Well, I strongly suspect that this shouldn’t have worked, but there you go. When you run the numbers against the development of our planet to its current life supporting state you start to think that about a lot of things.
There are times that I get an image in my head, and an occasionally alarming compulsion to make those things real. As I am a pretty useless visual artist, I will almost inevitably default to a medium in which I am competent. Which means either prose, roleplaying game design, or…
I don’t think that my teenage self would approve if they realised that I now considered this a means of self expression. But seriously, fusk ’em, I don’t give a fusk what my fourth dimensional selves think and they’re all fusked in the head.
Anyway, I’m in a Blade Runner kind of mood, so I’m making…
Curry Gyoza Noodles
Yeah, bit of a funny revelation, but Pythagoras got triangles, I get carbs. Here’s how you do it.
First, you need some Gyoza. And if you think these little dumplings aren’t cyberpunk as fusk, then take one look at the ingredients and you’ll realise that they almost entirely epitomise the kind of shenanigans I’ve been trying to embody throughout this blog.
I don’t know if there’s a thing in there that isn’t a thing-substitute.
Anyway, you fry the gyoza then steam them. The trick here is not to use too much oil, because if you do it’ll attempt your murder when you pour the water in for steaming.
Anyway, that’s pretty easy stuff. Take the now cooked gyoza out of the pan and set them aside somewhere. I mean you could use a new pan if you’re some fancy-pants multiple pan owning type, but I did it with one because that’s what I’ve got.
Next stage, sauce. I could have made something with vitamins and minerals and such, but that isn’t what I did.
Dice up an onion and a couple of small potatoes very finely. Using the (same) pan, fry these things, and once they have that tasty fried coating sprinkle them liberally with curry powder. VERY liberally, or you will be cast from this blog in shame!
Anyway, from there its the simple addition of this blood substituting, incredibly cheap cleanskin, which is also our drop of the night. Day. Time has gotten slippery for me lately.
Add a bit of water to the sauce to keep it fairly thin, as its going to need to soak through both dumplings and noodles.
And now we get to those noodles! I personally use the very cheapest ramen on the market, not the instant variety but the serious bulk packs from Jinmailing. Though they usually require a second round of boiling to extract the unusually high amount of starch, but once you get over that little hurdle you’re away.
So cook the noodles. Please don’t ask me to teach you how to do that.
With that done, so are we. Place the dumplings on the noodles, pour the sauce on, and garnish with a little Japanese style pickled ginger and sliced raw spring onions.
Sorry for the delay folks, but I have been struggling to keep up with my new existence as a cog in the corporate machine. But fear not! They thought that just by taking all my time and energy they could defeat me, but no! I have returned to you, my dear imaginary readers! And I fully intend to get back to giving you your one delicious blog post a week.
But first, announcements.
The first is that I’m splitting my attention. In addition to this blog, my roleplaying sector is going to be moving over to my shiny new home of actual play podcasting, Liberation Industries. So if you’re sticking around for fun stuff like Changelings of the Outer West and my gaming projects, they will be relocating there.
But project enthusiasts, fear not! My super secret project is coming near to its fruition, and some of its dark fruit will naturally blossom to you in the next few weeks.
So thanks for hanging around, imaginary readers.
And for what its worth, the soy cheese was terrible.
I suspect that it finds its source in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, a cool little turn based strategy game with rpg elements that I finished around Christmas time while I was back in Scotland.
Anyway, for whatever reason I’ve had this urge to build myself a little garden, possibly on a flat rooftop somewhere, and kit it out with a vegetable patch and a clutch of solar panels. I think this sentiment grew out of the game, as that is very much the aesthetic of the Kreusbazaar, the game’s central environment, a tough little anarchist state holding its own in the sea of violence and exploitation that surfaced in the wake of Berlin’s Dracopocalypse.
Around the same time I was eating a lot of bean burgers. There was a stand at the Edinburgh’s Christmas Market, just down the strip from the waffle stand run by a gang of South German accountants and lawyers, that sold a wide selection of burgers, and we learned to get along well with them selling vegetarian food and my rarely having time to make my own lunch.
So if I had a rooftop garden I feel like, climate permitting, I’d probably grow beans.
And I made a bean burger for myself, which is tangentially connected to all this babble and rather more so to the title of this article. Why it is I seem to feel the need to misdirect so aggressively in my opening statements is a facet of myself I am yet to understand.
So there was a bean burger. The bean mix functioned a bit more like a spread than a burger, but it turned out pretty well.
Fry your beans in oil, and then mash them to a paste with a fork in the pan. Throw in some finely chopped onion.
Spread the mix onto an English Muffin, or whatever bread product you have handy.
Fry a strip of firm tofu in oil, and put this on the bean mix like a cute little soy steak (omg! so cute!)
Add sweet chilli sauce.
Use glucose extracted by your digestive system to collapse Australia’s monstrous government and attend celebratory drinks in quorganism’s solar bean garden.
Nutrisoy. Oh boy. You folks have listened to me ramble about cyberpunk, about Shadowrun, and about the weird culinary world they inhabit. So today, we get my first attempt at nutrisoy. Nutrisoy surfaces several times in Shadowrun fiction, though its exact composition is never discussed as far as I’ve read. I know that its something that you eat if your at the lower end of the economic spectrum, and functions as a sort of “all food”, used to replace meat and most other nutrient intake. Certainly designed for survival rather than taste. They don’t give a recipe, but the vague implication is that the product is produced by immense corporate entities, probably using all manner of synthetic nutrient supplements to keep costs down. Being neither a megacorp employee nor a lab tech, I’ve had to improvise. So, now you can meet my ingredients.
Apocalypse lentils! Tasty and easy to prepare, and designed to survive anything up to nuclear fallout. I’ve been gathering a lot of food cans on my zombie runs (see here) so this felt pretty appropriate.
Cryo-spinach! Because if you can’t get hold of synthetic iron and fiber then you may as well dig it outta the freezer where no living thing has any right to grow. After all, we have to keep this in genre.
A capsicum! Or a pepper, depending on where in the world you’re reading from… In honesty I couldn’t think of a way to make this any more genre appropriate… So I settled for mangling it beyond all recognition…
And finally, of course. My Soy. Industrial sized tofu. Now that’s done, we can get into the methodology at play here. Get a handle on that cryo-spinach and toss it into a frypan with some oil and the lentils. If you want to be real road warrior use engine oil. If you want to be alive by the end of this use canola. It will take a bit for the ice to melt. If you are using non-cryo spinach, you will probably need to throw some water in at this point as well. Add brutalised capsicum. Stir and simmer. Regret nothing. Chop the tofu into smaller chunks and dig shallow graves for it in the mixture so it will fry most effectively. Give the interred tofu a bit of a singe so that it can soak up a bit of taste. I will admit that by this point our taste is hovering somewhere between “wilting forest” and “overgrown (ghoul infested?) cemetery”, so I throw in some ground green chilli. Sriracha will do equally well, but you may have noticed I’m angling towards a particular colour scheme for this one. Once its had a chance to cook for a bit, smash the tofu into more manageable chunks. Its at this point that we get industrial on this sorry fusker. Blend it down to a paste, and then return it to a mould of your choice. Since I do not have a corporation issue blender I had to do it in a few batches. So there you have it. As for taste… well, that’s not really what it was designed for. Served over rice it tasted a bit like a barely seasoned salad, though I suppose the “flavour nozzles” we encounter in the fiction are the proposed remedy for that. So; Lessons! First thing I’ll probably do next time is add some colour. Food dye is simple enough, and we get a nice nod to the Paranoia franchise with its colour coded society. As you could probably guess this attempt was meant to be green, but the light brown of the lentils and white of the tofu kind of brought it around to a kind of dull mud. Second, if I’m going to serve this to anybody it will probably need a bit more flavour. Not exactly in line with genre, but if I can get these things tasting better and elegantly packaged then it might have some appeal. Maybe in vending machines. Probably tied to the colour code… yellow would be curry. Green… maybe another kind of curry. Maybe introducing some fried bread products into the mix would allow a richer taste without compromising the basic idea of it… And finally, I think I need some sort of setting agent, but wouldn’t really want to use eggs, try and keep it as non-animal product as possible. This would let it sit happier in a block, and allow us to minimize packaging. Though single use packages are certainly more cyberpunk, I tend to have environmental concerns… I’ll tell you how that pans out. Maybe we can come up with some kind of alternative. So that’s my new cyberpunk recipe for you all. Not perfect, but it’s got potential.
Over the last two months, I have been having an adventure.
Now its not the traveling the world seeing new places kind of adventure, though that has also been happening. I’m currently in Edinburgh. That may come up again later in the article.
Its also not the looting a tomb and then battling the dragon that for some reason lives twenty floors below ground kind of adventure. Actually that happened too… well, not exactly that, but you get the picture. Lousy gnomes and their magic.
Anyway, this adventure I’ve been on is a culinary one; I’ve been running a little experiment on myself and my very understanding partner, and so far it has been going well.
Over the last two months I have eaten a grand total of five dishes containing meat.
As a bit of background, this is not really what I’m used to. Growing up in Australia, you tend to find yourself eating meat with a regularity that would make the people of history, and indeed a number of people in less developed countries, blanch at the extravagance. Admittedly, I’m probably making it sound worse than it is; when I visited Japan, people were surprised that my family and I didn’t eat meat every meal of the day, before proceeding to feed me chicken and salad for breakfast. Anyway, you grow up in a meat eating household in Australia, and from my experience at least you’ll probably have at least one meat dish a day. So this is new to me. I’ve not been, I suppose, a hard core vegetarian, as I know that if I draw an absolute limit for myself I will almost instinctively buck against it through a sense of pure grumpy subversiveness.
Admittedly, this is not the first food experiment I have engaged in, though we might save the stories of Sheep Hearts (and How to Devour Their Courage) and The Strange Case of the Pig’s Head for another time.
Now I personally have struggled a little to put my exact reasoning into words. For the sake of staying succinct, and since nobody else is around to ask questions, I figured I’d do a little interview with myself to try and show this as it is, and not just as a mad experiment that I’ve carried out on my own digestive system.
So… not eating meat huh? You worried about your weight?
Well, not so much. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never much had to worry about my figure, though due to my recent transformation into a windblown drifter I will say that I’m not training as hard as I used to. If I were still doing fifteen hours of Judo a week, I might need the protein. But I don’t think that’s the big reason.
You ran out of money, didn’t you.
No, but there was a moment there between paying some bonds and getting my first paycheck where I was eating a lot of lentils on rice.
Aha! You’re in Scotland! You’ve been driven mad by disgust at the local delicacies.
Well, this is my second time staying in Edinburgh, and on the first run I tried all the stuff that tends to freak out the tourists: The haggis, the black pudding, the various fried iterations of various other foodstuffs… can’t say any of it bothered me all that much. Haggis is really just like any other sausage with a higher oat content, and black pudding tasted no bloodier than the average steak. A few folks I’ve heard complain of “having to think about what their made from”, and the answer, like your steak or (ostensibly) your chicken nuggets, is that their made from bits of dead animals. So they didn’t bother me any more than other meat consumption.
Well if that’s not it, why? Have those animal rights activists finally got to you?
Wow, this projected id is turning out to be a real jerk. This was part of the reasoning. I run into a bit of a contradictory element in my brain here, as I think that empathy for animals is important, but fundamentally I don’t have a problem with people eating them. On a pragmatic level, I know that a healthy human being is valuable enough to justify the sacrifice of animals. On the other hand, I’ve yet to see a more striking vision of Hell than a factory farm, so there’s a degree of respect and moderation that I think has to play into it.
And I think that moderation is becoming even more important. As incomes in developing nations grow higher, more people are demanding a piece of that meat-rich Western diet. And given the amount of energy it actually takes to produce meat, then the Human race is going to wind up shooting itself in the foot one way or another. My guess is through either over-exploitation of resources or an antibiotic resistant epidemic that grows out of some very short term focused factory farming practices.
Wait… this is going to become one of your apocalypse rants isn’t it?
Not this time, actually. Of all things, this time it comes back to Shadowrun.
You’re kidding right?
Well, maybe its not the main thing, but it is one of the biggies. Now for those who aren’t familiar with Shadowrun, and don’t feel like tabbing over to Wikipedia, its a weird sort of cyberpunk/fantasy rpg. The kind of setting in which the statement “Cybernetically enhanced Ork wizard and punk rocker” can actually make sense. Its not a fictional world without its problematic content, but one of the things that struck me was the setting’s take on the food we will be eating in sixty years time.
Everything is soy.
Due to a combination of population pressure and lack of viable arable land, meat consumption has become non-viable for the vast majority of the population. To quote “tofu is to our dinners what chicken was in the twentieth century” (Shadowrun 5th Ed. pg 41). And this is an idea that intrigued me. So, driven in part by wanting to kick the decadence of the Western diet in the face, and in part by wanting to see what I could achieve in this meat free culinary field, I basically got started on a Cyberpunk Diet.
Cyberpunk diet? That’s the stupidest-
Alright, I’m going to dismiss the interview id now. Anyway, I decided that I’d try to make this cyberpunk themed diet viable, in part due to curiosity, and in part because I have faith in Humanity’s capacity to dig its own grave and in ten years time maybe this will be all we have to eat.
So, the following is my experiment to see if tofu really can be chicken. And beef, incidentally.
Tofu Katsu Curry (aka Schnofu)
Now I suspect those who know me will know of my love for Japanese Katsu Curry, which is basically a chicken or pork schnitzel served in curry sauce. Now the sauce is usually made from a curry roux mix on a beef stock base, so that was the first thing I had to work around. I wandered the aisles of the Scotmid, trying to think of the closest thing to beef that I could that didn’t contain meat.
“Red Wine!” came the answer into my brain.
“A reasonable start,” I replied to my brain, “but the sauce already has some white win in it. Might be counter productive.”
“You’re right…” my brain took a moment to consider, “Mushrooms? They’re everybody’s favourite carnivorous micro-tree!”
“Now we’re talking,” I thought, and started loading up on closed cap white mushrooms.
With my wine, onions, carrots, mushrooms and tofu slab in hand, I returned to the flat.
Slab of tofu? Check. Veg and curry roux mix? Check. Wine? Where isn’t there wine… Crystal Castles 1 and 2 cued up as working music? Oh yes.
Lets Neuromance the hell out of this.
So, I sliced the tofu and fried it in some oil, garlic, salt and pepper so that it would hold its shape a bit better. Turns out this slab was pretty firm anyway, so it wasn’t too hard. The heel of the slab got chopped up and went into the sauce to help the mushrooms pretend to be beef.
After letting it cool a moment, I coated the tofu in flour, eggs and then finally breadcrumbs, and fried it to a golden brown and slightly burnt finish. Because as it turns out you need to pay attention to these things.
As for the sauce, dead simple. Chop and fry mushrooms and onions, add curry roux mix (available from all the East Asian grocery shops I’ve been to), wine and water, hoik in spare tofu and some chopped carrots and we are golden.
So that was pretty much that. If I could have Takeshi Kaga maybe shout something at this point that would be great.
I think it turned out pretty nicely. I hear that snarky Interview Id sneaking back to accuse me of not having a sense of taste and thus not being fit to judge these things, but screw that guy. I subjected a number of the people I live with to the result, and the feedback was generally positive. Tasted just like chicken schnitzel to me, which makes me wonder if I was just tasting oily breadcrumbs and protein all along.
Not long ago I also made a Chilli Con Tofu, but I feel like that’s a story for another time. The feedback on that one I believe was something to the effect of “could have used some salami”, so maybe further experimentation is required…