The Star Trek Cookbook review + interview with author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel
A Star Trek-themed cookbook is not a new idea, as the first Star Trek Cookbook came out in 1999, but it’s one that holds appeal as more and more Star Trek is released. After all, one of the things that populate Star Trek sets are a variety of exotic alien foods. Surely, you’ve wondered what any number of these far-out recipes might actually taste like. Now, the Star Trek Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel – who has previously authored cookbooks based on Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Firefly, The Elder Scrolls, and other franchises – helps answer that question by bringing these interstellar recipes to your table.
The first thing that struck us was the excellent quality of this book. The 176-page hardcover is colorful, well-designed, easy to follow, and inclusive of any one of the Star Trek shows – even recent productions like Star Trek: Picard and Lower Decks. There are even a few recipes from non-canon media, like Star Trek Online and select Star Trek novels; the inclusion of these items really helps the book feel like it respects all Star Trek, not just Star Trek that’s strictly canon.
You can try your hand at making dozens of items, and the book nicely categorizes these items by type: sauces and garnishes, sides, starters and snacks, soups and stews, breads and baked goods, main courses, desserts, and drinks. There is even a section dedicated to explaining which items within the book go well with each other, so you can prepare a proper menu. Throw in the tongue-in-cheek in-universe introduction by the author (noted as a “gastrodiplomat”) as she addresses a room full of cadets, and you have a great presentation by this book.
You’ll find each recipe describes where in Star Trek lore the food was seen, which culture it comes from, the difficulty level of the recipe, and what other recipes in the cookbook pair well with it (a neat touch that lends itself to Star Trek-themed get-togethers), cooking directions, a description of the food, and tips on how to present it. Suffice to say, each recipe gets a fairly elaborate entry, and it’s this attention to detail that makes this book really stand out. Each menu item gets a super-sharp full-color photograph (taken by the author herself) along with its information. Again, great presentation! Clearly, a lot of time and care went into crafting this book, so it’s easy to recommend for food lovers everywhere.
Monroe-Cassel took the time to sit down with us to talk about her Star Trek Cookbook, how certain items made the cut, her love of Star Trek, and what she hopes people get out of this publication.
Treknews.net: Probably the first question for anyone who opens this cookbook: how do you select what goes into the book?
Monroe-Cassel: It’s a little tricky. I went through and I made a short list of everything I knew people were expecting. The gagh, the plomeek soup, things like that. But Memory Alpha and Memory Beta were absolutely key to filling out the list. Shoutout to everybody who contributes to those sites. And then once I got the green light to talk about the project, I asked people online about what they wanted to see in the book. From there, it’s a lot of recipe testing to see what works, and to make sure the cookbook is balanced so that you don’t have too many of one type of recipe.
Besides describing how to make a certain recipe, I like to use the little bit of worldbuilding power I’m allotted with these projects to make an itty-bitty difference. Take the Starfleet Food Rations, for example. People always wondered what they were made of in canon, but it was never clearly defined. Memory Beta says they might have some Andorian influences in its recipe, but then I asked myself, ‘why would those food cubes show up so often on the Enterprise in the Original Series?’ So, my little worldbuilding blurb in the book says the cubes were inspired by Andorian foods, but Starfleet ultimately made the cubes their own. It’s stuff like that that I hope helps answer some questions for people.
TrekNews.net: You are clearly knowledgeable about Star Trek. Do you have a favorite episode or movie?
Monroe-Cassel: I think there is something to like in every Star Trek! I think because the overarching message of Star Trek is hope, exploration, and camaraderie, it’s incredibly appealing, especially during some of the real world’s darkest days. I’ve always been a fan of escapism, be it fantasy or sci-fi or anything else. It’s nice that Star Trek allows us to escape to a theoretical future that could exist.
Currently, I’m obsessed with Lower Decks. It’s so good! It’s so tongue-in-cheek, it’s so funny, and it’s such a great love letter to Star Trek.
TrekNews.net: So many of the foods in the shows don’t look terribly appetizing. How do you make foods like gagh into something people want to make and eat?
Monroe-Cassel: Yeah, the Rokeg blood pie definitely falls into that category, doesn’t it? Well, we have information about what a show’s producers used to make these things on set. Like the blood pie, it was made with butterscotch pudding and cranberry juice and they stuck some beets in it. That’s not tasty food. It looks great, though! One of my rules for the book is that it has to be edible, and it has to taste as good as possible. Would I eat gagh every weekend? No. Have I fed gagh to my toddler? Yes, and she wasn’t impressed, but it made for a good photo! So yeah, things have to taste good, but they have to look the part.
It was definitely a learning curve to make all these foods. My culinary comfort zone before this project was something like Game of Thrones, which clearly has a different aesthetic than Star Trek. But I think all the stuff in this cookbook turned out really well!
TrekNews.net: Was there any one recipe that you remember giving you a hard time to make?
Monroe-Cassel: The food cubes were a really tricky recipe to get because it’s so iconic. I think at various points in The Original Series they used food coloring and melon cubes, but that’s not a recipe. But I really like the way those turned out in the book. I also really like the Denobulan Sausages. And the Spatchcocked Tribble is delicious!
TrekNews.net: Do you have a favorite recipe?
Monroe-Cassel: I have a bunch of favorites. I love the Quadrotriticale Salad. That is the high point for me for weird-looking space food!
TrekNews.net: What do you hope to bring to families with this book?
Monroe-Cassel: Think of this as cross-culture exploration! Pan-Federation gastrodiplomacy, if you will. Basically, I just want people to enjoy it and have fun and scratch the itch if they’ve always wanted to try Romulan ale or any of these other iconic foods. Enjoy them for a season premiere, or sneak Star Trek food into Thanksgiving. That’s always fun!
The Star Trek Cookbook is now available on Amazon.
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