Barbie: Food & Drink In Plastic, It's All Fantastic
Image Credit: Pinkberry's Barbie Land Berry Pink swirl inspired by the new film. Image via Twitter/@pinkberry

As Barbiecore takes over our social media timelines and various real-world spaces too (brand collabs and products, themed parties, cosplay etc), it's intriguing to examine how this pink wave unfolds in the realm of food and cooking. 

There are the obvious manifestations: pink food…lots and lots of pink food. Cakes, ice creams, yoghurt and lots of other sweets, all reimagined the way Barbie (and by extension, her fans) might like them. A Brazilian fast food company even has a delicious-looking, juicy Barbie burger — though it's difficult to imagine her eating something that might spill, smear or otherwise be less than picturesque in its consumption. 

There's even been, according to a lovely essay in Eater magazine, an upsurge in the trend of "Barbie cakes" — you know the ones, cakes where the doll's torso rises out of a humongous "skirt" made of frosting. The writer nostalgically traces what the cakes meant to children, the ideas and aspirations they projected onto these novelty cakes, and what it means for adults to recreate these experiences. Parallely, there's also an exploration of the practical implications of this trend, in the past and in the present day. Thinking baking accessories, cake pans, cake decorating catalogues geared towards bakers of every proficiency level, to create the perfect Barbie cakes. And, closing the loop, a mention of how Mattel too cottoned on to the Barbie cake trend and introduced in 1999, a plastic layer cake that could be stacked around the doll, and decorated with tubes of real, coloured frosting. 

Barbie Burger

As with most things pertaining to her (is she a feminist, is she subversive, does she empower the children who play with her, is she hopelessly regressive, does she promote harmful self-image ideals) the question of how Barbie herself relates to food has no easy answers. Among the 200+ careers she's had, Barbie has also been a chef. Chef Barbie comes with the typical hat, sparkling white apron and other accessories that allow you to picture her in a swish eatery, possibly a Michelin-starred one. But given what we know of establishments like that — courtesy reporting on real-world institutions like Noma or that unforgettable Anthony Bourdain essay or hours of Gordon Ramsay's myriad reality shows or fictionalised representations via pop culture touchstones like The Bear, The Menu and so on — it's hard to imagine Barbie fitting into a high-pressure scenario like that. Would she be a perennially overworked sous chef? Or a girlboss haranguing an on-edge kitchen staff into fashioning the best dinner service ever? Where does her sanitised self-fit into the seamy side of fine dining? It's far easier to imagine her as a diner in the part of the establishment where glamour masks the behind-the-scenes bustle and in many cases, exploitation and abuse. 

Chef Barbie

It's more likely that Chef Barbie runs a small artisanal bakery that draws Instagram and TikTok influencers, as the creator of pretty little treats that don't smudge your lip gloss as you eat (or drink) them. She'd probably use gluten-free flour and all-vegan recipes. If she had a cafe, you can bet it would follow the farm-to-table approach, with lots of fresh produce, possibly grown in the extensive backyard that's part of her premises. Of course, someone else will do the gardening — is there a Gardener Barbie? — because thinking of Barbie mucking about in the mud is akin to watching Melania Trump's ill-advised planting ventures in the White House. 

What about in her personal space? Over the years, Barbie kitchen sets have had various iterations, including a very futuristic for its time carousel edition. Now you know she'd have the best gadgets, her pantry would be stocked with the healthiest of things — all organised to an envy-inducing level, she'd eschew processed foods… you know the rest. Here's where things get interesting though: the Barbie Townhouse has no water. (Which, as an aside, is a bit of a bummer because I quite hankered after one as a child, and was quite entranced by a cousin's (toy) Barbie bathtub: it could create real foam and everything for Barbie to enjoy a bubble bath.) So no water in her dream house, which means cooking in that perfect pink kitchen is going to be a severely limited activity. Nothing that requires boiling or the least bit of liquid; certainly nothing that will lead to utensils or dishes piling up in the sink in need of a good rinse. 

Which brings us to what she might possibly eat. Here, my mind jumps to that passage from Gone Girl, where Amy describes the archetype of the Cool Girl — one of the boys, while never, ever being anything less than a girl. (I paraphrase of course, and leave out some of the more explicit requirements because that wouldn't fit into a Barbie-focused piece, would it?) Barbie would like you to believe that she can chow down with the best of them, be it all-American fare like apple pie, or hot dogs and spaghetti dinners. All that, and she'll still remain eternally svelte, her waist a hand's span, her model-long legs tapering and toned. But can the two propositions both be true at the same time?

Does Barbie ever binge? Or does she only spear delicate morsels of food with an elegant fork, and drop it into her napkin when no one's watching? Maybe she is religious about clean eating or whatever other wellness food fad is having its moment in the sun. Maybe she only has her lattes with oat or almond milk. All those cupcakes with pink frosting, cookies and sundry desserts that are made in her name: would Barbie ever eat them? 

That's the thing though, in matters of food and drink, just like everything else about Barbie: she can be whoever you want her to be. In her plastic world, she'll always inhabit a perfect version of reality — limited only by your imagination and vision.