JANE: Last time you mentioned that SF fans have published a lot of recipes over the years. I’d love to hear more about this.
ALAN: Yes indeed. Mostly these are found only in obscure fanzines and similar out of the way places, but occasionally they find a wider audience. For example, Terry Pratchett has published Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook, which is a collection of surprisingly (im)practical recipes. In many respects, this work is best regarded as a censored version of the fictional The Joye Of Snackes which was also written by Nanny Ogg…
JANE: Can you give an example of a recipe you felt worked out particularly well?
ALAN: You can find a typical Nanny Ogg recipe (this one is for for Toffee Covered Rat Onna Stick) here.
I’ll let you decide how well the recipe works.
JANE: Okay. Just went off and read it. Interesting… Sounds very sweet. And reads as if not completely translated from the British measuring system.
What other samples do you have of fannish cooking?
ALAN: The 1987 World SF Convention (which was held in England) published a fannish cookbook for its attendees. It was called Fanfoodery and it was edited by Eve and John Harvey.
JANE: Do you have a copy? What sort of recipes were offered?
ALAN: Unfortunately, my copy is no longer on my shelves, which means that either it is packed away in a box somewhere or else it was a victim of the Great Library Purge of 2014. I strongly suspect the latter.
However, I do know that Dave Langford contributed a recipe for Sinister Langford Apple Chutney which, he claimed, would “…clear blocked digestive systems, alarm and irritate neighbours, and help interested fans become TAFF delegates. Winner of the Borgia Award, 1987.”
TAFF, by the way, is the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund which sends British fan representatives to American conventions, and vice-versa.
JANE: That sound ominous.
ALAN: There has long been a tradition of various fan organisations sending representatives to overseas conventions. One such is GUFF, which links European and Antipodean conventions in much the same way that TAFF links America and Britain. When European fans visit Australian conventions, GUFF stands for The Going Under Fan Fund. However when Australian fans visit European conventions the meaning changes, and the acronym becomes The Get Up and Over Fan Fund.
In 2015, the GUFF delegate appealed for recipes which would be published to help fund the GUFF trip. I contributed a recipe for Venusian Chilli (Finely dice one Venusian…). I pointed out at the end of the recipe that those of a nervous disposition may care to substitute Venison for the primary ingredient.
JANE: I’m sure the recipe is too long to include here, but I’d be curious as to what you included (other than Venusians). Chilli cook-offs are perennially popular in the American West, and the arguments about what makes a good chili (typical American spelling) reach religious intensity. They include such things as chopped meat rather than ground, types of meat, what sort or beans, and suchlike.
ALAN: I’ve used both minced and chopped Venusians and on balance I prefer the mince. I’ve used both borlotti beans and red kidney beans. I like them both and have no firm favourite, so I tend to alternate.
However, I think that I’d be a pariah at your chilli cook-offs because I do use what I suspect might be non-traditional ingredients. I fry up a lot of chopped celery and carrots with the onions. The spices and herbs I add are chilli, cumin and oregano (which I gather are traditional) and paprika and caraway seeds (which are probably controversial). I add a chopped green pepper for the last ten minutes of simmering because I find that the green colour adds a pleasing aesthetic contrast to the orange of the carrots – so does the celery to a certain extent, but I think it’s a bit too pale to properly succeed at that job. And finally I stir in a tablespoon of yoghurt just before serving.
JANE: That does sound non-traditional. What’s a “borlotti bean” anyhow?
ALAN: It’s a light brown bean with red streaks. It’s also known as a cranberry bean or roman bean. I find the taste and texture similar to haricot beans, though a little less sweet.
JANE: Hmm… Here typically chile (“chile” is the correct spelling in New Mexico) is made with pinto beans or kidney beans.
As to the other ingredients… I know some winners of chile cook-offs here win precisely because they tease the jaded taste buds of the judges – those that haven’t been burned off, that is. So, who knows? You might do better than you think.
ALAN: I’ll bear that in mind if I ever enter a cook-off.
There used to be a British TV series called The Clangers. It was made for children, but it was also hugely popular with SF Fans because of its gentle, surreal humour. The Clangers themselves were aliens who lived on a remote planet where they had lots of wonderful adventures. Food was very important to the Clangers. They lived exclusively on soup and blue string pudding. Soup was obtained from soup wells which were supervised (soupervised??) by the Soup Dragon. The origin of blue string pudding was never clear, though there are suggestions that it is the fruit of the spaghetti tree.
I once gave a Clangers party at which I served soup and blue string pudding. Soup was easy, of course, and was well received. But blue string pudding was much more problematic. It was just spaghetti with added blue food colouring. However a surprisingly large number of people refused to eat it. There’s something very unnatural about blue food…
JANE: Blue or not, spaghetti seasoned only with food coloring wouldn’t appeal to me at all. And isn’t “pudding” what you people call “dessert”? Blue spaghetti doesn’t sound very desserty.
ALAN: Generally speaking puddings are desserts, but it’s not an invariable rule. Steak and kidney pudding, for example, is very much a main meal. Onions, stock, steak and kidney are surrounded by suet pastry and steamed for about four hours. It is generally served with mashed potato and vegetables such as carrots or broccoli. It’s very yummy, but quite artery-clogging.
JANE: Ah, so blue string pudding would fall into the non-dessert pudding category. Got it!
In addition to the To Serve Man cookbook I mentioned a while back, I know the tradition of fannish cooking is alive and well here in the U.S. In fact, our local SF club is attempting to put a cookbook of their own together. SFWA, a professional organization for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, also has a cookbook in the works. If you’re interested in learning more about and maybe pre-ordering a copy, you can look here.
ALAN: By a strange coincidence, I have a pot of Venusian Chilli simmering on the stove at the moment. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and stir it. I’ll talk to you again next time.