Back to IndieWire

‘Twin Peaks’: Where Food Is a Signifier of Virtue, and Only Heroes Deserve Pie

In this crazy theory, the donuts are not what they seem.

Madchen Amick and David Lynch, "Twin Peaks"

Madchen Amick and David Lynch, “Twin Peaks”


[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the first four episodes of Showtime’s “Twin Peaks.”]

Much is made of the joy that pie and donuts and coffee bring to the characters on “Twin Peaks.” In the original series, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) went into raptures over the “damn fine coffee” at the Great Northern Hotel’s restaurant and declared the cherry pie at the Double R Diner was so good it could “kill ya.”

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’: A Guide to Returned Characters and How They’re Helping Cooper – Parts 1 & 2

Cooper’s obsession with the town’s cuisine could be interpreted as an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures or merely as an extension of series co-creator David Lynch’s love of food. After all, the director notoriously once used a cow as part of an Oscar campaign stunt because without milk, “Inland Empire” would never have been made, since Lynch had eaten a lot of cheese while making the film. And when Lynch himself became a character on “Twin Peaks,” his character Gordon Cole couldn’t get enough of the diner’s coffee and pie, eating multiple slices during one sitting.

We’d like to suggest another theory though, a crazy theory that just might work in the world of “Twin Peaks.” Beyond representing comfort or Lynch’s tastes, the food on the series is the ultimate symbol and indicator of goodness or virtue. As a viewer, one only has to look at what a character consumes and how the character consumes it to understand whether someone is good or evil.

Cherry pie and damn good coffee, "Twin Peaks: The Return"

Cherry pie and damn good coffee, “Twin Peaks: The Return”


Good Food Is for Heroes

First of all, the level of a food’s yumminess is in direct relation to a person’s goodness. The more upstanding and gracious the person is, the more delicious the food he or she encounters. Cooper, indulging in rich pies and sweet donuts all the time, is the epitome of honesty, integrity and kindness. He’s the guy you want to have your back, and therefore, he’s the hero who deserves to eat the pie.

Brisk coffee and tasty pastries are the reward and incentive for doing good. It sustains righteousness. This is why the Twin Peaks PD works best with an array of donuts at hand, especially when working on cases overtime. Watch this video that encapsulates how donuts are revered in the original series.

“Twin Peaks” offers another clue to a person’s virtue in how they consume the food. Cooper, who is the ultimate sensualist, actually honors the goodness of food by taking the time to savor each morsel or sip. How he orders breakfast is an art form, and that’s because he truly understands how to appreciate its nuances. Just sipping or smelling a perfect cup of coffee seems almost like a religious experience for him.

Kyle MacLachlan, "Twin Peaks"

Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks”


Is it any wonder that the purveyors of pastries, such as waitress Shelly (Madchen Amick) and receptionist Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), side with the good guys?

In the revival, food has been less prevalent so far while Cooper is trying to work his way out into the real world and back to reclaiming his life. By the fourth episode, he’s escaped the Black Lodge but is rendered simple, almost infantile. His mysterious condition doesn’t diminish his enjoyment of pancakes with maple syrup, though. This is just the start of what should be a road back to sentience and satiation.

Kyle MacLachlan, "Twin Peaks"

Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks”


Bad Food Is for Villains

On the flip side, the forces of evil in the series pervert what’s good, and here, that means food. Early on in the original series. Shelly’s abusive husband Leo (Eric Da Re), mentions pie when he says he might swing by the diner, but without reverence, almost in a threatening manner. Later, in the second season, Cooper tries to drink coffee in the evil realm of the Black Lodge, but it becomes solid so he can’t sip it. What hellish torture is this?!

And then there’s garmonbozia, the worst perversion of food ever. Apparently, when it comes to the purely evil spirits like BOB (Frank Silva), they consume people’s pain and sorrow, aka garmonbozia, which is why these guys cause so much trouble in the first place. To our human eyes, this negative spiritual energy looks like creamed corn. If you ask us, we’d be pretty angry too if this is what we had to subsist on:

Garmonbozia, "Twin Peaks"

Garmonbozia, “Twin Peaks”


In the world outside of the Black Lodge, when a villain bothers to eat real food, he lacks the proper appreciation for a meal’s charms. In the second episode of the revival, we see Cooper’s doppelgänger (MacLachlan) known as Mr. C, at a diner with three of his lackeys. Only one is eating, but it’s with a single-minded drive that doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it much. The rest have already finished eating and have left culinary carnage before them. No raptures, no plates licked clean, no satisfied grins, no poetic phrases about maple syrup colliding with ham. The pleasures of food are lost on these poor souls.

"Twin Peaks"

“Twin Peaks”


The bad guys even seem to have a problem that’s the reverse of eating. In the revival’s third episode, we see what looks like a mix of garmobozia mixed with blood, vomited up by a Cooper lookalike named Dougie (MacLachlan) and by Mr. C, the original doppelgänger. Both men are painted as villains. Mr. C is a psychopath who murders people casually (and his puking is just the most foul scene ever), and Dougie is an adulterer who stages his tryst at an empty house that’s still on the market. We’ll spare you the photos of either puke incident.

READ MORE: From ‘Twin Peaks’ to ‘It’: The Scariest Moments in TV History — Critics Survey

Simply put, bad people on the show are dismissive of food. At best it is sustenance, but at worst, it is a tool to manipulate others and create pain. At times, it looks pretty damn gross and can even causes physical illness.

Therefore, food on “Twin Peaks” is the litmus test. Villains throw up creamed corn, while heroes eat pie and donuts. We totally plan to judge characters on this from now on. After all, Lynch himself told IndieWire that “everybody’s conclusion they come up with is valid.” So we can’t wait to follow along with Cooper’s gastronomic journey until he’s able to finally gets his just desserts, even if it kills him.

“Twin Peaks” serves up new episodes on Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

Stay on top of the latest TV news! Sign up for our TV email newsletter here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox