From Tablet to Table
by Libby Graham
SUBJECT: From Tablet to Table
TRANSMITTED BY: Mellie Long
~APPROVED FOR DISTRIBUTION TO RESIDENTS OF
M-H-W HOMESTEAD SHIP 343~
[Note: This transmission contains affiliate links to Mary-Henry-Wilson Food Company products.]
When I think of my mother, I think of the sound of clashing pots and pans in her deep chrome sink. She considered herself an “old soul,” a steward of “the good old days,” which meant that she was not just slow to acclimate to new technologies, but that she fought bitterly against them. I used to scoff at her for that. Why would she choose to make her life harder? To make all our lives harder?
There were a few quirks of hers that particularly riled me up. The garlic-skin petals and soggy noodles left in the drain catcher. The irritating hum of our ancient home computer. Our creaking wooden floors (a fire hazard) and our single-paned windows that would clatter on windy days. And the way the laundry detergent—a viciously purple liquid—dripped down the container and over my fingers no matter which way I poured it.
I’m ashamed to say I resented her for it. Over the past few months, though, I’ve grown to appreciate her sentiments.
* * *
A self-sustaining ship—top of the line, built with ultimate user experience in mind—was nothing more than a dream when I was a teenager, and now I walk its halls every day. It’s still surreal, although we’ve been traveling for, what? Six months now? [5 months, 19 days, 7 hours.] My mum would have hated it. And she would have been absolutely horrified by Vending(TM): the green cubes, brown pastes, yellow powders, blue tablets.
Almost a century ago, a group of scientists participated in [CENSORED], an experiment where they were locked in a geodesic dome in the middle of a desert to simulate life on Mars. Like us, they had everything they needed in their little dome: oxygen, shelter, water, food. What they lacked was variety. The details of that experiment are grisly, and if I were to recount them here, I very much doubt this post would receive the APPROVED stamp from the moderation bots. Suffice it to say, things ended poorly.
We are staring down a similar predicament, I think. Not to say that we are at risk of their fate [M-H-W ENSURES YOUR SAFETY], but that perhaps there is an important aspect of experience that even the geniuses who designed this craft overlooked. An aspect of experience that my mother understood.
Her favorite time to bash those pans was after a dinner party: sizzling [COMPETITOR BRAND] dumplings, lemon-garlic green beans plucked from her window box. She would be flush with the warmth of wine and company, arms stained red from the heat of dishwater. When we passed over the Kuiper Line and broke communications with Earth, these memories started to come back to me.
* * *
I’ve spent the last few weeks in a flurry of experimentation, bustling around the ship in search of ingredients. I want to share the results of my experiments with you, and perhaps inspire you to rediscover the recipes that made up your own lives before our leap into space.
Here, I give you some ways to experience the home we left behind, a taste of the past to keep us fueled for the rest of our travels until, once again, our feet can touch solid ground.
i. FEEL OF SALMON
Prep time: 3 hours
- 5 BananaChips
- 1 clear FreshRoll
- 2 cups water
There’s something about salmon, the way it unfurls on your tongue as you press against it, a paper fan unfolding. I once visited Haida Gwaii with my mother to watch one of the last few protected salmon runs. That was the only time I had real salmon, but my memory of it is as persistent as the fish against the current.
The texture is difficult to replicate. But I’ve come close, emulating its creamy flakiness with five BananaChips soaked for three hours (don’t let them touch). Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon and wrap them in a (clear) FreshRoll. Eat them slowly, softly. Savor the texture and feel the tenderness of pebble-smoothing water, the way salmon dart through it like a scaly meteor shower.
ii. SOYLENT-FETA SALAD
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 2 cubes SoylentGreen (crumbled)
- 2 tbsp citrUS
- 3 bunches Crisp (any color)
- 1½ tbsp oLIVE oil
- Veg of your choice (I like Tube-Matoes and Cube-Cumbers)
- salt to taste
SoylentGreen* crumbles like feta. It’s something I noticed after a visit home from university, sometime through my second year of a bachelor’s in art history. I was tasked with making a Greek salad, and when I dipped my fingers into the feta brine, my mind slipped to the fridge in my dorm, packed from floor to ceiling with SoylentGreen.
SoylentGreen tastes nothing like feta, which should be not at all surprising, as SoylentGreen was developed in 2054 to be as nutrient-dense as possible for famine relief, while feta is ancient and, apparently, refined enough for Grecian gods. But what if SoylentGreen could be used like feta—as a topping, rather than as a meal replacement?
This question led me to a series of great mistakes (if you value your taste buds, do not attempt to mix SoylentGreen with B-bars) and one glorious breakthrough: the acidity of citrUSsmothers SoylentGreen’s infamous swamp-reek into something more like a swamp-whiff. Sprinkle equal parts of each onto your favorite Crisp, add your Veg of choice, a drizzle of oLIVE oil, a sprinkle of salt, and you have a feta salad that I’m sure those of 1400s Mediterranea would frown upon but that suits me just fine.
[*The Mary-Henry-Wilson Food Company would like to remind consumers that SoylentGreenTM—as proven in Thorn v. Mary-Henry-Wilson (2073)—is not people.]
iii. CAPSULE-FISH CAKE
Prep time: 13 hours
- 3 Blue capsules
- 1½ cup ground coffee “beans”
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 bag Mylk
When I was little, I saw a video on the Archive from 2006. It was a year filled with boot-cut jeans and branded T-shirts and, to the awe of my seven-year-old self, capsules that bloat in water and transform into sea creatures. The capsules were multicolored, very much like those available from Vending(TM), but ours differ in two ways: 1. They are edible, and 2. They do not morph into fish.
I’m sure many of us were taught not to play with our food, but there are few joys quite like 1gn0r1ing auth0ri7y. Try it yourself: Blue capsules contain a sufficient amount of yeast to raise bread. Everything else you need is stored in your room’s Liquorator: ground coffee “beans,” boiling water, and Mylk. Mix these in a bowl with three Blues (extract the capsule covers), place a warm cloth over the bowl for at least twelve hours, and then Wave it for three minutes.
What you (should) be left with is a sponge bread: fluffy and bouncy and moist. I used a fork to form mine into what roughly resembles a stingray, but its softness is forgiving, and I’m sure those with a greater talent in sculpture will have an easier time shaping the bread.
iv. JOYFUL FEAST
Prep time: TBD
When I think of my mother, I think of fried paratha, the char on its face like the craters of a moon, how when you tear it apart it reveals its layers: white and brown strata of rock. I think of steaming rice, each grain alone and crowded as stars. I think of the things that make the experience of food—more than just vitamins and fibers, lipids and proteins—but texture and spice and chairs around a table.
I miss this, the bustling camaraderie of my mother’s home. I could not even come close to replicating it in my experiments. Prairie Patel’s painting Joyful Feast conjures a scene I imagined but couldn’t achieve on my own: a loud spread bursting with color, mouths dripping with appetite and bliss. I can hear limes sizzling in bubbly, silver clinking on porcelain. It’s noisy in its unison and dramatic in its symmetry, the sort of retro-surrealism that art deco can’t help but conjure.
I would like to take this time to appeal to you, shipmates, in helping me plan a Joyful Feast. If you are at all interested, please send me a message to discuss the menu and propose times. Feel free to leave comments on this transmission, but we’ll have to keep the conversation about the logistics of the Joyful Feast to my secure channel.
I very much look forward to reveling in the experience of food with you. Perhaps I’ll even bring a sink, stain my arms red with warmth cleaning up the evidence of our feast.
Libby Graham is a UFO enthusiast and co-editor of The Sprawl Mag, a (cyber-)feminist, anti-colonial magazine focused on publishing diverse voices in sci-fi and fantasy. She lives with her girlfriend in frigid, friendly Manitoba. Her work has appeared in filling Station and Star*Line.