of time on a weekday. I felt like this was something someone could learn from with a bit of extra help. That a fun game was buried here somewhere.

This Guy Is Putting Cooking Mama's Recipes to the Test - VICE

I watched Tim make the Rainbow Grilled Cheese. A sandwich I already knew to make thanks to Babish and have sworn off like a hipster. But it looked like fun, enjoyable, and somewhat inspiring. As cooking should be!

I hope that this is what Cooking Mama could be. Cookstar is too pandering for my taste and the dead memes are nauseous. But it has some right ideas. The new vegetarian mode can be expanded! Vegan options can be included. I like the idea of posting photos online, but I like the idea of sharing food with loved ones even more! Just like in Animal Crossing, there can be a 5-star system that’s not only fun to chase after but lovingly time consuming. 

Mama continues to be the most attractive element of the game. Keep that sweet forgiveness and praise! Mama should be helping you learn as mothers do. But it means nothing if there isn’t something that’ll want the player to keep coming back!

A huge gameplay overhaul is needed. More fun for family and friends! More challenge for single players! A real learning curve for a genuine learning experience. While also being as easy to follow as GameTim’s videos.

While I may not have very fond memories of Mama. I’m still all the more hopeful for her. I will not be getting Cookstar nor Cook Off. I’m better off spending that money to make my own beet hummus and avocado toast with my homemade sourdough bread. But can someone please explain to me what the fuck a galaxy smoothie is?!  I’m too fucking cranky for this hipster Instagram shit!

After all of this, I will do my best to remember Mama. In hopes that her next game is much, much, better.