Welcome to the first of my attempts to recreate food that never existed. This week, a couple of hexahedral delights from the year 2258, on a space station made of two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal.
My feelings about Babylon 5 are mixed. In a single show you have some of the finest and some of the corniest moments in science fiction television. There’s the marvelous acting of Peter Jurasik as Londo Molari and Andreas Katsulas as G’kar, the creepy uber-alien Kosh and the delightfully smarmy Mr. Morden. Then there’s the cliché-ridden Captain Sinclair, whose part could have been better played by a damp brick, the Centauri, who don’t even know how to pronounce their own name. Centah-ree? Cen-toh-ree? And the Mary-Sue-ishness of two captains whose initials match the writer’s and a second in command whose first name is the writer’s middle name.
In all the known galaxies of speculative fiction, is there any more disagreeable culinary appellation than spoo? If there is, I don’t want to hear it. Spoo is mostly a running gag on Babylon 5, squishy cubes of yuckworm. Well, ladies and gentlemen and Pak’ma’ra, I’m going to rescue the poor spoo from the gunkier parts J Michael Straczynski’s imagination (he once referred to it as “meat jello”). I will make something so delicious that even the most jaded Centauri will feel a special tingling in all six happy places.
But first, an appetizer by way of Minbar. In most fannish recipes, flarn is made of tofu. Screw that. Tofu is boring. Here’s a simple and lovely flarnpetizer without tofu. Please forgive me for failing to have pictures of it. My camera is in San Diego right now. Just imagine white cubes, yeah?
You’ll need wax paper, 1/2 cup of honey, a few leaves of fresh basil (fresh, I say, fresh!) and 6 oz Chevre cheese (not to be confused with Feta).
Bring the unwrapped cheese near to room temperature, so it is soft enough to shape. In wax paper, carefully form it into a rectangular log and refrigerate until it firms up a little. While it’s chilling, bring the honey to a near-boil and take it off the heat. Add the basil leaves whole and let it steep like tea. When the cheese is firm enough, cut it into cubes and serve covered in the warm basil-honey.
On to the main event.
Initial thoughts: There’s an actual cookbook, Dining on Babylon 5, as Robotech_Master mentioned in my intro post. I’ve never seen it, but I understand they use scallops for spoo. Not a bad idea; scallops are tasty. But I think it’s a little too firm to impart a spooesque texture. And scallops can be a bit expensive.
Given that spoo are meant to be worms cut into cubes, I thought immediately of gnocchi, since gnocchi are kinda wormy looking. Instead of the usual roundish dumplings, ribbed for her pleasure, I figured they could just as well be cubed, since cubed is the de facto standard shape for goofy scifi food (as we’ve already seen with flarn). And making them from purple potatoes would give them not only a lovely color but a hint of the flavor I can only describe as…um…purple potato.
1/2 pound purple potatoes
1/2 non-purple potatoes (results will vary depending on how starchy or waxy the potato is, but that’s up to the cook’s preference)
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon thyme OR 1 tablespoon crumbled Gorgonzola (explained below)
Peel the potatoes and boil them as you would for mashed potatoes. When the potatoes are done (tender but not falling apart) mash them until they are very smooth. No chunks. Allow them to cool slightly. While they cool, bring a stock pot half full of lightly salted water to a simmer.
Mix the egg and flour with the potatoes until a Play-Doh like dough forms. Turn the dough out on a floured sheet of wax paper and form it into a long rectangle, as with the flarn. Cut it into cubes using a knife dipped frequently in flour to keep it from sticking. You can make big cubes, little cubes, whatever you like. If the shape deforms when you cut it, no worries. Just reform the cube with your fingers.
When the forming is done, peel and slice the garlic and put it in a small pan over low heat with the butter and thyme (see next paragraph) until the butter is melted. Take off the heat. You can remove the garlic before serving or keep it in, depending on how strong a garlic taste you like. This will be the sauce.
Narn enjoy spoo fresh, which is more or less what I picture the thyme variant of this recipe to be. Centauri prefer aged spoo. For this, make the same basic garlic/butter without the thyme, adding a little crumbled Gorgonzola over the gnocchi just before serving.
Drop a dozen or so spoognocchi into the simmering water. They cook very quickly. Once they float to the top, use a slotted spoon or telekinesis to remove them. Repeat the process until they’re all finished. Though the raw potato is a dark purple, the finished gnocchi takes on a fascinating shade of light blue.
Gently toss with the garlic butter (adding the Gorgonzola if you’re doing it that way) and serve the cube-a-liscious beauties to your geekiest friends.
Next week: Farscape!