If you live in Britain or are a friend or follower of anyone who does, you might be aware that a little known programme known as the Great British Bake Off has returned to our screens. If you don’t know anything about it, it’s essentially Pop Idol, but with cake (so is naturally far better), and is hosted by Her Majesty the Queen Mary Berry, and a silver fox known as Paul Hollywood, who your nan probably fancies.
As a Brit, it’s safe to say there’s nothing like sweet baked goods to get us all excited, and as geek, we thought it’d be fun to for us to take a brief tour of the best food the world of science fiction and fantasy has to serve up. Please join us for the Great British Book Off!
Where: Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Description: Vianne arrives in the provincial French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent, and immediately ruffles feathers by opening a chocolate shop and announcing a Grand Festival of Chocolate on Easter Sunday. While (mainly thanks to the efforts of the local priest) many of the villagers are initially hostile or skeptical, Vianne wins them around with her chocolate, charm and a little magic, being an understated sort of white witch.
GS recommendation: Look, you cannot go wrong with a chocolate shop. Unless it’s an American chocolate shop, in which case, I’m sorry, but it isn’t chocolate. Anyway, the mere descriptions of making chocolate are enough to have us drooling here. Vianne’s chocolaterie is definitely somewhere we’d like to visit. Probably far more than is good for us, or our teeth.
GS star rating: ALL THE STARS.
Who: Nanny Ogg, anywhere she happens to be on the Discworld
Where: Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
Description: Nanny Ogg is the author of The Joye of Snacks, a cookbook so dangerous it should probably be kept on ice. In Maskerade, she not only gets published but gets the chance to try out some of her dishes while moonlighting as a cleaner in the opera house. It is fair to say that her colleague Granny Weatherwax is Not Impressed.
GS recommendation: Nanny Ogg is not a subtle woman. We’re told her Bananana Soup Surprise is often a bit too surprising, her Maids of Honour end up as tarts, and we can’t talk about her Strawberry Wobbler without getting the giggles.
GS star rating: We’ll think about this when we’ve fully recovered from the Chocolate Delight with Special Secret Sauce. Proceed with caution and only if you have an ice bath ready nearby.
Where: Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
Description: Bronko and his team of highly specialised chefs cater for very special events. They have one single client; a secret branch of the US government which maintains diplomatic relations with supernatural beings. They have to be ready to accommodate some highly unusual dietary requirements, although they do refuse to serve werewolf, either as clients or on the menu.
GS recommendation: Sin du Jour has high moral as well as hygiene standards, and has been known to substitute chicken nuggets for angelflesh, and trust us, you don’t want to know what is in the chicken nuggets. If you’re a decent human with a soul, it might be best to just stop off at the chippie on the way home.
GS star rating: 4/5 for sheer effort. I mean the staff will literally go to hell for the right ingredients.
Who: Unnamed resourceful manager, unnamed Posh Restaurant
Where: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Description: When Death stands in for the Discworld’s version of Father Christmas, things go a little awry and a high end restaurant finds nearly all its ingredients have been replaced with old leather boots full of mud. The manager promptly serves up prime aged beef, shoe pastry and genuine ground coffee: “This isn’t food. No one expects it to be food. If people wanted food they’d stay at home, isn’t that so? They come here for the ambience. For the experience. This isn’t cookery. This is cuisine.”
GS recommendation: We salute the ingenuity of this manager, but we are down to earth folk in that we do like actual cookery.
GS star rating: 1/5 – there’s a proverb that we’re meant to eat a bushel of dirt before we die, but we don’t think that’s meant to be all at once.
Where: Lunch at the Gotham Cafe by Stephen King
Description: When Steve Davis meets his wife and her therapist there to discuss a divorce, it seems he bears an unfortunate resemblance to his waiter Guy’s neighbour. This is unfortunate since thanks to his neighbour, Guy is clinging on to the shreds of his sanity by the most frayed of threads. He completely loses it and butchers the therapist with, well, a butcher knife, before chasing Steve and his wife through the kitchen.
GS recommendation: Apparently the Gotham Cafe includes a very nice salmon dish on its specials sometimes, but it either has a very shoddy hiring process, or a manager who simply doesn’t notice when a member of staff starts losing their mind. To us this really rather cancels out any culinary delights which it may offer.
GS star rating: 0/5 knife wielding maniacs are extremely bad for your appetite and digestion. Avoid.
Who: Sam Merlotte, Merlotte’s Bar and Grill
Where: The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris
Description: Merlotte’s is located in Bon Temps and owned by sexy shapeshifter Sam. Sam’s an open minded and tolerant sort of guy which means he’s happy to hire and serve supes, ex-cons, and buxom blonde telepaths with weird reputations. The food is pretty basic although Chicken Lafayette remains popular even after the unfortunate Lafayette was murdered. Andy Bellefleur even proposed to his girlfriend by hiding an engagement ring in her chicken basket. This is not a euphemism.
GS recommendation: Merlotte’s itself is generally a pretty laid-back joint but if you feel weird about people being able to read your thoughts, then maybe it’s not for you. Plus, a lot of people seem to get murdered nearby.
GS star rating: 2/5 the food may not be up to much but there’ll always be something to see. Provided you’re not being murdered.
Where: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Description: It may not be much to look at, being a basement pub in a green and brown colour scheme, but the layout and structure is based in the number 13 to diffuse any random magical energies that might gather around its clientele. It’s also officially declared neutral territory under the Unseelie Accords, so if you’re a magical type in Chicago, this is the safest place for you to have a pint.
GS recommendation: Owner Mac rarely speaks (a point in his favour) makes the best ale in the city, and specialises in steak and steak sandwiches. Making magic burns a lot of calories, and if you’re going to battle with whoever the forces of evil are this week, you’ll need to keep your strength up.
GS star rating: 3/5 fine for pub grub, but of absolutely no use to teetotal vegetarians.
Who: Life forms from everywhen, Milliways
Where: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Description: Also known as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Milliways is a five star restaurant situated at the end of time and matter. There you are allowed to view a Gnab Gib (ultimate fate of the universe – while we aren’t really keen on spoilers we know not everyone feels the same), before dessert. Milliways also serves an especially fine Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.
GS recommendation: Not only is the food top-notch but you can kiss goodbye to headaches over splitting the bill, since you can pay by depositing a penny in any bank of the present time, and by the end of the universe the interest will be enough to cover your bill. Hurrah!
GS star rating: 5/5 although our mums told us to never eat food that can talk back.
Where: The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Description: Harga’s is the Discworld’s answer to a greasy spoon, except this might offend many greasy spoons. If you want to see the menu, simply peruse Harga’s vest. Harga’s specialty is “All-You-Can-Gobble-For-A-Dollar”. Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, is a big fan and particularly recommends the Burnt Brown Crunchy Bits, some of which he has come to recognise as old friends. He only once complained, after Harga cleaned everything including the coffee urn, resulting in “love in a canoe coffee” (er, very close to water).
GS recommendation: This is the kind of place which makes your arteries clang shut just looking at it. We can only recommend this if you have a note from your doctor stating you have no pre-existing heart conditions, or if you are hungover.
GS rating: 4/5 Harga will put some hair on your chest.
Who: Barliman Butterbur, Inn of the Prancing Pony
Where: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Description: Located in the village of Bree on a major road of the Greenway, the Inn is always very busy, which is excellent if you’re trying to meet someone discreetly since nobody will remember you, unless of course you put on a ring of power and vanish in front of everyone. We don’t know much about the food, but as two hobbits do the hosting side of things, you can bet your second breakfast it’ll be good. Serves beer IN PINTS.
GS recommendation: Fabulous for the vertically challenged, since there are designated hobbit rooms. Not so good for the vertically challenged on the run, since it is completely obvious where you are and you risk being stabbed in your sleep.
GS star rating: 4/5 it’s nice to see somewhere so welcoming of diversity even if security’s a bit ropey.
Thanks so much for joining us on our brief tour of fantastical cuisine! We are happy to accept payment in the form of cake.
With thanks to: @sennydreadful, @lazyhedwig, @StevenJPoore, and @slackwagon
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)