Blogs We Like: The Hungry Russian
As a design company that deals mostly with Tumblr, we tend to get fixated on aesthetics. But that’s not to say we don’t have other interests, or—more importantly—stomachs. And while we dig Tumblr’s food porn community, it tends to skew toward recipes and reblogs, with few full-on reviews.
That dearth of review is exactly what makes The Hungry Russian such a blast. Situated in New York, THR’s newly-minted review blog is a refreshing turn away from aesthetic restaurant criticism, and instead uses its space to delve into taste, menu variety, and unabashed personal enjoyment. Making novel use of our Gun Metal theme, THR is a fantastic example of unaffected food criticism in one of North America’s greatest culinary centers.
Tumblin’: Daniella Zelli, Creator and Curator of Gourmet Gaming.
One of our favorite things about Tumblr is the way its niches often overlap and create new ideas, conversations, and blogs. Take Gourmet Gaming, the ingenious and mouth-watering project of game tester, graphic artist, and amateur chef Daniella Zelli. Steeped in sincere game-love, Zelli’s blog showcases her edible translations of culinary icons from a wide range of games—bridging the worlds of unabashed game geekery and food porn. We asked her about GG’s origins, its disasters, and the urge to joyously devour a world of candy-filled paper animals.
Was there a particular experience or game that made you start GG?
I’m always happy to say that the game that inspired Gourmet Gaming was Deadly Premonition. I had played it and decided that I had to share it with my friends. We threw a play-through party where I served foods that appeared in the game, and the most popular (and possibly most dreaded) was the Sinner’s Sandwich.
It’s an…”interesting” combination of turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal on white bread. Everyone loved the idea of having the sandwiches in real life, and it added so much to the whole experience. When we finished Deadly Premonition, everyone wanted to know what we were going to play next, so I naturally started thinking about what food could go with the next game we’d play. I then realised that food is actually a really iconic aspect to gaming, so I thought I’d keep a blog about it.
Is gaming an underrepresented niche on Tumblr? And have you found that GG has changed or reshaped that niche (or perhaps just your view of it) by bridging it to culinaria?
I think gaming has a massive following everywhere, even beyond the internet. Gaming and food have never been that far apart, really; there have always been cooking and crafting systems in games and Cooking Mama was very popular when it was released for the DS.
I suppose cookery is seen as something very artistic, very exquisite almost, when it’s done by the right person and in the right place. Even today, somehow, gaming often has negative stereotypes attached to it; of the people who enjoy games and what games are. Some might not imagine that the person who loves traversing dungeons for long lost treasure can also be the person who enjoys cooking a homemade meal or eating Michelin Star cuisine—yet I receive hundreds of messages from people delighted that the two things they love the most are finally together.
Food is important to everyone, and as gamification changes the was we interact with everything, gaming is becoming a fundamental part of our lives too whether we realise it or not.
Food serves an important role in humanizing game environments and making them feel more engaging. What’s the first game-world you remember falling in love with, and did its food facilitate that immersion?
Food, or health items, certainly played a larger role in earlier games. Games now seem focused on rebounding health which I feel removes an element of survival and connection from the game: you no longer have to be concerned about the state of your character to ensure their survival. I remember playing Streets of Rage with my friends when I was a kid, and fights would break out over who needed that turkey or apple more—some were definitely greedier than others!
I think Gourmet Gaming encourages that childhood desire to be just like your hero. I was, and still am, obsessed with the Candyland level in Mickey’s World of Illusion—which, incidentally, was the first game I ever completed. Whenever I see a pastry shop window, filled with cakes and pink frosting, I’m always reminded of it. Videogames can be such an amazing experience; and if a taste can remind you of the past, why not a game?
While it seems like RPGs would have the best food (food seems to be omnipresent in most, especially JRPGs), you’ve covered games from all over the spectrum. In your opinion, what genre has the best scran?
RPG’s do tend to have the most food available, but there’s so much of it that things often get lost. It’s sometimes hard to pick a particular food or dish to represent the game. I feel adventure or story driven games create the best fare, like the Cake from Portal [which is a lie —Ed.] or the Sinner’s Sandwich. Although, I guess it comes down to the type of games you play the most that determines what foods you’d be the most interested in!
For Gourmet Gaming, I make an effort to cover all sorts of foods and games. I like to appeal to a wide audience and in turn I get to discover something that maybe I wouldn’t have picked myself which is why I love getting requests. Gaming is everything to me, so it makes sense that I’d like to play as many videogames as possible. Some posts might be more popular than others, but that doesn’t matter. I want Gourmet Gaming to do for others what it does for me and expose people to new games and foods. It’s also important to cover retro games, as they’re the reason gaming is what it is today.
Have you had any kitchen disasters while attempting projects for GG? And are there any games whose food you’d like to craft but don’t quite want to attempt just yet?
There are always disasters. The more challenging things I try to create, the more disasters there are! Which is fine, as it’s a learning process for me and I wouldn’t want to let a recipe loose if it wasn’t good. I’m less accepting of these failures though when it’s about 2AM and I have to get up for work the next day, but somehow I always manage to get something together in time.
Scrab Cakes from Abe’s Oddysee and the Boiled Creme Treat from Skyrim are two things that I have attempted to make in the past that were horrific disasters. If something doesn’t work it just gets set aside for later. I know I’ll eventually be able to make them, I’ve just don’t have the skills or the right recipe yet. I’m actually going to start keeping records of the recipes that don’t work and eventually share them: I think people might be interested to see some of those.
Let’s end on a hypothetical. What’s your ideal combination of game world, food, and drink? Feel free to disregard the basic constraints of human biology and nutrition.
Sometimes I dream about a pizza that has mac and cheese and burgers on top of it—I don’t think any nutritionists would recommend that! Can someone just put that in a game for me so I can eat it?
My ideal combination of game world, food and drink would probably just be Viva Pinata. It’s pleasant and packed with animals that are full of candy. It’s not my favourite game of all time, but if I had to live and eat somewhere it would probably be there. Either that or Costume Quest; Halloween is my favourite time of year and I loved making the Pizza Sundae.