Welcome to “Who’s There?” our ongoing series featuring some of the wonderful and creative people out there in the great world of geekdom. Here, Cheri, creator of CookFiction.com shares the joys of creating real world food out of fictional references.
“No proper princess would come out looking for dragons,” Woraug objected.
“Well, I’m not a proper princess, then,” Cimorene snapped. “I make cherries jubilee, and I volunteer for dragons, and I conjugate Latin verbs – or at least I would if anyone would let me. So there!”
From Searching for Dragons by Patricia Wrede
When I was little, I loved reading about Cimorene, a character from Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles series. I could relate to her: I loved dragons and languages much more than the thought of being a proper princess. And – if I so desired – I knew I could make a mean cherries jubilee.
Years later, I decided to make my own cookbook, and wanted to include recipes from my favorite stories. Nostalgia, after all, is a powerful thing to taste. I decided to search for recipes from fiction on a whim, and was surprised to find very few resources on the internet. Those that existed were scattered among forums and blog posts.
That’s when I decided to make a central recipe library that others might enjoy, too. I started a website called CookFiction: a recipe library for foods that have been inspired by works of fiction.
Recipes from the real world pop up in fiction all the time. In this year’s Captain America: Civil War, the Scarlet Witch bravely tried the Vision’s attempt at paprikash, and Iron Man commented dryly about the date loaf made by Spiderman’s aunt. Sometimes, authors will make a tiny change to a real recipe, like calling the ingredients different names. Mirelurk cakes from the game Fallout 3 are just delicious crab cakes, but gamers connect them with huge crustacean beasts that roam our world in an alternate timeline. Our understanding of the recipe contributes to how we perceive it.
A graduate student in Food Studies once asked me if fictional food helps make the story world believable. It’s different for everyone. Tasting food from fiction is like interacting with a glass door into the fictional world. Some people might walk right by it, or maybe only see their reflection. You have to be willing to turn the handle and walk inside.
I love being able to make and enjoy the same foods as my favorite characters, but inventing recipes for truly imaginative foods is the most fun. You can connect with the author on a personal level as you attempt to understand their world, and their vision of what food could be.
That said, the most imaginative foods are often (unsurprisingly) the most difficult. There are some recipes I haven’t perfected yet, because their descriptions just don’t obey the laws of physics or chemistry. For example, fizzing whizbees from Harry Potter are supposed to cause the taster to levitate. In other cases, the recipe may not seem palatable or practical for real life. Dwarf bread (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) is made with actual rocks, like gravel and stone.
But that’s precisely what I love about impossible fictional foods. Fans will see them as a challenge. They’ll conduct science experiments on their own time to engage with a story world they find fascinating. It’s a very inspiring community.
Overall, sharing food and stories helps us form strong social bonds and understand one another. There’s an entire world attached to whatever you’re making, and people can share that world with you. It’s also a great way to get kids interested in reading, telling their own stories, and even learning how to cook (and invent!) on their own.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got cherries jubilee bubbling on the stove and some hungry dragons to feed. Happy cooking!
How to Make Mirelurk Cakes
You will need:
- 1 pound crab (“mirelurk”) meat
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Dijon mustard
- 2-3 green onions, dried and crushed
- 2 tsp salt
- Oil (for pan)
- Spices (optional)
- Remove any shell from crab.
- In bowl, toss together bread, egg, green onion and mayo until moistened, but do not over mix. Add any available spices for taste.
- Ball up 25-30 cakes, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Place in refrigerator until they firm up (about an hour). Sprinkle batch with salt.
- In heavy pan, fry cakes in oil, turning once until both sides are brown.