GeekPlanetOnline’s resident telly addict, Gillian Coyle, likes to write about the box almost as much as she likes to watch it. From soap operas to space operas, if you need some thoughts on a television show she’s your woman…
Remits are a cruel mistress.
There's a genre of television I watch as much as, maybe even more than, SFF. Cooking programmes. I love them. The Hairy Bikers, Lorraine Pascal, Heston Blumenthal, Masterchef: I tape them, watch them, copy recipes, experiment with flavours and techniques and end up throwing the odd dish straight into the bin. I'm pretty geeky about cooking. The other day, my partner said, “You follow chefs like some people follow footballers.” It's true, I kinda do.
But, this is not a food website. I'm not allowed to write a column about food geekery. I'm not allowed to talk about the incongruity of loving three star chefs and Man vs Food almost equally. I'm not allowed to [Yeah, you're not allowed, move on please. Ed]
Oops. Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, column. Not about food.
Food and sci-fi television have a pretty long and close relationship. As well as cataloguing the tech and species and mythologies of sci-fi shows, fans also catalogue the food and drink. Just as we create costumes and props for cosplay, we'll eat and drink the things our favourite characters eat and drink in homage, and if those things don't exist, we'll have a damn good try at recreating them.
It's impossible to think about Twin Peaks without thinking of Agent Cooper's love of the cherry pie and “damn fine cup of coffee” served at the Double R Diner. We all know that Captain Picard requires not only Earl Grey tea, but that it be served “hot”. When one thinks of Fringe's Walter Bishop, one thinks of red rope liquorice. Dave Lister? Vindaloo. Food stuffs become intertwined with character, as much as linguistic styles or personality traits.
When Jericho fans campaigned for its renewal, they bombarded CBS with peanuts (in reference to a line from the show). Chuck fans went one better, buying thousands upon thousands of sandwiches from the show's sponsor, Subway, to show their support. This led to a closer partnership between show and shop, with Subway products regularly appearing onscreen and even in episode titles.
In matters of food, as in so many other things, Trek fandom is the big daddy. I've lost count of the brutal alcoholic concoctions I've necked because someone stuck blue food colouring in it and called it Romulan Ale. These days, I prefer to purchase the non-alcoholic version in cans from Cybercandy. A few years ago, I co-created a recipe for Klingon Blood Wine that unbelievably, is really very delicious. The secret is the prune juice (“A warrior's drink”).
A few years ago, my parents visited the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, and what souvenir did they bring their Trekkie, food geek daughter? The Star Trek Cook Book, of course. Now, the fact that the cover features that Talaxian oxygen thief, Neelix, rather than Joseph Sisko or any other Trek character that doesn't make me want to tear my own eyes out every time I see his stupid gurni... sorry, I'm back. The fact that the cover features Neelix and is “hosted” by him put me off, but there are some brilliant recipes, and interviews with the set dressers and prop guys from Star Trek, talking about how they create all that alien food that fans try to replicate.
Other shows have got in on the act, too. There's a B5 cook book called Dining on Babylon 5. I'd love to get my hands on a copy, but I think I'd have to sell my hands to get one. I do have some experience of the recipes contained therein: last Christmas, when Matt and I recorded our Babble On Project Christmas Special, we drank the Brivari recipe, courtesy of one of our listeners. Let me tell you, it rivals some of those Romulan Ales for disgustingness. And potency. Although, it is quite nice mixed with Dr Pepper. I doubt Londo would approve of that.
That night we also ate Bagna Cauda, the dish Garibaldi makes for himself on his birthday in the episode A Distant Star. It's a heart attack in a bowl, but what a way to go. Utterly delicious. I'm drooling just thinking about it.
You can buy bottles of Tru Blood from comic shops and almost every merch stand at every con in the country. I have a friend who's kept a bottle that he uses as his default drinking vessel. Another friend has cosplayed as Abby Sciuto from NCIS, drinking all manner of cocktails from her Caf-Pow! cup. You can buy your own Dharma Initiative labels to put on cans and bottles, to make you feel like one of the cast of Lost. Browncoats might prefer to relabel their tuna cans as Blue Sun Whale Meat.
Whether you're eating spaghetti and calling it gagh, or scarfing down bacon cheeseburgers in honour of Dean Winchester, chances are, food has played a part in your TV fandom.
But never let me drink Brivari again.