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Topic: Food and SF

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Subject: Food and SF
Date Posted: 3/5/2010 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I was watching my son & friend making sandwiches yesterday and had a flashback to the early 80's when I was reading Lawrence Sander's Deadly Sin books.  I remember craving sandwiches whenever I read one of those books since the detective was always eating them and they sounded really good.

When I was around 12 I was so excited to to to Belgium so I could have some hot chocolate the way Hercule Periot (sp) (Agatha Christie in case my spelling is so botched) like it.  That was a big disappointment.  It was way too sweet & thick.

So my question is this:  Have you read any SF books that have eating scenes that are written so well  you want to try the food?

Ray Bradbury made me swear off mushrooms for a while and carrots too! 

The only SF book I can think of with really good food scenes is The Sparrow.  I cooked some very nice dinners when I was reading the beginning of that book.

Drinking doesn't count...  SF seems to have a lot of ale & wine.

Date Posted: 3/5/2010 11:59 AM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
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I always wanted the odd, spice-infused food from Dune, but I think that had more to do with the spice itself than the food.  When Arthur Dent becomes Bob's only begotten sandwich maker the description of the sandwich making process was enough to get me hungry (I'm a huge fan of the Sandwich proper).  Come to think of it, I haven't really run across all that much in terms of food while reading science fiction.  Fantasy novels have a tendency to include at least one magical feast of sorts, and if they're allowed into the discussion then I'd have to say without a doubt that the Harry Potter novels have never failed to generate a certain amount of jealousy regarding their daily feasting.  Aside from that, I'm hard pressed to think of many more examples.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 3/5/2010 1:46 PM ET
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Hmm.  Not usually.  In the book Between Planets by Heinlein, the maic character has a huge dessert that's kind of a cold/hot contrast that always sounded fascinating to me.  Many of Heinlein's books do have meal descriptions, and some are pretty good, but most of the details haven't stayed with me.

Date Posted: 3/5/2010 4:39 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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Dune -yep the spice was fascinating but I agree -it's not a food thing.  I actually was reading the Dunes at the same time I was reading Deadly Sins.  Now I'm going to have to check out Between Planets.  Is it like Baked Alaska or something? (the hot/cold dessert?)  The fact that you remembered it is what I'm after! Arthur Dent never made me want to eat sandwiches but I'm glad you mentioned that.  I forgot that was his niche.  I really was having  hard time coming up with SF involving reasonable food.

Fantasy seems to be  always having feasts but it generally involves trenchers and ale and really really dirty tables.  (like if you scraped with your fingernails they would be full of gunk) in inns or keeps.

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 2:15 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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It's Hercule Poirot. (Glad to find another Christie fan!)

As for food in SF. . . I think the only time I've really noticed it is recently, while I've been reading Kage Baker's Company novels. They give me a Theobromos craving. . . ;)

In Shards of Honor there's a fair amount of talk of food. . . but in a negative sense, as Cordelia and Aral are stranded on an alien planet with nothing but blue cheese and oatmeal. Yuck!

But I've had the same experience James has -- I remember plenty of food in my fantasy novels, but not so much in SF. I guess in the future we move beyond the need to eat? All the food descriptions I can think of are futures where people eat soy or algae bars, and that just sounds depressing. (The exception, yes, is alcohol -- which I think I would need if I had to eat algae all the time!)



Last Edited on: 3/6/10 2:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 3/6/2010 8:15 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Is it like Baked Alaska or something? (the hot/cold dessert?)

 

You get the idea it's similar, but more complex and futuristic.  Or maybe it really is baked Alaska and I'm just imagining it's something else because it's in a science fiction book :p

As for Harry Potter, the feasts boggle my mind.  I am definitely jealous of kids who can eat anything they want every day...but on the other hand, at my highest, I was nearly 70 lbs. overweight.  Maybe Mom knew what she was doing when I had to eat peanut butter and jelly almost every day.  I'd have looked like a beach ball if I could have eaten like those kids.

Most times in science fiction books it seems like people have to eat nasty food, like recycled waste or algae or fungus.  Even when they try to make is sound good (like Asimov with Mycogen) it still sounds disgusting to me.

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 11:05 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I posted something incredibly witty (first time for everything) about food and soylent green and this and that then POOF it disappeared.  You'll just have to trust me -it was a great post!    Anyway I have a Kage Baker book here that I will have to read now.   I wonder if there are some science fiction books with less action and move conversation that have some good food scenes.


So how about foods/meals  that tempted you in Fantasy or Science Fiction.  (hmm maybe PBS just implemented an AI program that moves misposted messages to the proper forum and it was sent to fantasy?)

Harry Potter's chocolate frogs did sound interesting but I think I was way too old when I read it for the banquets to tempt me.  I'm not remembering any vegetables.

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 12:47 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
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I read The Peshawar Lancers, by S. M. Stirling about 6 or 7 years ago, and all the writing about Indian food made me hungry for curry.  The main character's mother apparently made a mean vindaloo.  After I reviewed it on a forum I was on then, some of us convinced others to seek out Indian restaurants in their areas.  Come to think of it, there is a lot of writing about foods in Stirling's series that starts with Dies The Fire too - to the point I felt it was just padding to make those books slower.

I remember one of my daughters mixing some sort of chocolate concoction after reading about it in a Pern book.

And some of those Harry Potter jelly beans taste like snot - o wait they're supposed to.

-Tom Hl.

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
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I've had the real Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Jelly Beans, and although I can only assume what some real flavor sources might taste like, I must admit the grosser beans were pretty dead-on.  I've often wondered if the food in Harry Potter, being magic, is somehow magically nutritious without being overly filling.  I agree with Matt, those kids should all look like Dudley. 

Asimov had a thing for yeast based foods that always wrinkled my nose.  Even when they were eating yeast made to look and taste like steak it still had an unappealing quality to it.  I think there's a certain pragmaticism regarding food in SF, where basic function is more important than aesthetic value.  Who has time for gourmet cooking when zipping through space with robots and aliens in tow?

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I must admit the grosser beans were pretty dead-on   and you know this how?   no never mind I don't want to know. 

I have something by Stirling around here somewhere.  I'll have to look into that. 

Asimov food always reminded me of some of the early (70's) versions of tofu sausage/burger type foods and I really couldn't imagine enjoying any food that wasn't what it was pretending to be. 

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 3:25 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Food in fantasy makes me immediately think of Robin McKinley's Sunshine -- Sunshine's a baker, and always leaves me craving cinnamon rolls. :)

Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World leaves me hungry too -- I'd love to caravan with a gourmet chef!

And I remember there being much talk of food in Tolkien (mainly the hobbits craving stuff they couldn't get I think), but it's been too many years since I last reread them to remember what, exactly, was talked about and whether it made me hungry or not. . .

I haven't read the Harry Potter books, so I never had any desire to try the jelly beans -- though I do remember when I worked at a bookstore people always coming in looking for them. . . I don't know why based on what you guys are saying! That sounds GROSS!

Date Posted: 3/6/2010 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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Oh Sunshine was good and I do think I baked a fair bit after I read that.   Actually most of her books have food mentioned in an appealing way.   I don't remember wanting to eat with Tolkien but I do remember hobbits enjoying their food -especially bilbo-

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 4:39 PM ET
Member Since: 4/13/2009
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Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan novels that feature food by his new cook named Ma Kosti make me hungry.  And I'd love to try her maple mead/bug butter "Ambrosia" that was served at Gregor's wedding.

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 4:51 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Oh, that's true. . . forgot the ambrosia. "Fed and drunk" at the same time indeed. . . ;)

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 5:46 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Reading this thread, the first thing that popped to mind was Bernie Botts' All Flavors jelly beans, first eaten on the train by Harry, wasn't it?  But then I thought of Star Trek, when the scene took place in the "lounge", and some of those 'cocktails' sure had exotic names......

One episode of Superman, on TV, had our hero returning to the Daily Planet office, as Clark Kent, carrying a paper sack full of croissants, that Lois found so superb that she was pestering him about the French pastry shop where he had bought them . . . . He'd been on a mission that took him to Paris, France . . . .  What tickled me was the way that the 'real world' and the sci-fi world were fused, in that instance.  I wonder what they did eat on his homeplanet Krypton?



Last Edited on: 3/15/10 5:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/15/2010 7:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Speaking of Star Trek. . . I found a recipe for Romulan Ale online that was actually pretty good. . . and very blue.

Date Posted: 3/16/2010 1:01 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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Was it this?

 

Combine ingredients in a (just over) one-liter bottle. Chill in freezer for two hours. Serve in shot glasses.
 
I bet it ignites well -and probably does taste pretty good -at least AFTER the first one!
Date Posted: 3/16/2010 10:29 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2008
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OMG, that recipe should be illegal.....on some planet somewhere. 

Date Posted: 3/17/2010 12:49 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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LOL, no nothing quite that alcoholic. . . don't remember exactly the proportions, but it was essentially blue curacao, sprite, maybe some (regular proof) rum (but maybe not, like I said, I don't really remember -- a decent sign, yes?), and a few drops of tobasco -- just enough to make your tongue burn, but without affecting the flavor.

Date Posted: 3/17/2010 2:47 AM ET
Member Since: 6/4/2007
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I've had Romulan Ale, although the recipe we used was vodka, triple sec, blue caracoa and 151.  They mixed them up and served them on the rocks in HUGE glasses.  They were delicious, and I was surprised at how little effect they seemed to have.  Apparently it's a common stance when one first encounters anything made with 151.  I was working on my third drink when bad things started happening, and, needless to say, the evening did not end the way I would have liked it to lol.

Subject: coffee
Date Posted: 3/17/2010 10:44 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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In the Pern books they were always getting a mug of K.... something.  I've always wondered if it tasted like coffee.

And coffee is usually some type of trade goods on interstellar merchant ships.  If not used for trade it's either contraband, or thought to be a drug, or hoarded or coveted.  So, I wonder if the coffee bean will be the same if grown in another planets soil?  If I was immortal, I would be sure to invest in the coffee business in some shape or form.  A lot of SF writers seem to think we'll take it into the future.

I'll have a grande peppermint mocha please.  That's the stuff. 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 3/17/2010 12:43 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Well, on to coffee...one of my favorite books is The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  The one character is from the Arab-colonized world of Levant, and he is a coffee trader and connoisseur.  There is a lot of dialogue about his gourmet coffees, and he even goes about helping a Navy ship clean up its coffe makers so the coffee is better.   

Date Posted: 3/17/2010 2:01 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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I believe it was klah in the Pern books. . . and it always did read like coffee, though that may be because I think the characters comment on it being like coffee in the two books set right after the colony ship landed. . .

It seems like SF/Fantasy writers are always putting in a coffee substitute (if they don't just use coffee, for the SF writers). I can think of: klah, jaco (Darkover, though to be fair this is somewhere between coffee and hot chocolate), and kavage (in a romance writer's attempt at fantasy); and then when I googled the topic to see if I was missing any, I found the following posts:

http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=58296

(Jo Walton decrying this habit)

http://www.sff.net/people/Vonda/Pitfalls.html

(Vonda McIntyre decrying this habit -- it's #7)

and http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CallARabbitASmeerp

(always a fun site!)



Last Edited on: 3/17/10 4:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/17/2010 5:08 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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I always thought klah was more like chicory rather than coffee -- but I really like those pages you posted Phoenix!  I hadn't looked at it that way before.  Jo Walton's was especially entertaining.  I think I just automatically process/translate when reading SF with all those alien type names for things.  Hadn't really thought about it before-

 

 

Date Posted: 3/18/2010 8:52 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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I guess Captain Jean-Luc Picard was a hopeless throwback to 'ancient times' when he used his handy-dandy contraption on the Enterprise to fetch him a nice cup of hot Earl Grey tea?     I always wondered if he ever put any of the future's counterpart of sugar in his cup, and if so, how many lumps?   Heh heh . . . . . .

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