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This mama cooks

My 11-year-old begged-begged-begged for me to download the $6 iPhone app called “Cooking Mama.” Since she begged so sweetly and it was Father’s Day, I gave in.

Now I’m addicted.

This Japanese cooking game, which has  been a popular title for the Wii platform, uses both the iPhone’s touch screen and its accelerometer to guide you through (most of the) tasks involved in preparing a recipe under Mama’s watchful gaze. After each step, Mama renders judgment. If you do well, she beams and her eyes light like stars. If you screw up, Mama shoots flames from her eyes (left) but says she’ll fix it. Talk about a mixed message!

At the end, you are awarded with a view of the finished dish and a sprinkling of celebratory confetti.

The pleasure of this game is in its unreconstructed Japaneseness. Playing it will remind you, in a weird way, of the first time you saw “Iron Chef.” Recipes for green soybean soup, sakuramochi (glutinous rice cakes dyed the color of cherry blossoms) and pork stew are like little windows into another culture. My kid got squeamish during the seafood spaghetti challenge when she had to pull tentacles off squid.

But, what I find remarkable is how much thought and relative verisimilitude went into the technique. You have to keep adjusting the temperature and stirring the pan when sauteeing, pour liquids so they don’t spill, brew coffee so that the froth doesn’t surpass the top of the cone filter. The game even accounts for what ingredient you cut with a knife. When making pork curry, you have to tap the knife to push it down through an onion. But then you need to saw it back and forth to slice pork loin.

Although Cooking Mama is new to me, it has been around long enough that the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has this bloody parody. I’ll stick to the iPhone version.

4 comments Add your comment


July 2nd, 2009
1:06 pm

Ha! My nine year old plays CookingMama all the time on her DS.
Drives me crazy, but it could be worse.


July 9th, 2009
11:00 am

This is cute. I have to try this out.


July 18th, 2009
1:01 pm

My 8YO son plays this frequently on his DS. He enjoys asking me which of the recipes I have eaten. You would have to be an adventurous foodie (or a Japanese native) to have tried them all!


January 30th, 2010
9:48 pm

i love it so much!