I don’t know how much of this has already been discussed, either from the origin of the Red Dragon, books, films, or even regarding this show, but it’s been something on my mind lately.
One of the few juicy tidbits I recollect from the depressing blur that was sophomore English class in high school is that eating, dining, meals, and etc. are forms of human communication.
Namely, if someone sits down at the dinner table and there is a scene about it, one is supposed to pay astute attention to the meal as described.
Does it focus more on the people? What are they eating? What is the mood; how is the room described?
You have representations of (allegedly) obvious symbolism (apples, pomegranates, bread, etc.), but you also have representations of how people communicate with one another. For example, a woman bites into an apple whilst staring at a man. This has an undertone of the forbidden, because we have been conditioned to believe that apples are symbolic of temptation and sexuality, as well as rigorous health.
Meals are also fundamental for the art of communication. Discussions held around tables, picnic blankets, or anywhere else are usually crucial to the plot points of the story. It is where the most dialog usually takes place, because nobody likes to sit in awkward silence stuffing their faces—unless, of course, it is crucial to the characterization of plot or its players…or said players are glued to their iPhones (which may also be a part of the plot).
So how does this relate to Hannibal?
Hannibal is a pretty obvious sociopath. I’ve never actually read the books, but I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs and began watching the show. And his ability to connect with people is quite literally through his food.
I don’t just mean he eats people to understand them. What I mean is that he takes obvious precision, care, and dramatic flair when preparing a meal for himself or anyone else. He all but worships human flesh as a substitute for other meats, and consumes people (as is mentioned in a few profiling cases) as a cannibal typically does: to consume them from the soul to the skin, absorbing their way of life, and understanding how they lived.
So when he prepares a meal for someone, he is also reaching out to understand them, too. He can’t wrap his head around emotions (other than how to manipulate them for himself or within others), but he can satisfy his profound curiosity about other (“normal”) people by having a “discussion” with them—over a meal he’s taken time, energy, and effort to prepare, usually with a fascinating amount of gourmet preparation.
The things he pairs human food with are also relevant—things like eggs (birth, renewal, beginning) when he first meets Will, red wine (covenant, contract, passion, blood) at one point, and I believe figs (security, luxury, life) come up at some point, too. Every detail, from what he chooses to serve someone, to how he prepares it, his Hannibal’s way of connecting to others.
So, while unarguably sinister, the motif behind the meals may stem from the sociopath’s incentive to connect to others. It’s not just “making them a monster like him”, it is nourishing their connection on a less obvious level.
It is giving him a chance to communicate.
Just some, ahem.
Food for thought.
Haven’t seen this but in Silence of the Lambs and more-so in Hannibal it seemed like food preparation was part of it. Not as much as this new series, though.