Recreated from Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
--I’ll have the Kung Pao chicken.
There’s a lot of incidental food in fiction – things that characters happen to be eating as part of the everyday – and then there’s Significant Food. I'd say the two most meaningful meals in Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants are cinnamon buns (File No. 189) and Kung Pao chicken (File No. 230). The cinnamon buns are camaraderie on a plate, while the Kung Pao chicken is about taking heed. To declare my full cooperation, I’ve chosen to recreate the Kung Pao chicken. I’d serve it with Indonesian rice if I were you, just to be on the safe side.
--How big was the hand?
--6.9 meters, about twenty-three feet; though it seemed much larger for an eleven-year-old.
Lontong (compressed jasmine rice) is a sticky Indonesian rice dish that holds it shape when formed into, say, body parts. I served my Kung Pao chicken on a hand (more modestly proportioned than the one we first encounter in the Prologue) because it's the piece that sets all that follows in motion. It’s also a heavy-handed nod to the notion that some things are just out of our hands; like what happens when we don’t go to fetch the cinnamon buns.
For the marinade
To coat the marinated chicken
For the sauce
A note for your tongue: Exceeding the recommended amount of Schezuan peppercorns may cause your mouth to go numb in a way that is interesting and not entirely pleasant.
A note on the hand: Creating a mould took me about 20 minutes. Compressing the rice into the mould took an extra 3-5 minutes per serving. It’s time consuming but worthwhile. To reduce the pressure, you could cook and prepare hands of rice an hour or so before cooking the chicken. It’s still delicious at room temperature.
To prepare in advance: make a mould for the rice (optional)
Inspired by Mac Rogers' Steal the Stars
Patty: So, lunch? We can prep to meet with the big guy?
Dakota: Go ahead without me. I gotta go up--I've left mine in the car.
Patty: What, that falafel crap?
Dakota: That's the one.
Patty: You know I don't respect your vegetarianism, right?
Dakota: Yeah, it keeps me up at night.
There's not much mention of food in Tor Labs' debut science fiction podcast, Steal the Stars, but what there is helps to give colour to the relationship between two of its leading characters, Dakota and Patty. Banter between the two veers several times into mock denigration of the other's eating habits, where vegetarianism (e.g. "that falafel crap") is pitted against images of cannibalistic devouring (e.g. "eat dick, made of meat"). In the strict confines of Quill Marine, teasing seems like a sensible way of staying within the limits of permitted intimacy. And in the confines of The Speculative Kitchen, I'm not about to rustle up a penis. So, falafel it is. With moss on top.
Falafel (makes 12-15 patties)
Serve together in a wrap with Greek yoghurt and a salad of your choice. Mine had tomatoes, cucumber, mint, lemon, salt and pepper.