Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the New York 19th century Society Extravaganza, an event that brought together history nerds and Steampunk fans from all around the city.
Steampunk plays with the idea of an evolved Victorian era; some describe it as the past if the future had come sooner. It’s historical as well as fantastical and the movement is largely based in a fiction genre. But it’s become a highly visual movement as well, focused on costumes, artisanal jewelry and other accessories. The clothes are crazy chic.
I enjoy the Steampunk folks, because they’re doing something I often play with on my blog: not recreating the past, but looking to history for inspiration to create something entirely new.
The point of the Extravaganza was the push the history connection. Participates could attend a bevy of free classes on historical subjects as well as visit historic sites.
I gave a few classes on 19th century food, and it got me thinking: what would qualify as Steampunk food? I put the question out to the internet, and I got some great responses via Twitter and Facebook:
- Victorian food merged w/ molecular gastronomy. Spherified figgy pudding? Black pudding dust? An English breakfast terrine?
Gear-filled tartlettes; whole boiled potatoes; green glowing plasma.
I think a good tea, the dinner kind, with toast and cheese, such as an adventurer or tinkerer might enjoy.
Nothing green. Photosynthesis rarely happens in steampunk scenarios because the technology almost always creates environmental pollution and either blocks out the sun or drives people underground or to ocean. I always envision a diet of potatoes and tuber veggies. I think the cooking method is always heavy steaming or an unconventional open high heat source like a radiator, batteries or butane lighters. The foodstuffs would be highly preserved like pickled radishes and cured meats.
- I think steampunk embraces the innovative and transformative, the implications of a super science without limits. Food that has those aspects in preparation, presentation, or taste seems to fit. Surprises, doing something completely unexpected with the available tools and parts. The more impossible seeming the better. I chose popcorn since it’s transformation is itself so remarkable. Toast actually has that kind of feel, bread slices vanishing into a metal box with two narrow slots to be returned with a new texture and taste.
- Things that can be flambed in creative ways. Anything steamed and steamable, especially at the table. Pressure cooking.
So what do you think? What is Steampunk food?