Pass The Fortune Cookies, Hold The Ganglia: Feasting On Star Trek's Discovery
Some people may be planning to dine on kimchi and bulgogi this weekend in honor of the opening of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The rest of us, however, are stocking up on Vulcan Plomeek Soup and blue-hued Romulan Ale as we prepare for the final episode of season one of Star Trek: Discovery on Sunday night.
Let the intergalactic feasting begin.
The sixth live-action television series in the Star Trek franchise, Discovery takes place in 2255, about 10 years before the original Star Trek series, and revolves around a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon species. Populated with formidable female characters, writers, directors and producers and with a strong thematic element focused on nature versus nurture, it's no wonder that nourishing body and soul becomes a necessary ingredient for survival in Discovery's universe.
Food is a constant throughout the Star Trek franchise, providing a veritable smorgasbord of recipes from which to choose, from the familiar to the alien. Former Borg Seven of Nine discovered the glories of cheesecake on Star Trek: Voyager while The Next Generation's Commander Riker dove into Klingon gagh with relish. Breaking bread, a familiar plot device, can help bridge celestial gaps between warring species. As shape-shifter Odo observes in Deep Space Nine, humanoids have a "preoccupation with eating."
For Discovery fans, however, the arc of the series provides menu inspiration of a different kind. In it, food becomes a vehicle for building community or, alternately, a tool for degradation in a war-torn storyline that ranges from light to really, really dark — much like a computer-generated roast turkey. Serving as a kind of secondary character, a species' food preferences provide insight into the characters as well as plenty of fodder for future speculation.
Case in point: Lieutenant Saru, a Kelpian, explains to the show's tormented heroine, Michael Burnham, in the first episode that his species is regarded as livestock on his home planet. "We are either predator or prey," he says. "My people were hunted, bred, farmed." The Kelpians sense danger through threat ganglia — tendrils on the base of their heads that wriggle in alarm of their own accord — making viewers wonder why everyone on the bridge doesn't keep an eye on the back of Saru's head for advance warning of impending doom.
So, perhaps that shudder-inducing dish of ganglia set before Burnham in episode 12 shouldn't have been such a huge surprise.
Luckily, if you're looking for something just a little more palatable for your season finale dinner, Discovery is ready to deliver. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Mirror Universe Mushrooms:The mycelial network championed by Discovery's astromycologist, Lieutenant Paul Stamets (named for a real-life mycologist), offers inspiration for a mushroom-based dishes, and Saru's comment in the first episode that Burnham's DNA could potentially "unravel like noodles" during a little space jaunt provides the perfect pasta complement to those fungi. Go for a classic Wild Mushroom Pasta to echo the wild propagation of mushroom spores in episode 14. Or Seltin Paté, which actually hails from the recipe files of the "Star Trek: Voyager" series, also makes for a nice 'shroomy starter.
Burnham Burritos:As a mentor, Michael Burnham tries to whip the effervescent cadet Sylvia Tilly into shape with endlessly monotonous jogs through Discovery's corridors, followed up by what the computer replication system approvingly assesses as "appetizing and nutrient-filled burritos". Ever practical, the Vulcan-raised Burnham orders burritos stuffed with egg whites, black beans, and roasted tomato salsa (a "great source of lycopene"), but denies Tilly's request for " green juice, extra green".
Context Cookies: In episode three, titled "Context Is For Kings", we discover Captain Gabriel Lorca's predilection for fortune cookies. The mysterious captain's family manufactured the sweet treat in San Francisco, Star Trek's favorite city, during the 22nd century until, he notes, "the future came, and hunger, need, and want disappeared. Of course, they're making a comeback now." If you really want to go boldly where no one has gone before, DIY your fortune cookies and fill them with Discovery quotes.
Blueberries That Taste Like Freedom: In an apparent tribute to writer, producer and blueberry fanatic Bryan Fuller, who championed the series but left before production began, Saru proffers a bowl of blueberries to recently-imprisoned Burnham shortly after she arrives on the U.S.S. Discovery. "The ones in prison don't taste the same", remarks Burnham, to which Saru replies, "I suppose that was a function of the environment you were eating them in." For a show-stopping dessert, you really can't do better than a blueberry pie enveloped in a painstakingly-crafted pie crust, topped off, naturally, with a pastry cut-out of Discovery and plenty of edible metallic paint.
Because the season finale is likely to be a real nail-biter, you may feel the need to calm your nerves. In time-honored Trek tradition, a nice cup of hot tea might do the trick — Burnham prefers green, but who can resist The Next Generation's Captain Picard's preference for "tea, Earl Grey, hot"?
Or just go for the gusto with a rollicking round of space-inspired beer pong, which is apparently the way the crew likes to blow off steam on what they affectionately call The Disco. Because when you're hurtling into the unknown at warp speed, you may as well party like it's 2999.
Kristen Hartke is a food writer based in Washington, D.C.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.