The Exploration of Authenticity through Food
by Junessa Sladen-Dew
At the end of Master of None’s first season, Dev (Aziz Ansari) is left at an extremely low point of his life. At this time, his long-term girlfriend has announced that she is packing up all her belongings and moving to Tokyo and breaking up with him in the process. During this time of self-pity and sadness, Dev decided to follow the “no-regret” approach to life and embark on a journey of a lifetime in Italy to explore his favorite food, pasta. Through this impulsive adventure, Dev fulfills the dreams of many foodies through his travels to a foreign country to experience first-hand cuisine. However, this search authenticity in food is much deeper than just the food, it becomes a search for authentic human connection. As explored by Dev in Master of None, food and human connection are synchronized as one.
Entering in the second season in the episode “The Thief,” Dev begins his journey in a quaint Italian town called Modena, in a pasta-shop owned by an old woman. Through this experience he gains an extremely authentic food experience and an even more authentic human connection that creates an environment where he is thought to be family. As a matter of fact, the director’s commitment to accuracy shoots actual events that occurred in the life of Aziz Ansari such as working in that exact pasta shop and getting stuck in an alley with fellow actor, Arnold. The quest for genuineness is even more startling in the aftermath of his break-up where he is lost for deep emotional intimacy and everything that comes with being in love. Serendipitously, his love for food and human connection leads him to Sara, creating a strong bond over their fascination with Italian meals.
After his exploits in Italy, Dev returns to New York, desperate to create a similar authentic experience as the one he found in Modena. Moving from one job to next, all in affiliation with food the industry but without being fully involved, he finds each venture to be completely soulless and simply a commercial engine. Finally, he brings up the idea to make his own TV show that would use his ethnicity to show how food can bring people together and not on what makes people different. Throughout these pursuits in and around the food industry, Dev builds his personal identity around his life-long journey to find his authentic self in both romantic and platonic relationships. An extremely pivotal relationship throughout the TV show is the exchange between Arnold and Dev which is seen in Figure 1. In this medium shot with deep focus that symmetrically frames both characters in front of a back drop of Italian cheese and wine, we see the deep bond between the men which is shared around their love for Italian comfort food. To help accentuate the intimacy and shared authenticity of the moment, the sepia color scheme and simply lines create a welcoming and warm environment for all viewers. Through this scene and the litany of other scenes that follow the life of Dev on his pursuit of authenticity, we see the use of food to build deep and meaningful relationships with people across the globe.