Welcome back to Book Bites! Today, cooking the books veteran guest interviewer joins us for a very new and delicious bite! Everyone say hello to Elizabeth Bear and her new book Ancestral Night! Over to you, Bear!
Ancestral Night takes place entirely in space—far-future space, galaxy-spanning space—so the food in the book is the food of people who have never set foot on a planet and have no intention of ever doing so. That said, it’s a pretty advanced spacefaring culture, and they’ve gotten pretty good at food. Some is printed from component molecules; some is farmed on habitations. It’s expensive to lift food out of a gravity well!
There’s a strong cultural component to what people eat, even when a human diaspora has carried them out among the stars. A running joke in this series is that most of the non-human sentient races cannot stand the smell of coffee. It’s considered a horrible human habit, distasteful in the extreme—which can be a considerable hardship for human coffee-lovers the universe over.
Some food is also significant by its absence, also. Most notably, there’s a sequence in the book where the heroine, Haimey, is playing cat-and-mouse through an abandoned vessel with a murderous enemy. Her available food is the algae in the tanks for producing oxygen.
She’s pretty happy to get it, too.
Recipe: Haimey’s Algae Space Shrimp Crackers.
- 500 grams of edible algae (Porphyra will do on Earth.)
- 50 grams of dried mollusks, such as dried shrimp (available at Asian groceries)
- Enough water to make a paste
- Salt to taste
- Process in a food processor or blender until about the consistency of pesto.
- Spread on greased parchment or silicon baking sheets about 1 millimeter thick.
- Bake at your oven’s lowest setting until dried and crackly.