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Food for (Fictional) thought

Food for (Fictional) thought

Have you ever fantasised about visiting Hogsmead on a broomstick to try a cockroach cluster? Or exploring Willy Wonka’s factory with a bag of everlasting gobstoppers? How about plotting against the Starks while sipping plum wine with the Lannisters at King’s Landing?
My associate Laverne and I were recently discussing our favourite childhood books, and while reviewing Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree it became apparent that we both had extremely realistic yet completely different ‘recollections’ of what a Pop Biscuit tasted like. In my mind it was a wheat digestive with a bubble of liquid honey and apricot that made a loud snap when you bit into it. Laverne’s was “shortbread crust with a strawberry middle that explodes in your mouth so you can’t even talk because your gob is full of sweet, sticky strawberry goodness”. But that’s one of the best parts of losing yourself in a story: your own fantastical perception of imagined aromas and flavours.
Taste and smell are integral to memory; the fictional feasts, treats and beverages consumed by our favourite characters linger long after their exact dialogue has faded. Whether those flavours are delectable, debateable or downright disgusting, they contribute to the overall atmosphere of the narrative. Fictional food can represent excess in the form of an extravagant banquet, it can serve as a crucial plot point or a memorably revolting ordeal … it can even develop an in-story marketing campaign as recognisable and influential as any major brand in the real world.
So without further ado, here are some of the more iconic fictional foods and drink from film, television and literature. Bon appétit.
A BAKER’S DOZEN OF FABULOUS FICTIONAL FOODS
1. Three Course Dinner Gum, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
If we turn a blind eye to the plight of the Oompah Loompahs and what was effectively a blatant case of human trafficking, (brought from Loompaland to live and work in Wonka’s factory, paid cacao beans instead of wages and no overtime or sick leave), this remains a much-loved story of fizzy lifting drinks, lickable wallpaper and a factory full of thrilling sweets and ghastly children. The moment that irksome little tit Violet Beauregarde snatched up the forbidden gum I was consumed with envy at her supposed good fortune. As she described the hot and creamy tomato soup, the tender, juicy slices of roast beef and crispy baked and buttered spuds, I longed for a stick of magic gum of my own. Yes, things went pear-shaped during dessert (or blueberry-shaped, as it were), but it was all so entrancing that I would have cheerfully accepted the purple skin.
2. Butterbeer, Harry Potter
It’s a little bit beery. A little bit butterscotchy. A little bit club soda-ish… Of all the fictional beverages in the world, Butterbeer has taken on a life of its own as Potterheads (official title of the boy wizard’s superfans) attempt to recreate it. When reading a bit of Potter I have my own creamy flavour in mind, not dissimilar to a hot buttered rum, and can picture myself sipping it in front of a roaring fire in a cosy pub from a heavy pewter tankard. Underage drinking never tasted so good.
3. Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
According to the original 1979 novel, the effects of a PGGB are to have ‘your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick’. The ingredients include Ol’ Janx Spirit, three cubes of Arcturan mega-gin (properly iced to preserve the benzene), a measure of Qalactin hypermint extract floated over the back of a silver spoon, a sprinkle of Zamphuor and an olive. As none of those ingredients are available to us (except the olive), the Internet turns to likely substitutes. One fan recipe includes gin, rum, vodka, tequilla, creme de menthe and Galliano, and appears to be the colour and texture of spearmint toothpaste. On Earth we call this ‘Rocket Fuel’, so it sounds as if they got it just about right.
4. Frobscottle, The BFG
It was always going to be Roald Dahl who came up with the best running fart joke in childrens’ literature. The only foodstuffs available in Giant Country to a runty vegetarian like the BFG are snozzcumbers and frobscottle. While the former is a foul cucumber-like vegetable tasting of frogskin and rotten fish, the latter is ‘sweet and jumbly’. According to our heroine Sophie, it tastes of ‘vanilla and cream, with just the faintest trace of raspberries on the edge of the flavour’. Curiously though, the bubbles fizz down instead of up. Whizzpoppers are inevitable.
5. Soylent Green, Soylent Green
SPOILER ALERT. Charlton Heston leads this 1973 B-grade sci-fi with his particular brand of rigid, pole-up-your-bum ‘acting’. It’s 2022, a grim dystopian future where New York City is a fetid, seething mass of 40 million starving people. Soylent Green is the life-saving, hardtack-style wafer manufactured by evil corporate overlords and allegedly made with plankton harvested from the World Ocean. The movie’s climactic moment is hung on the same framework as Heston’s more iconic ‘YOU MANIACS’ scene from Planet of the Apes, but the big reveal is pretty darn vomit-worthy all the same: there is no plankton left after all. Soylent Green is PEOPLE. The remains of the dead fed to the living, the only food source left with enough protein to sustain them all. EW.
6. Lembas, Lord of the Rings
Also known as waybread, lembas is a sweetbread that keeps as long as its mallorn leaf wrappings remain intact. The smallest bite will fill the stomach of a grown man, and a whole one will last a ‘full day’s march’ according to Tolkein. Recipes posted online by geeky Middle Earth enthusiasts vary from delicious-sounding vanilla slices wrapped in crisp pastry to stale Communion wafers.
7. Big Kahuna Burger, Pulp Fiction
The burger munched by Bible-quoting Jules Winnfield, just before dispatching a group of hapless drug runners, is named for a chain of fictional Hawaiian-themed restaurants that feature in nearly every Tarantino film from Reservoir Dogs to Death Proof. The brand was designed by Tarantino’s mate Jerry Martinez as a parody of existing chains like Maccas and Burger King. The burger itself looks like a Quarter Pounder, probably tastes like a Quarter Pounder but golly gosh, I could go a Big Kahuna right now.
8. Bantha milk, Star Wars: A New Hope
ZZZSHEWMM! That’s the noise the lightsaber I made out of toilet rolls used to make, but even I drew the line at the pastel blue bantha milk Luke Skywalker had for dinner at the beginning of the original movie. You need to be a fully-fledged Star Wars nerd to visualise a bantha without a prompt, so I’ve done you the courtesy of assuming you are NOT a nerd and included a pic at the top of this column. According to Wookieepedia (I swear I’m not making this up) the female bantha produces a rich, blue-coloured milk which is primarily consumed on Outer Rim planets such as Tatooine, Lothal and Lah’mu. Nerd.
9. Slurm, Futurama
Distributed by the fictional Bureau of Soft Drinks, Tobacco and Firearms, Slurm brings to mind the green slime from Ghostbusters and is highly addictive. Seriously. That’s the tag line. The long-running marketing campaign for this futuristic bevvy is fronted by the sleaziest snail in the universe, Slurms MacKenzie, and pops up regularly throughout the series. A whole episode is devoted entirely to the production secrets; the key ingredient is the cloaca (butt) excretions of the Slurm Queen worm.
10. Groosling soup, The Hunger Games
Growing up in District 12, Katniss has never encountered a groosling before she shoots one while competing in the 74th Hunger Games. She describes it as resembling a wild turkey and about the size of a chicken. When she joins forces with Rue from District 11, she learns it is a staple food for their orchard workers. The meat is apparently greasy yet delicious, although to be honest I’ll eat anything on a hangover, let alone a televised fight to the death against a bunch of undernourished children with silly names.
11. Duff beer, The Simpsons
In 2016 Time magazine named Duff Beer the 11th most influential fictional company of all time. (Wonka Industries was #1.) If you’re after an approximate flavour, Duff represents all that is cheap, watery and mass-produced in the breweries of the United States; an Aussie equivalent might be Carlton Cold or Fosters. Duff is popular enough to operate its own theme park, (fictional) Duff Gardens, whose mascots are the Seven Duffs, Sleazy, Queasy, Surly, Edgy, Tipsy, Dizzy and Remorseful.
12. Hydrated pizza, Back to the Future II
Of the many things the second instalment of Back to the Future got wonderfully, spectacularly wrong about the year 2015, one of the weirdest was the dehydrated, rehydrated pizza. About the size of a coaster when removed from the wrapping, the packaging came with visible instructions to rehydrate for two seconds. Even weirder was the Black & Decker branded hydrating machine, which resembled a pizza box made of pale bink Bakelite. I’m still waiting for self-lacing Nikes and commercially available hoverboards, but hold the four inch pizza please.
13. Scumble, Mort
Part of the late, great Terry Pratchett’s bizarre and surreal Discworld universe, scumble is a potent, cider-like drink made from ‘apples, mostly’ in a distillery owned and operated by the witch Nanny Ogg. It’s brewed using the Lancre Blackheart apple and an exotic mixture of secret ingredients, has the subtle taste of oak floorboards and the aroma of melting butter. One thimbleful of scumble diluted in water is just enough to clean cutlery without dissolving any of it, and it should never, under any circumstance, come in contact with water.
THE ENID BLYTON BONUS:
Stale rock buns, potted tongue and lashings of ginger beer While these foods are in fact real, the fiction lies in the belief that any twelve-year-old would clap their hands with genuine delight when presented with a picnic hamper full of tinned offal. Even so, as a kid I was desperate to join the Famous Five on one of their picnics on Kirrin Island, as Blyton somehow made war rations sound so appealing. Why the children were never allowed fresh rock buns is beyond me, but the romance weaved into the stories was so effective that I found myself yearning for an age where a tin of Spam and a jar of peach halves was considered a real treat. And on that note, I’m off to quest through Middle Earth with nothing to sate my hunger but a flask of Ent-draught and a pocket full of cram.


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