How Does Gagh Taste & What Goes Into Mixing Romulan Ale? Chelsea Monroe-Cassel Has the Answers

The Star Trek Cookbook

Simon and Schuster Chelsea Monroe-Cassel wrote 'The Star Trek Cookbook'.

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel knows how to take fictional recipes and turn them into real masterpieces, and she just wrote the “Star Trek Cookbook.” She sat down to talk with Heavy about designing Ktarian Pudding, mixing Romulan Ale, and making gagh if you’re out of blood worms.

You got interested in food while you were living abroad in Turkey, right?

Yeah, I was a picky eater before that, but cured me, thankfully.

You’ve written cookbooks based on “Game of Thrones,” “Firefly,” and other properties. What led to that line of work?

A happy accident, really. A friend and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner one night and we decided to try making something from “Game of Thrones.” This was before the show started. We were both reading (or rereading) the books and the food descriptions sounded so good and so enticing that we were like, “Let’s just, I don’t know, let’s just be weird. Let’s try that.” And there were no recipes online for that kind of food at that point, so we made something for dinner, we made lemon cakes for desert, and we thought, “Well, if there are no recipes, maybe we should make recipes and put them online. Because that’s what normal people do. We’re sort of creative overachievers.

And then that very quickly snowballed into a “Game of Thrones” cookbook deal and from there it’s just been a wild ride.

What’s your process for designing future food? How do you select which recipes you’re going to include in the book?

I always start with a lot of lists. I make a silly number of lists, starting with what I KNOW has to go in the cookbook. You know, the things people expect. The gagh, the plomeek soup, the Romulan ale, things like that.

As soon as I get the green light from a publisher, I cross-check that with other fans, and I’m like, “Listen, this is your moment to shine. Tell me what you want in this book. What will you be devastated about if I don’t include?” And the Memory Alpha and Memory Beta wikis were obviously insanely helpful for that, in just sourcing information.

I did a list of things that sounded interesting or sounded cool. Sometimes we know nothing about them. There’s a Wikipedia entry that says “It exists,” and that’s it. I did a list of foods that I found online that looked like space food, looked interesting.

And then it’s just a matter of mixing and matching. If I have seen something that looks amazing, does that immediately click with something on one of the other lists, or do I have to sort of get inventive? Like the uttaberry cruffins. Uttaberries are canon, cruffins, not so much, but they look the part. But everything in the cookbook ties in some way to canon, which was a challenge, but really fun.

Every recipe starts with a bit of the history of the food. How do you write those?

I look at what television show, what novel, what game is the original source for that dish. How much do we know about it? Do we ever see it onscreen? Things like that, the basic information. Do we know what goes into it? Do we know who’s eating it and why? Is it from a particular planet or a culture? And then just sort of building outward from there.

In many cases, there’s a lot of information about it. And in some cases, I get to do a little sleuthing and maybe I “world-build patch.” The food cubes, which are such iconic Original Series “Star Trek” food: on Memory Alpha they say, “We don’t actually know what these are.” On Memory Beta, it says, “We think they’re gristhera,” which is an Andorian thing. But it’s not canon-canon. So Starfleet saw these Andorian things and made their own version of it. And sort of build outward from there. So maybe that can close the book on that particular issue for some people.

My husband helped with those a lot. He’s a lifelong “Star Trek” fan, so he was utterly invaluable for that part.

So you’ve selected the recipe; you’re now ready to create the recipe. How do you determine the ingredients that go into the recipe?

One of my personal rules is it has to look the part if we’re trying to match visuals to it. Something like plomeek soup we see in several different shows, but it looks different every time. So it’s like, okay, well, take your pick. I guess we’ll pick the pretty one! But it also has to taste good. Even if you’re not going to put gagh in the weekly meal rotation, it has to be edible and reasonably good.

A “Star Trek Cookbook” was released in 1999. Did you refer to it during the process?

I flipped through it. I didn’t really look at the recipes because I wanted to bring sort of a new take to it. But the behind-the-scenes stuff was invaluable in some cases, and so much fun to read…and informed some choices, you know? In one part they say they use blue sports drinks for the onscreen Romulan ale and other blue drinks of unknown names. And so I thought, “Wouldn’t that be fun to include in my recipe for Romulan ale,” just sort of as a nod to that history.

To watch the entire interview, including discussions of Monroe-Cassel’s favorite recipes and how the cutlery on “Star Trek” informed her recipes, beam on over to Daily Star Trek News. “The Star Trek Cookbook” by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel is available to order right now.

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