Chelsea Monroe-Cassel knows how to use fictional recipes and turn them into real masterpieces, and she just wrote the “Star Trek Cookbook.” She sat down to talk to pleasemynews about designing Ktarian Pudding, mixing Romulan Ale, and making gagh when you run out of bloodworms.
Yes, I was a picky eater before that, but luckily I’m cured.
A happy accident, actually. A friend and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner one night and we decided to make something out of “Game of Thrones”. This was before the show started. We were both reading (or rereading) the books and the food descriptions sounded so good and so enticing that we thought, “Let’s just, I don’t know, let’s just act weird. Let’s try that.” And there were no recipes online for that kind of food at the time, so we made something for dinner, we made lemon cakes for dessert, and we thought, “Well, if there aren’t any recipes, maybe we should make recipes and have them online. Because that’s what normal people do. We are kind of creative overachievers.
And then that very quickly snowballed into a “Game of Thrones” cookbook deal and from there it was just a wild ride.
I always start with a lot of lists. I make a silly number of lists, starting with what I KNOW should be in the cookbook. You know, the things people expect. The gagh, the plomeek soup, the Romulan beer, that sort of thing.
As soon as I get the green light from a publisher, I check that with other fans, and I think, “Listen, this is your moment to shine. Tell me what you want in this book. What would you be devastated if I wasn’t there? with laundry?” And the Memory Alpha and Memory Beta wikis were clearly insanely useful for that, just when looking for information.
I made a list of things that sounded interesting or cool. Sometimes we don’t know about them. There’s a Wikipedia entry that says “It exists”, and that’s it. I made a list of foods I found online that looked like space foods looked interesting.
And then it’s just a matter of mixing and matching. If I’ve seen something that looks great, does that instantly click with anything on any of the other lists, or do I have to get a little inventive? Like the uttaberry cruffins. Uttaberries are canon, cruffins, not so much, but they look good. But everything in the cookbook is somehow connected to canon, which was challenging but a lot of fun.
I watch which television program, which novel, which game is the original source for that dish. How much do we know about it? Will we ever see it on screen? That sort of thing, the basic information. Do we know what goes in it? Do we know who eats it and why? Is it from a particular planet or culture? And then just kind of build outward from there.
In many cases there is a lot of information about it. And in some cases I get to do a little digging and maybe I can ‘build world’. The food cubes, which are such an iconic “Star Trek” food from the original series: On Memory Alpha, they say, “We don’t actually know what this is.” Memory Beta says “We think they are gristhera”, which is an Andorian thing. But it’s not canon canon. So Starfleet saw these Andorian things and made their own version of it. And build from there. So maybe that might close the book on that particular issue for some people.
My husband helped a lot with that. He’s a lifelong “Star Trek” fan, so for that part he was invaluable.
One of my personal rules is that it has to look good if we want to match the visuals with it. We see something like plomeek soup in different shows, but it looks different every time. So it’s like, okay, well, take your pick. I think we will choose the beautiful one! But it should also taste good. Even if your gagh doesn’t put in the weekly meal rotation, it should be edible and pretty good.
I flipped through it. I didn’t really look at the recipes because I wanted to have some kind of new take on them. But the stuff behind the scenes was priceless in some cases, and so much fun to read… and some choices informed, you know? In one part they say they use blue sports drinks for the Romulan beer on screen and other blue drinks with unknown names. And so I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to include that in my Romulan beer recipe,” just as a kind of nod to that history.
To watch the entire interview, including discussions of Monroe-Cassel’s favorite recipes and how the cutlery on “Star Trek” informed her recipes, head over to Daily Star Trek News. Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s “The Star Trek Cookbook” is now available to order.