Food Wars: Star Wars vs. Star Trek
I am both a Trekkie and Wars-ie (not a real thing; nor should it be), and there’s no way I’m picking sides on which franchise is better. I have loved and hated them both fairly equally. (However, it is possible I’ve hated Star Trek with a deeper enmity fueled by alcohol-saturated recaps, because: Enterprise.) But Star Trek has always been the sci-fi franchise with food porn in spades — until now.
With five television series, Star Trek has had considerable opportunities to showcase the food and how characters relate to it. Consider icoberry torte, a favorite of lead character Benjamin Sisko, often consumed with raktajino, aka Klingon coffee on Deep Space Nine. The Next Generation brought us “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” and Klingon gagh. Even the less svelte Original Series wasn’t too gorged on its own scenery chewing to bring space food to life in the form of those weird food cubes and the bowl of plomeek (pronounced “PLOH-meek”) soup the sex-starved Spock threw at Nurse Chapel.
All Star Wars has really cooked up is Luke whining at Yoda over gray bowls of gruel in Empire Strikes Back, and Luke whining at Uncle Owen over glasses of blue milk in A New Hope.
However, if The Force Awakens is anything to go by, the Star Wars franchise is about to explode with character-broadening gustatory delights — and it’s about time, really. Not only did J.J. Abrams’ franchise foray serve us up Rey’s sublime puffer bread, but it also had me analyzing contents of Rey’s fruit plate at Maz’s cantina days after I saw the movie. (A fractal of romanesco cauliflower begging to be roasted with olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika was clearly in evidence, but whether Rey took a bite of a passionfruit, mangosteen, or something else entirely is yet to be fully explicated.)
When food is showcased so beautifully in a non-food-centric movie, it deepens the characters in a way that wouldn’t have been achieved if the scene was scrapped on the cutting room floor. After gasping at the sight and idea of a puff of bread blooming from powder and water, we see how homey and ritualistic Rey’s meagre meal is for her. She might be starving in a wasteland, but she takes her time to cook and eat. She takes her food outside, sits down and, while eating, takes in the vast nothingness that is all around her. Later, Maz’s crazy fruit bowl is clear evidence of her generosity and kindness, even if she is tough as nails and running a villainous cantina.
Abrams’ introduction of food that dishes out such visual and auditory delights gives Star Wars fans every reason to hope for characters that are more fully rounded and realized than ever before. Let’s hope every other director that follows him in this franchise reboot will take a page from his cookbook because I’m already hungry for it.