Sacrificed Chine of Beef
with Nectar Reduction
Pan Sauce
(Sept. 9, 2004)

Ingredients:

1 sacrificed chine of beef, about four poundsĀ 
2 tbsp butterĀ 
1 cup nectar
2 shallots
1 cup tears of the damned
Salt
Chopped parsley to garnish

Selecting a good beef chine is essential to this recipe. We recommend a chine from the rib or loin, which are more suited to dry cooking methods. Chuck and round chines are better
for braises and other moist cooking methods. If your worshippers can’t be relied upon to secure a high-quality rib or loin chine, or to sacrifice it appropriately, smite them and build your cult from scratch. This recipe demands a high-quality chine, properly sacrificed to add that smoky altar tang.

Season the chine well with salt while melting a tablespoon of butter in a roasting pan over high heat. Once the butter stops foaming, sear the chine about 2 minutes on each side.
After searing, place the chine on a roasting rack, fat side up, and place in a 350-degree
oven for about two hours, until omniscience suggests the roast is medium-rare.

Meanwhile, begin reducing a cup of nectar in a saucepan over medium heat (for a subcontinental twist, you can substitute an equal amount of soma or amrita for the nectar). It should take about half an hour for the nectar to reduce down to a quarter cup.

When the roast is done, move it to a plate and tent with foil. Remove any fat from the pan juices, and then place the roasting pan back on the stovetop over medium heat. Add two diced shallots and saute until golden. Deglaze with one cup of the tears of the damned, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the pan is deglazed, add the nectar reduction and stir to combine. Wait for the foam to subside, then reduce the heat
to low and let the flavors meld.

When the chine has rested about ten minutes, remove the foil and carve. Add any juices from the resting plate back to the sauce, and whisk in a tablespoon of butter and a splash of fresh nectar. Ladle about two tablespoons of the sauce over each portion of meat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a small salad of ambrosia and endive.

The Barbecue Wars
(2003)

One long-running point of contention in United States cookery is where, exactly, one is to find real barbecue. Half the states in the nation will lay claim to the title of the true ‘cue, but for most people this neverending battle is merely good fun and an excuse for big cookoffs in the summer.

Chalk up another social issue made much worse by memetics.

In 2079, a Houston neurologist and amateur chef, having just finished digesting The Propagation of Human Ideas, decided to test his grasp of the new principles by devising a memetic campaign to tout the superiority of Texas-style barbecue. His campaign was crude, and any effect it had was not above the threshold of random chance. However, the project was noticed by some Texan scholars of memetics and a few marketing professionals in barbecue-related industries, who found it a very promising experiment.

Unfortunately, some months later, his jerry-rigged memetic engineering was noticed by a young student in the new Memetics program at Clemson University in South Carolina, who was incensed and decided to retaliate with his own memetic campaign promoting South Carolina barbecue, recruiting the aid of several meat-loving classmates.

The South Carolina meme blitz caught the attention of a group of psychotherapists in Memphis who had monthly get-togethers at a local barbecue joint, and another faction joined the struggle just in time to meet the Texan counter-offensive. The barbecue wars were on in earnest.

Across the country, people saw mouth-watering fauxflesh, grilled or smoked (according to the faction behind the communique), and went out to scratch that barbecue itch. Local barbecue proponents, of course, were invariably enraged by interlopers trying to obscure real (that is, local) barbecue, and embarked on their own promotional campaign.

Soon, dozens of small memetic engineering cabals were vigorously cooking up propaganda campaigns with the fury that only a rabid hobbyist can muster. Fauxflesh sales were through the roof, along with all barbecue supplies. Different styles had the upper hand at different times, as different factions acquired more resources. It’s estimated that, at the height of the barbecue wars in 2081, over half the people with memetic training in the United States were involved at least peripherally with a barbecue faction.

Naturally, a downside to all that barbecue emerged. To begin with, the age of memetics was new, and many of these ambitious memetic campaigns were put together by a room full of people with a dog-eared copy of The Propagation of Human Ideas and a head full of cock-eyed notions. A lot of the freshly-minted memes just didn’t work, but a number of them went rather badly wrong. The “contaminated molasses” scare flooded emergency rooms with hysterical parents. People reported that the Santa Maria Tri-Tip Man repeatedly appeared in their dreams, threatening them with a deadly spice rub. And the notion that slow-cooked pork promotes arthritis persists in some populations right up to the present day.

Secondly, the barbecue warlords were often a bit overzealous. Many of the memetic engineers who did work on barbecue-related projects report having been threatened, overtly or subtly, into contributing — sometimes with physical violence, other times with job repercussions or blackmail. This level of zealotry also sometimes broke out into violence with the rise of the infamous cookoff hooligans.

The savage fighting which broke out at cookoffs and parks across the nation in the summer of 2082 was the last straw for many. A good lunch just wasn’t worth this kind of hassle, no matter how tender and smoky. Negligent memetic engineering was accepted as a basis for civil action following Parker v. Santa Maria Barbecue Advocacy Council, driving most of the barbecue warlords out of the field. The barbecue craze collapsed. Thousands of the barbecue joints which had sprung up all over the country dried up and blew away.

Most people have tried to forget the barbecue wars, though some annual cookoffs now have “veteran” get-togethers. Memeticists value the period for the massive amounts of field data they were able to collect on the techniques laid out in The Propagation of Human Ideas. Responsible and sober experimentation would have taken decades to accomplish as much as the barbecue wars did in just three years. And all that data, the memeticists say, was collected without having to tamper with anything really essential.

The memeticists don’t get invited to barbecues anymore.

This setting element is intended for use with Transhuman Space from Steve Jackson Games. It is not official, nor is it endorsed by Steve Jackson Games. Transhuman Space is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

Bachelor Cuisine:
Box Macaroni and Cheese
(Dec. 13, 2002)

American society does not adequately appreciate bachelor cuisine. There’s something magical in a culinary mind so unfettered that it can look at a jar of peanut butter, a brick of ramen, and a bottle of hot sauce, and think “Pad thai!” The ingenuity of a cook constrained by economics but not by any notion of how to cook must, of necessity, devise dishes never before seen or imagined (this isn’t always a good thing, but that’s why we have editors).

So here we pay homage to the epicurean hallucinations that emerge from the crucible of the studio apartment kitchen. In this first installment, we treat the very bread-and-butter of bachelor cuisine — box macaroni and cheese. And now … the recipes.

Box Mac with Oil

Ingredients:
1 box macaroni and cheese
Vegetable oil

I developed this recipe, mentioned in my Squishy Yellow Elegy, in response to a double-edged problem. First, I was dissatisfied with the richness and cheesiness of my box mac. Too often, you wind up with a bland, greasy noodle mess. I may have no taste, but I have taste buds, damn it, and I insist they be challenged. The blandness problem is, to a certain extent, a matter of cooking technique; I find that leaning well to the al dente side of things makes the box mac cheesier. I also found that leaving out the milk makes for a less runny, more forceful dish. As a result, I had been making my box mac exclusively with butter (or, more frequently, margarine, which melts more readily) for some time.

The second part of my problem was that I was, at the time, living in a dorm. I had no proper kitchen, and no refrigerator. I just had a hot pot (for those of you well removed from the college lifestyle, a hot pot is like an open-topped electric kettle. Like a hot plate, only a pot. Hence the name). Now, a hot pot is an admirable vessel for cooking box mac, as long as you have a strainer and no qualms about dumping boiling water out a fourth-story window into the quad. But margarine keeps poorly without refrigeration, and hanging your perishables outside in a bag doesn’t work as well as you might think, even in the depths of winter.

Faced with this conundrum, I made a daring and terrible logical leap. I essayed an experiment, using pure vegetable oil in place of margarine. It worked surprisingly well. It makes a thick, gooey cheese sauce, extremely rich and tarry. You have to be careful not to overdo it; too much oil, and it passes gooey into greasy and oily, which isn’t very good. Oil allows you to back off from the al dente principle a bit; it’s actually sort of good to have slightly better done noodles, so that they soak up some oil and let go some starchy goodness to party down with the oil and cheese and make a truly righteous cheese sauce.

I don’t cook Box Mac with Oil much any more; I have a kitchen now, and a post-adolescent metabolism. Box Mac with Oil is also particularly disappointing when it fails – noodles swimming in oil are not appealing. It’s like a reheated Alfredo sauce. Occasionally I use a few drops of oil to supplement the margarine when I feel particularly decadent.

CAUTION: Under no circumstances use olive oil in this recipe! The results will be vile and nasty.

Egg Noodles and Cheese

Ingredients:
Wide egg noodles
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese cheese topping

This was a dish of my childhood. It depends on a particular product, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese cheese topping. It used to be called, I believe, Kraft Grated American Cheese Food. In most supermarkets, you can find green canisters of pre-grated Parmesan. They also make grated Romano, in a red canister (it was red, anyway). And they used to make American in a yellow canister. However, somewhere along the line, Kraft took it off the market, and then decided to reintroduce it as part of their box mac brand. It’s a festive blue canister, now. At any rate, you make this dish by boiling up some egg noodles, straining them, dumping them on a plate, and sprinkling with cheese topping to taste. It’s similar to box mac, but way less fat. You can also get casual about the cooking; egg noodles don’t care if you overcook them. It’s really hard to ruin an egg noodle.

Red’s Box Mac Tuna Casserole

Ingredients:
1 box macaroni and cheese
1 can tuna, packed in water
four slices American cheese
Optional: Kraft Macaroni &; Cheese cheese topping

This is only sort of a casserole. I’ve never made it in a real casserole dish; instead, I use one of a few medium-deep round bowls I have. Whatever you make it in needs to be microwave safe.

Make your box mac according to taste. Turn it out into your bowl. Add the tuna, and stir well. I don’t advise using oil-packed tuna; despite my general comfort with box mac and oil, oil-packed tuna invariably makes a greasy casserole. At this point, you can sprinkle the surface with some cheese topping, but it’s optional.

Finally, layer the surface with American cheese slices. I recommend using pre-sliced cheese; it’s easier to get a uniform thickness, and it tends to have the right amount of processing for good melting. I try to stay with packages labeled “cheese” or “processed cheese”. “Cheese food” and “cheese spread” get a little too artificial even for me. I usually wind up tearing up the last slice or two to fit the uncovered corners.

Then pop the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for one to two minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve quickly; it’s still good once the cheese cools, but it’s not as good. I recommend waiting until the cheese is no longer molten, however; it’s best hot enough for all the parts to be soft, but not too hot to taste.

Box Mac with Bonus Cheese

Ingredients:
1 box macaroni and cheese
1 slice American cheese

This is the simplest way I know to give your box mac’s cheesiness a boot in the rear. After preparing your box mac in the usual fashion, toss in a slice of American cheese with the butter or margarine. Stir vigorously. You may want to put the pot back on a low heat while you do this. The cheese melts relatively quickly, and the resulting cheese sauce is wonderfully thick and sticky.

This is a good technique for when you’ve mildly botched your box mac and created a bland batch. It’s not as risky as Box Mac with Oil.

I use American cheese rather than a more respectable cheese because better cheeses don’t melt as well. Processed cheddar works sometimes, and will usually work for Red’s Tuna Casserole, now that I think about it, but cheddar sliced from a block probably won’t do it. Cheshire is right out; too dry. Grated cheddar can work if you add some heat and start with a fairly moist sauce. Soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert would probably melt, but mixing classy cheese and box mac is just silly. I mean, at that point I might as well start adding a bechamel sauce or something.

Box Mac and Spam

Ingredients:
1 box macaroni and cheese.
1 small can Spam

I got this recipe out of a TV commercial. This is, for bachelor cuisine, the highest possible provenance — superior even to can labels — but I remain slightly dubious. However, it’s such a good example of the style that I include it here.

A small can of Spam is key. A larger can is way too much Spam. Dice the Spam, or cut it into 1/4″ sticks. Fry until lightly browned. Overbrowning your Spam will make it overpowering.

Make your box mac to taste. I recommend a lighter recipe; this is a heavy dish, and using Box Mac with Oil or Box Mac with Bonus Cheese will make it a bit strong.

Mix the Spam into the box mac. Stir well and serve.

This recipe is better than it sounds; on the other hand, it sounds pretty bad. The salty, greasy meat flavor of Spam is an interesting accent to the salty, greasy cheese flavor of box mac, and the firm yet spongy luncheon meat adds texture. The die-hard aficionado of bachelor cuisine will enjoy this dish; it is, in a sense, the escargots of bachelor cuisine.

Squishy Yellow Elegy
(1998)

Part I: Yearnings

My soul! it cries for comfort of a sort
To soothe the aching brain and calm the heart
And too, my stomach does its mass comport
To send its rumblings into every part

My tongue it thrashes to and fro in vain
My salivary glands do fruitless labor
Throughout my belly rings an empty pain
As if ’twere disemboweled with a saber

What shall I do? This hunger racks my frame.
It cries for remedy, and care most tender. 
What shall I do? How shall I quell this flame? 
My guts are as if put into a blender.

The balm is plain to see, just as you please.
It requires these the noodles, this the cheese.

Part II: The Quest

So to the mart I go to seek my fare
Among the hundred aisles I boldly search
And here I find a biscuit, here a leek
And over towards the back some salted perch

But when it seems that hope is truly lost
And all my plans for dinner come undone
I pass again below the grave sign “Past-
a”, there to seek the prize which must be won.  (Shh, it’s enjambment.)

And there my goal, my shining Xanadu!
The box of cardboard, holding little arcs
of noodles there within the cheerful blue.
(My hair it stands on end, and gives off sparks.)

 It is a box of Kraft on which to dine.
The bargain price: a dollar thirty-nine.

Part III: The Resolution

I charge into the kitchen, box in hand
My goal: a pot, and water thence to boil
So I may cause these noodles to expand,
and for the sauce of cheese, I’ll need some oil.

Heretic! you call me. I’ll deny it.
For the flavor’s in the sauce, the liquid cheese.
And if I may, to teach you, ruin your diet,
Pure vegetable oil is the way to please.

Butter and milk does make a runny sauce;
Butter alone has savor more by far.
But oil will make you rue your lifetime’s loss
That ne’er before you knew cheese thick as tar.

The noodles boiled while we did poke and tease.
Let’s sink our struggles in the mac and cheese.

Fin