Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you could try any fictional food or drink, what do you think you’d go for? Personally, I’ve always wanted to score a bottle of Star Trek’s Romulan ale—and maybe have a Klingon raktajino lined up for my hangover later. Thanks! —Eli Jah Rasta
Certainly the first thing that comes to mind is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, described as “the best drink in existence.” Then again, it’s also described as mimicking the effect of “having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick,” which doesn’t sound like much fun. Also, the most miserable-drunk I’ve ever been was a direct result of imbibing something called a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster at a Hitchhiker’s Guide themed college party: They were blue cocktails filled with dry ice so they bubbled and steamed. Ah, college. So maybe we’ll take that one as fun and done, and consider something else instead, like the various size-changing foods in Alice In Wonderland—the Drink Me cordial and Eat Me cakes, the caterpillar’s mushroom, and the animals’ cakes. Given some relatively controlled circumstances, who wouldn’t want to try being mouse-sized and giant-sized on a lazy afternoon? For that matter, I wouldn’t mind trying Turkish delight as described in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe—the fantasy version that’s so good, it’s worth selling out to evil for, as opposed to our real-world version, which is basically boring hard candy dipped in sugar.
Immediately, I thought of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and which of those foods I would like to try. I’m really more of a chocolate lover than anything else, but I don’t think I’d like to meet the fate of Augustus Gloop, so instead I think I’d sample some Fizzy Lifting Drinks, because then I’d get to float (and for once feel lighter after I eat/drink something.) Only in this case, I would ensure I was nowhere near deadly spinning blades or electrified wires or a low ceiling. I’m on to you, Wonka. You can’t get me. That’s what diabetes is for.
I know it gets a bad rap, but come on: How bad can Soylent Green really be? I grew up as a really picky eater, so as an adult, I’ve tried to compensate (okay, maybe overcompensate) by being as open to new, strange foods as possible. As modest proposals go, processed human flesh sounds like a pretty tidy solution to eco-catastrophe, poverty, and overpopulation. And as today’s food-industrial complex has shown time and time again, we’re more than happy to gulp down any old hunk of organic garbage, so long as it’s properly salted and MSGed. In any case, I don’t see what the big deal is. it’s not like I haven’t been gnawing on my fingernails for most of my life.
Don’t think less of me, but I want to try the trifle Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) made on the classic Friends episode “The One Where Ross Got High.” She mistakenly added meat to a trifle full of custard and jam when the pages of her cookbook stuck together. Everyone hated it—Ross said “it tastes like feet!”—but I’m more in the Joey camp, which is why my curiosity is piqued: “I mean, what’s not to like? Custard, good. Jam, gooood. Meat, gooood!”
Back when I was reviewing Pushing Daisies weekly for TV Club, I tried to maintain the tradition of eating and sharing a different flavor of pie each week while watching/writing, as a nod to the dearly departed series’ setting in a bakeshop called The Pie Hole. Unfortunately, the meager selection of apple-cherry-peach (maybe pumpkin or lemon if I was lucky) at my local grocery store was a poor substitute to Pushing Daisies’ eye-popping pie creations, which Ned (Lee Pace) made from rotten fruit he magically returned to its luscious glory with his enchanted, death-defying touch. Aside from the standard fruit-pie options—which always looked extra-mouthwatering through Pushing Daisies’ hyper-pigmented, high-gloss lens—there were some more unusual offerings, like spring passionfruit and three-plum pies, plus the “cup pies” invented by Chuck (Anna Friel), with their honey-baked crusts. And then there’s the famous—well, in very specific, Pushing Daisies-loving circles—pear pie with a gruyere crust that Chuck brings to her aunts, a recipe that’s since popped up on various baking websites, and which I’ve made several times. (If I may toot my own horn a little, Patton Oswalt once tried it and claimed he loved it.) But it is a right pain in the ass to make, and it never looks—or, I imagine, tastes—half as good as Ned’s version. Pie shops are a bit more trendy and commonplace now than they were back in 2008 when Daisies premièred, so it isn’t impossible to find something at least a little reminiscent of Ned’s creations, but every time I enter one of these shops, I’m a tiny bit disappointed by the lack of giant cherry-shaped light fixtures, singing itty-bitty waitresses, and an absolutely perfect-looking slice of Golden Cherry Crimson Pear pie.
When I was a kid, I remember seeing Pufnstuf, the feature-film spin-off of the Sid and Marty Krofft TV series, which features a scene in which the witches capture the title character, tie him to a spit, and light a fire under him, intending to use him as the centerpiece of their big banquet. I confess that for years, I couldn’t quite get that image out of my head, and it did make me wonder what dragon tastes like. It also made me wonder whether roasting the dragon alive is just witchy sadism, or a refined culinary technique that really maximizes the flavor. (Before you ask, yes, I was a fat kid.) And while I’m on the subject of my childhood obsessions, sure, it’s easy to make fun of the coyote for stubbornly fixating on what he can’t have, has anyone actually tasted roadrunner? Do we know just what he’s missing?
Tasha, I can’t believe you’d go Douglas Adams and not pick the animals who want to be eaten. Guilt-free meat? C’mon, get your head in the game. That said, I’ve spent all my fictional food energy on Harry Potter concoctions, most often butterbeer. I have tried making butterbeer more times than I have tried making any real drinks, and literally every time, it has been gag-inducingly terrible. My first experience was at a party for book number five, where a neighboring town transformed its downtown businesses into their Harry Potter counterparts. One restaurant dressed as The Three Broomsticks was giving away teeny-tiny cups of butterbeer at the end of a very long line, and all I remember was that it was creamy and wonderful. I have tried so many times, but I’ve never come close to capturing the warming beverage described in the book, or my memory of my first butterbeer. I’ve used every recipe I can find, but it doesn’t matter, it’s never drinkable. I even went so far as The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter to give another “official” version a try. It sucked. But I will never give up, because that’s not what a Gryffindor would do. And because I’m certain if I can figure it out, it will be really delicious.
Food holds significant sway over the characters of Twin Peaks: FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper swears by the coffee and cherry pie at the Double R Diner, the local cops can’t get any work done without an immaculately arranged spread of doughnuts, and a fallen-out-of-public-favor brand of gum harbors transportive powers that ultimately clear up the series’ central mystery. I certainly wouldn’t turn down the “damn good” specialty of the Double R (Cooper: “This must be where pies go when they die”), but the culinary Twin Peaks offering I’ve always had my heart set on are the brie and butter baguette sandwiches Jerry Horne brings back from Paris in the series’ third episode, “Zen, Or The Skill To Catch A Killer.” David Lynch may have directed David Patrick Kelly and Richard Beymer to oversell their reaction to this chewy, gooey Parisian export, but the blending of cheese and butter inside a loaf of bread would sound appetizing even without that rapturous response. I don’t know if I could eat four of them a day, however.
Because I hate myself, and use food as a means of self-punishment, I’d want to eat anything that Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim have thought up, or thrown up, either on Tom Goes To The Mayor or Awesome Show, Great Job! From edible candy bangs to an all-pudding buffet and bread-only restaurant (in Billion Dollar Movie), nobody has done more to make eating in the developed world more disgusting than Tim and Eric. Every time I suck wing sauce and blue cheese off an index finger, or hear the echo of my own chewing from inside my head, I think of their swollen, pallid faces mockingly staring at me. Of all the disgusting crap they’ve cooked up, Sauceman’s Family Sauce House-Style Sauce House Restaurant takes the cake (or gravy, or whatever). An all-gravy and dipping-sauce eatery (meat not included), Sauceman’s would be the ultimate dining destination for the sad-eyed and self-loathing. And, lucky me, some restaurant proprietors in my city are workshopping the same basic idea as a viable concept. May God help them.
I’m always fascinated by futuristic or fantastical foods that claim to provide “everything the body needs,” a terrifying combination of protein, fat, and carbs, often in a drinkable form. I really do not think any of these would taste very good, but damn, I’m curious. One example is the gloopy substance eaten by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar in The Matrix; the one Mouse says reminds him of Tasty Wheat. (“Did you ever eat Tasty Wheat? No, but technically, neither did you.”) Another is lembas bread, the magical elven bread Frodo and Sam survive on for months on their way to Mordor in The Lord Of The Rings. And my particular favorite? Mudders’ milk, the cringeworthy beverage of all of your daily nutrients, with a 15 percent alcohol content—drunk, rather unwillingly, by the characters in Firefly on their visit to Jaynestown. I doubt it would be my favorite, but there are some days where I can imagine a few bottles of mudder’s milk would just about hit the spot.
Scott Von Doviak
I’d have to go with The Stuff, as featured in the Larry Cohen movie of the same name. It’s a sort of white, globby dessert that resembles a cross between vanilla ice cream and marshmallow Fluff, but it’s all-natural, calorie-free, and by all accounts, so delicious as to be addictive. Cohen’s movie was made in 1985, long before every advertisement had to carry a list of potential side effects, so it might not fare as well in today’s marketplace. It’s true that this delicious treat is actually a parasitic organism that turns those who consume it into mindless zombies, but does that really make it so different from Ben & Jerry’s? I think not.
Maybe this doesn’t count, because I could, conceivably, prepare every single dish offered there for myself, but I’d really love to eat at the restaurant operated by a team of rats in Pixar’s Ratatouille, one of my favorites of the studio’s films. It’s hard to present food in a light that makes it look mouth-watering in a CGI-animated world, but this film manages the trick, and the way director Brad Bird depicts Remy the rat’s sense of taste causing different flavors to combine always makes me want to eat a great meal. But it’s the depiction of the ratatouille presented to Peter O’Toole’s critic at the end that most makes me want to eat here. Bird understands how intimately food can be tied into our deepest memories, how a great meal can unlock those memories like great art. And in that moment, he made me want to step into the world of Remy and pals to eat, even if the food had to be prepared by rodents. (Though seriously cuddly ones.)
We’re in the middle of winter here in Boston right now, but once the weather gets warmer, I’d love to quench my thirst and beat the heat with a large Slusho. Introduced in the J.J. Abrams series Alias, it soon became an Easter egg in other parts of his overall oeuvre. This Slurpee-type beverage also appeared in his reboot of Star Trek, and was an integral part of the viral marketing campaign for Cloverfield. It even cropped up once outside of his own body of work, making a guest appearance in Heroes as well. Is there anything special about Slusho in and of itself that appeals to my pop-culture-obsessed taste buds? Not especially. But the worlds Abrams creates are often more intriguing than the one I inhabit. Getting a taste of that world would be satisfying.
Based on everything I read about it over the course of the run of Calvin & Hobbes, I can’t imagine that there’s any better way to kickstart your morning than with a big bowl of Chocolate Frosted (Crunchy) Sugar Bombs, Calvin’s favorite cereal. Mind you, it’s arguable that Calvin may have overdone it a bit with his intake of the stuff—even I can’t imagine downing three to five bowls in a single sitting—but while Hobbes may have meant it as a bad thing when he likened the cereal to eating a bowl of Milk Duds, and observed that each serving offers 100 percent of the daily allowance of caffeine, it sounds pretty awesome to me. I’m not sure I’m up for the version that adds marshmallows to the mix, though. That just seems like overkill.
In real life, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but apparently that’s because I’m holding out for so many fictional treats. I drool over the supernaturally ripe pies of Pushing Daisies, the problematic ice planet on Firefly, and the delectable desserts in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Counselor Troi makes the sundaes in Ten Forward look ravishing, but I don’t think I’m qualified for chocolate that dense. Maybe it’s because I’m still mourning 30 Rock, but right now, I’m most tempted by Jack Donaghy’s favorite Valentine’s Day confection, the Lovers’ Delight at Plunder. “Imagine a dessert for two, Tahitian-vanilla-bean ice cream in a pool of cognac drizzled in the world’s most expensive chocolate, Amadei Porcelana, covered with shaved white, black, and clear truffles, and topped with edible 25-carat gold leaf.” Gold so pure, it contains extra gold! It’s worth it just for the head trip.
I have an unhealthy fascination with hyper-caffeinated sodas and energy drinks of all kinds, so I’ve been hankering for Tantrum ever since I saw it on How I Met Your Mother. Ted and Marshall used it to fuel their college road-trips and it’s been known to inspire some intense behavior, like car-surfing and phonebook-ripping. Seems like great stuff! Alas, according to the show, it was discontinued after an intensive FDA study. Apparently, it causes some pretty unfortunate side effects—it made Ted colorblind for a week, and Marshall is pretty sure it’s the reason he passes out when he hears church bells—which do admittedly sound a little worse than the crawling-skin feeling and sensation that my heart is going to explode I get when I overdo it with Red Bull. Still, I’m willing to risk it.
One of the fun parts of The Simpsons Movie was Fox’s decision to release real-world versions of some of the food and drinks that have become indelible parts of the Simpsons world. As a diehard who’s watched every season, I couldn’t help but wonder what Buzz Cola or Duff Beer tasted like, and now I could find out—well, for the first one at least. Thanks to a marketing campaign, 7-Eleven transformed some of its stores into Kwik E Marts, selling Squishees, Buzz Cola, Krusty-O’s, and Homer’s favorite pink donuts. I managed to grab a Buzz Cola, but the store was sold out of everything else. It tasted like RC, which seemed about right. Duff probably tastes like Bud. A Krusty Burger is probably the same as a McDonald’s burger. Ah Fudge: Hershey’s. These Simpsons products are simply avatars for real-world stuff, so I basically already know what everything tastes like. I’m still curious, though. Looks like I need to head to Mexico to try Duff.