Star Snacks: How Star Wars and Star Trek Feed a Galaxy
“This is not an efficient method for preparing sustenance.” —Data
“The ship’s computer would be more efficient, but it wouldn’t allow for the subtlety needed for great cooking. It would give you all the ingredients in pre-determined measurements, but wouldn’t allow for flair or individuality. And, Data, we both know flair is what marks the difference between artistry and mere competence.” —Commander Riker
On an intergalactic, warp capable Starship like Enterprise in Star Trek, preparing meals may be an event or a struggle, but the result should always be enjoyed and hopefully shared. What of preparing cuisine when you’re earthbound? The way we depend more and more on advanced technology and digital processing of information, the basic, simple pleasure of cooking and eating meals is in danger of becoming overly computerized. Whipping up grub with a pinch of this and a dash of that is human, which doesn’t translate well to machines. Fortunately, the way the future has been depicted in some of the most visionary sci-fi television and movies, it’s a safe bet our kitchens, cafes, and dining halls will remain celebrations of both gourmet foods and snack treats.
Aside from the pure logistical consideration of taking supplies and food rations when exploring the galaxy, there’s taste to consider. Getting along for weeks or even months on protein shakes or power bars may be efficient, but a crew’s taste buds will eventually revolt.
Tying on the feedbag in space can be an unusual necessity. Sure, you can bring the familiar, comfort foods from home, but eventually, you’ll either run out or have to try those alien delicacies. Plomeek Soup? Raktajino steaming cup? How does a Wookie Cookie sound for a party? What about eating Han-Burgers or Greedo Burritos slathered in beetle stew? How about squirming and LIVE Gagh?
Sci-fi is the stuff of dreams, the definition of "food for thought." But what of the actual menus and eating habits of those star crossed folk? There are so many tasty or plain weird entrees on the menu of sci-fi fables, you need a cookbook to follow them. And, in fact, there have been manuals and cookbooks published on just that star snacking subject.
From the first movie in the George Lucas space saga, we saw how his galaxy of characters socialized and even broke bread at a watering hole. The famous Cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is an entertaining showcase for the diversity of alien races, and those aliens undoubtedly drink and eat a myriad of beverages and foodstuffs. Aside from the feature films, we’ve been treated to other sources telling the story of the dark Empire and the valiant Rebel alliance. Over the years, between the novels and comic books, we’ve come to learn much more about the eating habits in that galaxy far, far away.
In 1998, a cookbook covering our favorite space aces and their menus was published, The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies And Other Galactic Recipes. Want to throw a Luke Skywalker or Yoda themed party? You'll have to serve up Star Wars inspired grub. C3PO may be uptight, but the golden droid knows breakfast, since the book instructs how to make pancakes the sassy robot would proudly serve. Toss in a few fruity Skywalker smoothies, maybe some Wamp snow cones, and you’ll be satisfying even the most demanding star obsessed fans. For hardcore Star Wars fanatics, they know that the Wookie Cookie was first seen in The Star Wars Holiday Special, way back in 1978. Use the food processor, Luke!
To Boldly Go Where No Chef Has Gone Before
One of the more memorable aspects of future tech found aboard Captain Kirk’s original Enterprise was nifty food dispensers found in the galley on the Starfleet starship. Need breakfast, lunch, or dinner? How about a favorite flavor of ice cream? Food dispensers provided nutritious fare for a hungry crew and its guest visitors. Catering to all sorts of individual tastes and races, this technology could be modified or reprogrammed to accommodate nearly any life form.
During those early years, the handy devices were called food synthesizers. You'd program them with little plastic cards—resembling floppy disks or credit cards—called, logically enough, food cards. But those snack devices weren’t immune to hijacking. When a hoard of purring, furrballs called Tribbles invaded Kirk’s starship, the food synthesizers were targeted by the little critters. Later on in The Next Generation, they’d be given a name—replicators.
In the TNG era, a request to a replicator was made verbally and the device utilized transporter technology. So, in a very real sense, one would have their food or drink beamed up. When Captain Picard commanded his Galaxy Class Starship, he only had to say, "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Voila! A steaming mug of his favorite herbal beverage would be replicated instantly, appearing in a shimmering twinkle of coruscating energy.
Even with the advent of superior technology which allowed instantaneous creation of nearly any delicacy imaginable, Starfleet brass still took time to give its personnel more of a relaxed, homey feel. With Whoopi Goldberg’s Ten Forward lounge hostess, Guinan, joining up in the second season, Enterprise D crew members could share a drink or meal with friends amid delightful ambiance. Guinan used replicators liberally, however, there were occasions when certain special orders had to be prepared without all that fancy replicator technology.
Over the many seasons of Trek, there have been instances where food—both exotic and bland—became focal points in the tales. Just as in our own lives, a favorite dish or snack can be connected back to a fond family memory or time spent with beloved friends.
Plomeek Soup—Vulcan Style
Is it a soup or a broth? It’s definitely a traditional Vulcan dish, and is served mostly in the morning as a breakfast option. We first saw mention of the dish in the TOS episode "Amok Time," when Nurse Chapel served it up to a Mister Spock suffering from passionate flames of the Pon Farr. It’s more accurate to say Nurse Chapel attempted to serve the dish to Spock, but as he was in a violent fit, he threw the meal smack against the wall.
Klingons are notorious as the rebellious boys and girls of the galaxy. Shouldn’t their food be just as bad assed? Would you gag from eating gagh? If you enjoy eating serpent worms, you’d probably love this exotic dish. Traditionally, the worms are actually moving—because gagh is usually best served live. You can have the little critters boiled up and stewed or prepared cold, but the whole point of the meal is to feel the little buggers squirming around in your mouth and stomach, as they expire from one’s digestive juices.
Attention energy drink lovers: Red Bull has nothing on this hyperkinetic beverage! Do you live at Starbucks? Does your car cup holder stink of java? Is your Keurig machine on a constant brew to satisfy your caffeine cravings? Perhaps raktajino is what you need to be drinking on a daily basis to recharge your dilithium crystals.
This coffee comes from Klingon culture. Many of the most respected and competent Starfleet officers love to drink the stuff as their coffee of choice. Both Captains Sisko and Janeway were great fans of the drink.
The Star Trek Cookbook offers this up to describe Raktajino as "real java, aged java you can make even more robust and vigorous by mixing with dark French roast or Italian espresso beans." Written by Ethan Phillips, The Star Trek Cookbook can provide one with just the recipe for a light brunch or an important, diplomatic conference with finicky aliens.
A Culinary Voyage
By the time of the launch of Captain Janeway’s Voyager, cooking and eating on a starship went decidedly retro. Friendly alien recruit Neelix, played by Ethan Phillips, worked as cook in the galley of the far flung starship. Replicators were still employed, but because of Voyager being so far from Federation space, supplies were closely rationed. Neelix could cut corners on his menu without skimping on portions or flavor.
Despite a great performance from Phillips, Neelix as a character, though not the most popular with fans, provided so much of a down home flavor to the series, a cookbook was published.
3D Printing—The Future Of Food Is Fantastic
It's always fun when a family member or good friend turns you on to a new kind of food or new snack. The big fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chick-Fil-A always come out with something new to tickle our increasingly jaded taste buds. What’s the future of food? A continued mash up of global cultures lead to more inclusive cuisine, but what about science and food?
3D printers are transforming areas such as medicine and manufacturing, but the tech is also being adapted for the kitchen and digitizing cuisine. With the price of 3D printing falling, it may not be long before we’re all printing out our lunches and dinners, instead of ordering them. Imagine—a friend has a new recipe, or Rachael Ray cooks up a new dish you like. Instead of waiting for hours to concoct it yourself or worrying about all those many ingredients, a simple app on your smartphone or tablet could fire up your 3D printer to fabricate and cook a dish in a snap. The Foodini Machine, from Natural Machines, is a 3D food printer which allows one to print out burgers, pizza and chocolate. I can almost hear Jean-Luc Picard saying, “Tea. Earl. Grey. Hot. And a side of dark chocolate."