The Internet has been abuzz with rumors that stalwart Sunday night cartoon The Simpsons will finally leave the airwaves after season 30. Longtime showrunner Al Jean said in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview he'd be surprised if the show went beyond that, but didn't completely erase hope for die-hard fans wishing to display 30-something boxed sets on their mantles. Currently, the series is a go through season 28, and the cast who voices the citizens of Springfield have options through a 30th season.
While we wait and see what Fox and the producers decide, let's take a moment to appreciate The Simpsons' appreciation of one of Homer's favorite things: food. Aside from the endless appearances of pink doughnuts and Duff Beer, many episodes have focused on various high and low cuisines, beverages and even the ethics of what we eat. Here are ten stand-outs, in no particular order. (Click the titles for clips.)
Homer regales Moe with a story of his stumbled-upon cocktail idea, The Flaming Homer. Moe steals the recipe to attract a younger, hipper clientele to his struggling tavern. It works, The Flaming Moe takes off, Aerosmith shows up, and Moe gets offered $1 million. Meanwhile Homer has gone mad over his beloved bartender's betrayal. Bonus: a spot-on Cheers theme parody.
After finding a spare $20, Bart and Milhouse head to the Kwik-E-Mart and order up an all-syrup Super Squishee. The result is an epic sugar-induced bender, from which Bart wakes up to find he's accidentally joined a scout troupe called the Junior Campers. Bonus: a song and dance parody of On the Town's "New York, New York" about Springfield.
Like the McRib, Krusty Burger's Ribwich creates a devoted following (mostly because of its Requiem for a Dream–like effect on the eater). Homer decides to follow the limited-time item from test market to test market like it's the Grateful Dead with a group of fellow Ribheads. His addiction is no match for his fatherly instincts, though, and he still makes it to support Lisa at her spelling bee.
After running through the entire menu at the Happy Sumo sushi restaurant, Homer demands to try the final item: Fugu (blowfish). If prepared incorrectly, many parts of the fish are deadly poisonous. So, naturally, an inexperienced chef is cutting the fish. With a possible time bomb in his stomach, Homer is given 24 hours to live, which leads to him reevaluating what's important in his life.
Despite her best attempts, Marge can't keep Homer away from the annual chili cook-off after his drunken antics ruined the previous year's event. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Homer eats chiles from Chief Wiggum's batch, "The Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango," which are "grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum." This sends Homer into an epic hallucination trip with his spirit guide: a talking coyote voiced by Johnny Cash.
Well before the rise of food truck culture, Marge decides to invest in a Pretzel Wagon franchise after being mocked by her ladies' investment club for being too frugal. Lisa helps Marge with promotional ideas, including an ill-fated Free Pretzel Day at Springfield's stadium, in which her treats become projectiles hurled toward Mr. Burns. Homer tries to boost the struggling business with help from notorious gangster Fat Tony, who all but squashes the competition. Bonus: Jack Lemmon as the Pretzel Wagon owner Frank Ormand.
After falling for a cute lamb at a petting zoo, Lisa can't bring herself to eat Marge's lamb chops for dinner. This sparks one of the most soul-searching episodes the series ever produced. While Homer and Bart taunt Lisa and the family plans to continue with their barbecue despite her outcries, Lisa finds solace with fellow vegetarian Apu (and his friends Paul and Linda McCartney, of course).
In another soul-searching (in a more literal sense) episode, Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5, thinking there won't be any consequences. It's heavy. However, the delightfully food-centric subplot revolves around Moe turning his tavern into the kitschy "Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag," but the stress of serving whiny kids and holding sparklers while they dig into the basket full of scalding hot birthday fries on his head starts getting to him.
Homer and his family are scared out of their home when a man he challenged to a duel actually shows up and demands satisfaction. The Simpsons hide out at the former family farm, where with a little help from plutonium, Homer crossbreeds a tomato with tobacco. The resulting product becomes an addictive alternative (and legal loophole) to selling cigarettes. Truly a classic episode filled with classic lines. "It tastes like Grandma."
Homer gets his dream job as a food critic at the Springfield Shopper (with a little writing advice from Lisa). Soon he's a favorite of the Springfield restaurant scene, as all of his write-ups are positive. When he finds out that fellow critics don't respect him, Homer takes a cue from them and starts writing needlessly mean reviews, causing the now-struggling restaurateurs to plot cream-filled revenge.
Honorable Mention: "The Food Wife" (s. 23, ep. 5)
A latter season entry (we can debate at a later time and place whether it can be considered “classic") finds Marge, Lisa and Bart getting turned on to global foods and starting a food blog as The Three Mouthketeers. I'll admit that this sounds close to "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner,” but then again, after 500-plus episodes, it's hard not to do some repeating. To make up for it, this one features cameos from Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali.