Grab a slice of moon cheese and sit back as Alex Casey imagines her dream multi-course dinner party plucked straight from our TV and movie screens.
This has been a simply scrumptious year for realising just how many things we can’t do any more. We can’t travel internationally. We can’t press lift buttons with our turgid tongues. We can’t even go to the toilet any more without having to “wash our hands”. However, what we can still do is dream… about all the fictional foods that we can never nosh.
Declaration: this is not my first fictional food rodeo. Back when this website was but a humble widget only accessible via bing.com, I had a short-lived column where I tried to recreate meals that I had seen on television. It was an extremely sad and lonely journey that mostly saw me making horror holes in frankfurters and dipping fish fingers in custard.
My hunger was not satisfied. I continued to crave the mouth-watering nostalgia of seeing Bart Simpson slicing a hot-chocolate-soaked marshmallow, or watching the worms in James and the Giant Peach wriggle like Day-Glo gnocchi. Not to mention the Giant Peach ITSELF in a GIANT COBBLER with lots and lots of CREAM.
So, in an attempt to get it all out of my system, I present this: my ultimate fictional feast for no real reason.
The essential carbo-loading fuel for hungry elves and ‘obbitses, Lembas Bread is basically like a skinny hunk of dry toast wrapped in artisanal silver leaves. It is especially useful for expeditions because a single bite can fill an entire stomach, alluded to in the unofficial tagline “eat a little at a time, and only at need”.
Well, this is my dinner party and I’m going to make me and my friends eat a lot of Lembas bread. I would break it into giant chunks with my fingers and dip it in olive oil or maybe even slather it in hummus with heaps of salt and pepper. The next course would take too long (via space travel) and we’d be full as hell on Lembas and then have to go on a quest and/or run some errands to burn it off. It would be worth it.
We’ve all been there. Heaps of crackers. No cheese. Quick trip to the moon. No harm no foul. Here’s some food history for you: the first mention of moon cheese was in 1546 in The Proverbs of John Heywood, which stated: “The moon is made of greene cheese”. Yum! Fennel gouda one would think. Or perhaps a funky wasabi cheddar.
Like many, I have wanted to eat the moon ever since Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out when the pair travel to the moon to slice the top off of a particularly cheesy-looking moon stalagmite. “Not Wensleydale… not Stilton,” Wallace muses. “It’s like no cheese I’ve ever tasted.” Melt THAT on some Lembas bread and now we’re talking.
Now that every man, woman and child is practically snorting cricket flour on every street corner, I think we can all agree that this one isn’t even fictional any more, and anyone who’s seen The Lion King will agree and that Timon and Pumba sell this shit hard. Tastes like chicken. Slimy yet satisfying. Pecans with a very pleasant crunch.
People have made ice-cream versions of this Disney delicacy, but nothing compares to the primal power of the original. I’m not interested in gummy bugs and sour snakes. I want to slurp a live worm out of the Earth like ramen noodles. I want to crunch a giant red grub that looks like it would taste like the crumb of an almond croissant.
To be honest, it was really hard to choose just one fictional sandwich for this banquet. There’s something about the ritual of sandwich-making in film and television that is so bloody soothing: the Cubano in Chef, Joey’s famed meatball sub in Friends, Jim making Pam a grilled cheese sandwich in The Office. Absolutely kills me.
But no ritual quite compares to Mr Bean’s park bench lunch, complete with credit card butter knife, sock as salad spinner, little herrings in a jar and a hot water bottle full of tea. Sorry, when was the last time you saw a chef crush peppercorns with the heel of his shoe like Jackson Maine pulverising prescription pills before a show? Pasture could never.
One is cooked by a rat, the other is a rat – cooked. I would like to offer my guests the opportunity to try both depending on their dietary needs.
I know, I know. It’s a feast within a feast, but this one is imaginary so shouldn’t need too much prep. This scene in Hook is perhaps one of the finest examples of fantastical fictional foods, because not only does it not exist in this world, it doesn’t even really exist in the world of the film. After finally giving into his true identity as Peter Pan, Robin Williams unleashes hell on the lost boys in the form of an imaginary technicolour food fight.
Seriously, what the hell are those colourful pies? Are those green globs wasabi? What about the blue swirls? SWEET OR SAVOURY? SWEET?! OR SAVOURY?! “It was just like frosting and crazy gobbledygook, but there was also… like grey stuff, underneath it” recalled Dante Basco aka Rufio in this 2018 interview. I would give my life for the grey stuff underneath it. Mushroom souffle?! We can only ever wonder and drool, and that’s the tyranny of being alive.
It’s freaky. It’s sexual sounding. It’s my dinner party and it’s my rules.
Much has already been written about this alluring mint green bowl of icy delight. It comes halfway through Mia’s first state dinner as the glowed-up Princess of Genovia, in a small crystal bowl, and by god does it look good. Someone at The Cut managed to find a restaurant that served something like it, and here was their review. “After all was said and done, the sorbet was … fine. It was flavoured like mint, but it tasted more like ice. It didn’t have that bright colour, or the buttery texture and scoopability I had envisioned. It wasn’t served in a fancy crystal glass. And it wasn’t even all that refreshing!” Thanks, I’ll take a gallon.
This course would be an immersive experience hosted by none other than local artisan Po, who would wheel their giant Tubby Custard machine into the dining room (this is a fictional situation where I have a dining room) to wild applause. The Tubby Custard machine will then huff and fart its way to plating, with each of my guests getting a clear plastic bowl of the good pink stuff complete with in-built custard straw. But what would it taste like? Shut your eyes now if you don’t want to know the truth – Tubby Custard was actually just mashed potato and acrylic paint.
1 x cake and 1 x fork per person
Not strictly a fictional foodstuff but very hard to achieve. When Tim Canterbury pranks his co-worker Gareth Keenan by setting his stapler in jelly, the jape is elevated to the next level by the small box of staples on his desk – also filled with jelly. There’s something about the firmness of his bite which makes me think the jelly would almost be like a lemon Turkish Delight, just mind any loose staples that may have found themselves in the mix.
The chocolate river? Don’t be a hack. Everlasting gobstopper? Change the record. Lickable wallpaper? Hope you like ants. The ultimate after-dinner treat, perhaps with a shot of limoncello within, is this edible teacup. My guests would round off their delightful meal by plucking one of these from the indoor teacup bush, before taking a big old bite and realising the harsh truth.
Thank you all for coming to my party. I wish you all the best assembling your own dream menus.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.