Wed
Nov 24 2010 2:03pm

Science Fiction Cuisine: The Leftovers

Science fiction cuisineWay back when I started Science Fiction Cuisine, I intended it to be a weekly event. Though I loved being a one-man geek test kitchen, it became clear to me very early on that there simply wasn’t enough time or source material to keep it going at a weekly rate.

It turned out to be a lot tougher than I’d anticipated finding a constant supply of things to create. Food in science fiction and fantasy isn’t always very important. On the flip side, some recipes were natural choices but had been done a million times elsewhere.

I set myself up with ground rules right away.

  1. It’s got to taste really good.
  2. No absurdly expensive or rare ingredients.
  3. No technique unfamiliar to a regular home cook.
  4. The recipes must be easily doubled, for larger dinner parties.

I wanted at first to draw strictly from scifi sources, but eventually decided fantasy is okay to work from, too, though that still didn’t widen my options as much as I wanted. Also, I wanted only to make things that were intended as food in the original source, as opposed to making, let’s say, roast Wookie foot. No one eats roast Wookie foot in Star Wars. Not even in Episode One. But I ended up stretching this rule, too, when I made cakes that looked like Tribbles. Even with those relaxed rules, I had problems.

Rule one mattered the most, and I think I delivered consistently (though Slurm is debatable). The Vegan Rhino cutlets turned out great and my spoo is delicious. And…wow, does that sound wrong. Rule three was easy enough to comply with and rule four never posed a problem.

Rule two was sticky, though. Some of the things I came up with (but didn’t post) were pretty pricey or relied on difficult to find ingredients. I’m fortunate that, living in a huge city, I have access to just about anything. But I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone.

I had plans for several further posts but for the reasons stated above I didn’t meet with consistent success. But a few attempts here and there yielded good results, and I want to share them with you.

And so, dear readers, I wish now to present you with a few scattered culinary offerings, orphans of the kitchen. That’s right. I want you to eat my yummy orphans.

First up? Chocolate frogs

You will need:
Pretzel sticks
A pound of chocolate
A bag of marshmallows
Cheerios
Graham crackers (just in case)

Initial thoughts: Jason wanted desperately to be a good house elf and please his masters. Jason knows food is very important in the wizarding world. But Harry Potter fandom is huge and unusual in that many people have already tried to recreate the food in the books. Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and rock cakes have already been made by competent house elves. Jason failed you, masters. He had to spank himself.

Many years ago for a Halloween party I came up with something I called smore d’oeuvres. They’re easy and delicious. Crush up graham crackers, melt some chocolate, stick a marshmallow on a pretzel stick, toast the marshmallow over a flame, let the flame cool, dip the end in melted chocolate and roll in graham crackers. When attempting chocolate frogs I borrowed from the smore d’oeuvres idea.

I knew I couldn’t make the frogs jump, but I thought it might be cool to make the frogs in different poses, as if they’d just completed their one good magical jump.

The ingredients listed above are inexact because making the chocolate frogs, while not technically difficult, is labor intensive. You might give up after a few of them. If so, use the graham crackers and make smore d’oeuvres.

Harry Potter chocolate frogsHere’s how you do it. Cut a marshmallow in half, lengthwise. Cut the other half into several smaller bits. Use one piece for the body of the frog. Use pretzel sticks broken in half for the legs. Stick two pretzel pieces in front and two in back, more or less forming an X. Using small bits of marshmallow, create joints upon which to connect the forelimbs. At the end of the legs, add more marshmallow for feet. You can cut the feet further, into toes, if you want to. Repeat until you have as many pretzelmallowfrogbodies as you want, or until you feel like you’re being tortured by Dolores Umbridge and must stop. 

Arrange the frogs on a wire cooling rack—there’s something you don’t read every day—with waxed paper underneath. Now melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or whatever chocolate melting method you prefer. Spoon the melted chocolate over the frogs until covered. You may need to give the cooling rack a few gentle taps to loosen excess chocolate. The last step is to coat cheerios in chocolate (by hand) and add them to the frogs, for eyes.

It’s a lot of work, but they make a fun presentation and they taste really good.

For a much simpler Potter-inspired food item, you can make moldy peanuts, as served during Nearly Headless Nick’s Death Day party.

There are two ways of making them. One, coat dry roasted peanuts in raw egg yolk and put them under your sink until they’re moldy. These will probably kill you and I don’t recommend them unless you are a ghost already. The second, more palatable and non-lethal way is to take dry roasted peanuts, spray a little water on them, and coat them liberally in green curry powder. Spread them on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven at about 200 degrees for maybe five minutes. They look moldy, they taste lovely, and they won’t end your life.

Next up: Healing potion.

You will need:
Rose water (or fresh mint leaves, see below)
1/4 cup of honey
Juice of half a lemon
Fast-dissolving b-12 tablets (optional but recommended)
A little food coloring (optional)

I wanted to make a Dungeons & Dragons post, because age has ended my Funions and Mountain Dew days, but all but one item ended in failure. Ochre jelly turned out well, but it required an entire bottle of tawny port, and that violated rule two. Too expensive. You should have seen the attempt at basilisk (a skinned and butterflied chicken roasted with Sriracha pepper sauce and then coated in fried bits of wonton skin as scales). Oh boy. It looked like fillet of Githyanki. The taste wasn’t bad but it was greasy and the shit just looked malevolent.

My sole success in D&D food was a healing potion, inspired by an Arabic drink.

In a large pitcher, whisk the honey and lemon juice until thinned. Add a quart of water and a tablespoon of rose water. Rose water is not always easy to find, but you can get it online, at just about any Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store and some health food stores. Mix it all up and, if you want, add a drop or two of food coloring. This step isn’t really necessary. You can make this a day or so in advance, or just before serving.

Pour into individual glasses or if you have a supply of cool looking bottles, you can use them. Lastly, add one B-12 tablet per glass (use only the sublingual, fast-dissolving kind) and make sure it’s totally dissolved before serving.

If you can’t find rose water or you dislike the taste, substitute it with mint, which is also refreshing. For this, heat the honey in a saucepan, over very low heat, and stir in a handful of fresh chopped mint leaves. Take off the heat and let it rest for twenty minutes or longer, and proceed as mentioned above.

Will it actually restore hit points? No, silly. But is it refreshing? Will it alleviate late-night gaming delirium without getting you amped up on caffeine? You bet your rod of epic splendor.

There will be one more entry in the Science Fiction Cuisine series, possibly the last, unless a fit of inspiration strikes.


Jason Henninger would like to thank everyone who has tried, or at least giggled at, his recipes.           

11 comments
Gina 'Oz Pound
1. KawaiiOz
Ooh, sounds like fun. Also it sounds like stuff I could actually manage to put together, unlike some recipes! :)
Ursula L
2. Ursula
Have you tried looking at Bujold for recipe ideas?  Recreations of anything Ma Kosti makes would be great, Fawn Bluefield is constantly cooking, and figuring out what source ingredients she'd have for things like spices (what is or isn't available, based on the limited pseudo-US geography and time setting, and lack of intercontanental trade) would be a neat exercise in exploring worldbuilding, and would be accessible to people in areas with limited grocery store options, and the folks in the 5-gods world eat some interesting things, too.  
Jason Henninger
3. jasonhenninger
@2 thanks for the recommendation! I will look into it.
Ursula L
4. Ursula
The chocolate frogs look like they'd be perfect as an activity and snack for a children's party, or a theme party.  Tedious for one person to make a lot, but fun to get a group of people together to play with marshmallows and pretzels and chocolate.  
Irene Gallo
5. Irene
Jason,
You have our address. Please feel free to send all chocolate covered failures our way.
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
@2 - How about oatmeal with blue cheese dressing from Shards of Honor, lol.
Ursula L
7. Ursula
@6 - I was thinking more of killer chocolate thingies with the density of plutonium, or an apple pie when you don't have sugar, cinnamon or refined flour, but do have ginger, honey, maple syrup, and stone-ground flour.  
Madeline Ferwerda
8. MadelineF
Did someone suggest Steve Brust's Vlad Taltos series to you already? It's the fantasy books that most care about food that I know. _Dzur_ is framed by a meal at the best restaurant in the capital city of an empire, and each chapter is a course.

Also, there are lots of people like me who don't go check out recipes for butterbeer or whathaveyou, and I'd be happy to hear about what you think of the recipes in existence already...
mectech
9. mectech
Following up on MadelineF's suggestion (@8), I will also recommend checking out Brust's Cowboy Feng's Space Bar & Grille. An excellent (and relatively fast) read, with tons of food & cooking-related content totally accessible to the home cook. An illustrative (and hopefully not-too-spoilery) example is the protagonist's realization that he is currently drinking the galaxy's last extant bottle of Jameson. Also entertaining debate on the value of mushrooms in omelets.
mectech
10. bowtie
For Madeline F: For some reason, all the butterbeer recipes online are cold drinks. I always thought butterbeer would be a warm drink, like a fuzzy, mulled wine. I can't imagine walking from a snow covered town into a fire warmed pub, and drinking something cold. I would love to have a warm butterbeer recipe.
mectech
11. javamano
Jason, great post. Funny. In therms of morphic resonance check out the
site we are developing alone similar lines: http://www.aliencuisine.com/

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