Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts I'm calling "Overly Serious Twilight Essays," satirical essays written with the intent of digging just a little too deep into the deeper meaning of the Twilight books. It's a strange niche corner of the humor market, I know, but I'm having a ton of fun writing them.
And to think, I supposed my propensity for writing argumentative essays had destined me for teaching high school essay-writing (I mean, I did that, too)--but maybe ridiculous Twilight essays were the end-game all along.
Anyway, if you have stumbled upon this or happen to be in the microcosm of readers who will actually find this amusing, I hope you enjoy! There will be more to come, sortable by the "Overly Serious Twilight Essays" category on my blog.
Ravioli with a Side of Existentialism:
The Symbolic Meaning of Bella’s Mushroom Ravioli in Twilight
by Crystal Crawford
When is mushroom ravioli not just mushroom ravioli? When it incites a paranormal war, for one. Since the publication of Twilight, and certainly since the release of the first movie, fans have enthusiastically attempted to replicate aspects of the young adult paranormal phenomenon known as the Twilight series, and recreating Bella’s mushroom ravioli is no exception. A simple internet search will reveal multiple copycat recipes for Twilight fans to try at home, and in 2011, the real-life La Bella Italia – the Port Angeles restaurant at which Bella and Edward had their infamous first-date ravioli in the book – released a frozen, cook-at-home version of “Bella’s Mushroom Ravioli” so that fans across the country could enjoy the signature meal, even donating a portion of their proceeds to the Quileute Tribal School and Forks High School also featured in Twilight.
However, is it possible there is more to Bella’s mushroom ravioli than meets the eye? Could this signature vegetarian dish Bella chose in a panic as the first thing she saw on the menu actually have a deeper significance? Bella and Edward’s unplanned first date could be seen as the catalyst for everything else to come, but does Bella’s meal carry additional meaning as well? With even less mental effort expended than it takes Edward not to kill Bella at any random moment, it is quite possible for an astute reader to see beyond the boiled surface of Bella’s tasty ravioli to a deeper meaning beyond, given the recurring use of mushrooms as a symbol of dangerous magical boundaries, as a spiritual sign or dream symbol—representing powerful but unseen forces, deception and the unexpected, and/or sudden transformation—and, last but not least, as a hallucinogen.
Mushrooms have long been used in folklore and mythology as a symbol of dangerous magical boundaries. According to the Fantastic Fungi website, which is clearly an expert source on all things mushroom,
The associated myth of these rings is that these magical creatures would dance and celebrate within the mushroom rings’ limits. If a human were ever to enter their Fairy Ring, the consequences could range from inconvenient to severe. One version of the story goes that humans who entered would be punished by being forced to dance to the point they collapses [sic] from exhaustion.
[…] Some cultures believe that fairy circles could be the portal to an alternate supernatural world [emphasis added].
A strange and frightening implication exists in this mythological significance. Mushrooms, when viewed in this light, could be a portent of dangerous magical boundaries which shouldn’t be crossed—a physical representation of Edward’s own ominous warnings to Bella throughout that same evening about getting close to him, being alone with him, or even associating with him at all. For what is Edward if not a wild, unclassified mushroom? He is certainly no tame Portabella. Mushrooms, while safe and pleasant in the right circumstances, can be deadly if partaken impulsively, without proper identification of species, or if warnings go unheeded. Exactly like Edward himself. The meal at La Bella Italia is, arguably, the inciting moment for a new level of intimacy in their relationship—the moment when Edward finally stops hiding his secrets and begins allowing Bella to enter, in small, inching steps, into the dangerous reality of who he truly is. As a metaphor for crossing a dangerous barrier, Bella’s random selection of mushroom ravioli from the menu couldn’t have been more fitting.
However, the possible metaphorical meanings of Bella’s mushroom ravioli don’t stop at mythological implications. The peculiarly ominous mythology for mushrooms becomes even more alarming when combined with their varied spiritual interpretations. Mushrooms have long been interpreted to hold spiritual meaning, though the exact parameters of that meaning vary widely by source. One interpretation, posited by tattoo artist Simon of Tattoo Art from the Heart, is that mushrooms represent the “powers of the world that exist abundantly but are usually unseen,” as well as a “symbol of good luck and longevity in many different cultures.”  What better description of the hidden world of vampires and werewolves Bella is on the cusp of stumbling into than that of “powers unseen” and creatures with “longevity?” The aspect of good luck in relation to Bella could be up for debate. However, Bella herself possesses the innate (unseen) ability to block Edward’s telepathy, a foreshadowing of greater power to come, while the shared dinner, starting their early relationship, is also representative of the hidden power of their relationship itself, which will be the catalyst which both incites and ends a massive paranormal war.
Another interesting mushroom interpretation comes from AloDreams.com, a site which claims to provide “accurate interpretation” of dreams based on “extensive research [into] dream symbols.” Alo Dreams asserts that “mushrooms are deceptive in nature with their vibrant umbrella, luring its [sic] prey to enjoy their final feast. Dreaming of a mushroom thus carry [sic] a negative connotation […] for its deceiving appearance. To dream of mushroom represents indulgence in unhealthy pleasures and immoral acts. It signifies disease, loss of wealth, and poor life decisions.” There could hardly be a more accurate description of Bella’s actual situation at the moment she consumes the ravioli. Throughout their time together that evening, Edward himself attempts to persuade Bella to see reason, time and again informing her that her perception of him is flawed, that he is a monster, and that, when with him, she is unsafe. But Bella sees only the “vibrant umbrella” of Edward’s charm, willfully oblivious to the true danger in their increasing proximity.