Yo listen up, here’s a story…
Well, it’s not really about a little guy, but rather Andor and making sense of Andorian cuisine.
For those who follow me on twitter, you’ll know that when it comes to making up my Star Trek recipes I actually study up on the culture in question. I like to learn the lore, the history and any other tidbit. I like to know how a species operates and then reverse engineer how they would tackle food.
For those who only follow this blog, you will know that one of my first recipes was Andorian Cabbage Soup. A simple, easy to make soup with some great coloring.
In this post, I’m here to explain how I got from my interest in Star Trek lore to that recipe. And to do that, we need to start at the beginning. Like, all the way back to Andor as a planet. So bear with me, but it’s about to get cold.
The Planet Of Andor
One of the most important things to know is that Andor isn’t the usual M-Class planet. According to the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Aenar” and the short story “The Tears of Eridanus”, during the summer capital city of the Andorian Empire, Laikan, was barely above freezing and the poles were about -28 C (or -18 F). The days on Andor are also longer than Earth standard. It takes 32 Earth hours to complete its day-night cycle. And despite being 85% water according to the Last Unicorn Games book, “The Andorians: Among the Clans”, that water is more than a little useless. That is, unless you want to do some serious filtering. After all, we’re talking 85% salt water given that fresh water freezes at 32 F or 0 C. It’s a real case of “water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”.
And if you’re thinking “there’s snow”, don’t. Unless it’s melted snow will dehydrate a person. This is because the body expends energy to turn solid snow into liquid water. Also fresh snow has a high air content so lots of snow is needed to make water.
So Andor sounds a little terrible. This hellscape of arctic temperatures is surrounded by undrinkable water. Everyone probably has raccoon eyes because snow is reflective and will give you a sunburn. However, I promise that it’s actually really fun. As someone from the Last Frontier, I’m just asking you to trust me as we do as the state motto says and look North to the Future.
Or ideas for what Andorian cuisine should taste like.
My first cooking rule is simple: Andor tastes like winter. Tropical flavors like watermelons and cherries will never fly for Andor. Not saying they aren’t likely to have those kinds of flavors, but eating is a deeply psychological thing. If I was to serve up pineapples in an Andorian dish after saying Andor is cold, you would side eye me. And rightfully so. Those don’t say “Winter” to many of us. When humans think cold weather, we crave warm foods like soups.
However, because of this rule, we have to look at what is grown in Alaska and why.
In my home state, we’re known for growing hay, potatoes and cereals like barley and oats. And given that Alaska is closer to the poles than most places, we have exceptionally long summer days. And it works since Andor which would have 16 hours of sunlight at the equator year round. These long days allow for some unexpected benefits. One is that Alaska gets some world record sized ‘summer’ crops like a 19 lb carrot (8.6 kg), a 76 lb (34 kg) rutabaga, or a cabbage that came in at 127 lbs (58kg).
Now why did I write summer in quotes? Well, an Alaskan summer isn’t what you might expect.
In fact as I write this on June 12th, 2021 Utqiagvik, Alaska, the city at the northern tip of the state–formerly known as Barrow– is set for a high of 35 F (2 C) with a low of 28 (-2). But I mean, that’s only during the day. Once the sunsets at 1:56 AM, August 2nd, it’ll probably get much colder.
(Also for those wondering, it is pronounced UUT-kee-AH-vik.)
But to be fair, not much growing is done that far north. Most crops are grown in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, which is north of Anchorage and has summer highs of 65-68 F (18-20C)on average. It also gets 20 hours of daylight which is a a double-edged sword. Long days means plenty of sun for your rops, but thaose temperatures? Not great for actual summer crops. Instead you need to grow Fall/Winter crops. Something that can handle a good frost. Maybe even a light snow.
But what’s a good winter crop? Given refrigeration and global trade, most people no longer have to think seasonally unless you’re growing crops yourself. You can get pineapples year round these days. This is further hindered by the fact that people don’t always eat seasonally. So understanding what is a winter food gets complicated. But according to this Oregon State University article on gardening in the winter, the list of vegetables one can grow in the winter is vast.
For Hardy plants we have: spinach, Walla Walla sweet onion, garlic, leeks, rhubarb, rutabaga, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, cabbage, chicory, brussel sprouts, corn salad (aka Lamb’s lettuce), arugula, fava beans, radish, mustard, Austrian winter peas and turnips.
And in the Semi-Hardy there is: beets, spring market carrots, parsnips, lettuce, chard, pea, Chinese cabbage, endive, radicchio, cauliflower, parsley and celery.
And sure, this list is big, but my favorite winter fact is about pigments. Plants with the pigment anthocyanin are more resistant to winter rain induced rot. This sounds like gibbberish, I know, but that this pigment leads crops to becoming a vibrant red or purple such as purple broccoli, or kale. And that purple can be more of an indigo depending on the plant.
You see, it’s not just the Andorians that are blue (ba ba dee ba ba die).
But Andor also has to have grains and cereals given the existence of foods such as Andorian Spiced Cake or Andorian Pizza. Now, if you want to be weird, you can make purple potato flour, which I will definitely do at some point now that I’ve found a guide on how to do it (Don’t worry, they also have a tip for those who lack a dehydrator). However, we do happen to grow grains up North too.
Where most flour is made from wheat, unless it’s a winter friendly wheat, that’s not great for cold weather. What you will want instead is a Rye or Barley or even a triticale, which is a Rye/Wheat crossbreed. Barley flour has a sweet, nut-like flavor, but isn’t great for foods you need to rise. You also have Rye flour which has a nutty, Earthy, malty flavor that is reminiscent of a malted milkshake. Although, that’s another flour where you need to consider how you use it as pointed out in this Flour Guide article.
So clearly, when it comes to crops, there are a lot of options for what could be Andorian cuisine to help evoke a cold mindset in the eater. Now does the same apply to meats and even cooking methods? Obviously. But for now, I’m content to appreciate the sheer amount of winter crops out there, ready and waiting to be tried out.