Friday, March 04, 2011

When Worlds Collide - SF & Food



"This station is now the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it."
-Admiral Motti, Star Wars - Episode IV, A New Hope




"Next time: we eat Kevin bacon."
-Epic Meal Time, the Meatball Deathstar episode



It's a rare thing for two of my passions to converge, and when it does, I'm a pretty happy fellow. This time, it's science fiction and food. For the past few months (since shortly after they began exposing their culinary shenanegans to the world, really) I've been following the exploits of the gang at Epic Meal Time and I've been pleased to see occasional SF references (both overt and subtle) worked into their schtick.

Epic Meal Time is a weekly online show (each episode running about five minutes) featuring a group of young Canadian men who take experimenting with food to whole new extremes of size, flavour, and meat content. Their motto: "We make your dreams come true, and then we eat them."

Each episode starts with the group's tall frontman Harley Morenstein staring slack-jawed and bug-eyed at the camera and putting on a trash talkin' gangsta act as the cooking gets under way and he describes every ingredient (which always includes bacon, "and more bacon, and more bacon, and more bacon...") and each step in their process as they assemble their gigantic creations. Their accomplishments include the Meatball Deathstar (pictured above): a massive sphere of ground meat stuffed with pancetta and tortellini, then covered with meat sauce and cheese and perched on a wheel of garlic bread as wide as an Imperial interrogation droid - oh yeah, and a few vegetables just for decoration. Then there's the Turbaconepic: a "next level" take on the classic turducken, with a cornish hen and a quail stuffed inside the turducken, bacon and a meat stuffing crammed between each layer, and the whole thing then stuffed inside a pig which is then covered in bacon. And the carnivorous feast goes on. Meanwhile, on the side of the screen, a window displays a calorie counter that climbs faster than the US national debt. Seriously, each concoction has a total calorie count that's probably equivalent to the recommended intake for a family of four for a month. The episodes end with a mock promise of what they'll eat next time, a promise that never comes true, given the absurdity of the item to be devoured. My favourite: "Next time: we eat corduroy pants."

And yet, as frightening as the size of their creations are, I've gotta give these guys credit. There's clearly a lot of creativity that's gone into what they're making, and most of the epic meals look pretty damn tasty. I'd certainly join them in tearing off a chunk of the Turbaconepic or a slice of the Giant Protein Bar - though probably not a serving as large as each of these guys is attacking. The show is to be applauded for its unapologetic glorying of delicious, plentiful food in an era when we're constantly nagged about how pretty much every damn thing that tastes good will kill you and have an unforgivable impact on the environment. Nobody lives forever. Eat, drink and be merry. These guys get that.

By now you're probably wondering what this ode to gluttony has to do with science fiction?

There's certainly a fair amount of horror involved in watching one of these episodes as these dudes gorge themselves on their creations like a T-Rex family digging into a triceratops carcass - and in similar quantities. And while most of the meals look good, the occasional experiment, like the Slaughterhouse Christmas Special "gingerbread house", turns out to be simply disgusting.

But there is a sci-fi element that occasionally spices up episodes. One of the more obvious references is the afore-mentioned Meatball Deathstar. Darth Vader may have said of the original Deathstar that "The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force" but if he'd taken a gander at EMT's version with it's ability to curbstomp circulatory systems with its cholesterol levels, incapacitate legions with the meat sweats, and induce enough gout to cripple populations of entire star systems, he might have rethought his position on things.

Then there are the more subtle occurrences like the Giant Protein Bar episode which contains a line of dialogue from the Beasties/Beast Wars/Beast Machines (whichever title of choice you prefer from the 1990's animal-oriented Transformers franchise) series. It also gives a nod to the Carl Weathers-Arnold Schwarzenegger handshake/arm wrestle/pose-off at the beginning of Predator. There may be other geeky references in some of the episodes that I haven't caught, but I'm sure these won't be the last.

What I'm waiting for (and admittedly, it probably won't ever happen) is for Epic Meal Time to display the ultimate synthesis of SF and food... I'd love it if they ended an episode with: "Next time: we eat the Ol' Porkchop Express."

Bon appetite.

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