Meals for Monsters: SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
By Jenny Orosel
Food-based entertainment has seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. From there being two cable stations devoted to eating (not to mention the slew of reality shows centering on edibles), to movies like JULIE AND JULIA (2009) or even earlier ones like BABETTE’S FEAST (1987), and even this column, talking about food is the latest rage. All these things owe a lot to one forty year old foodie flick—SOYLENT GREEN (1973).
SOYLENT GREEN a foodie flick? If you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Based on a novel by Harry Harrison (Make Room! Make Room!) and set in 2022, the world has become overpopulated and our resources have been pushed to the breaking point. Fresh food is an endangered species, and the common man must subside on cracker-like edibles from the Soylent company, green being the tastiest and most desired. But the ingredients have to come from somewhere….The story is told from the perspective of a police detective (memorably played by Charlton Heston) investigating the murder of a wealthy businessman. He was so rich he could afford things like produce and liquor. The detective is just as concerned with snagging some of this food as he is with finding out who killed him and why.
One of the first things Heston’s character ingests is some bourbon lifted from the victim’s apartment. Now, you could just do shots of bourbon with the meal, but I have a different suggestion:
THE OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL
1 tsp sugar
3 dashes bitters
½ shot water
2 shots bourbon
Mix the first three ingredients in a glass until the sugar is dissolved. Add the bourbon and ice to taste. Drink and enjoy.
The detective then confiscated some fresh food from the victim, and eventually from the girlfriend of the man’s bodyguard. I took it as a challenge to come up with a dinner from these ingredients. The food he found: celery, tomatoes, apples, onions, lettuce, beef and strawberry preserves. There’s also the previously mentioned bourbon. The only non-movie items added here are salt and pepper, as well as bitters (but since you’ve already got it on hand from the cocktail, might as well use it).The lettuce, tomato and celery make a nice salad, and the beef works well as the dinner’s centerpiece with some sautéed onions on top. But what about the rest of the ingredients? They make a great sauce for the meat and dressing for the salad.
SOYLENT GREEN STRAWBERRY SAUCE
1 cup strawberry jam
½ cup bourbon
½ apple, chopped into small pieces
5-10 splashes of bitters, to taste.
Mix the four ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the jam has melted and the bourbon cooks down (NOTE: be very careful if this is being cooked on a gas burner as alcohol can easily ignite when near flames. Not that I’ve learned that the hard way).
Meanwhile, take a 1 ½ to 2 pound London broil cut of beef and let it sit at room temperature for about fifteen minutes. Set the oven rack in the middle and broil the meat for about ten minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let sit for five minutes before slicing.
While the second side of the meat cooks, sauté half an onion, sliced thinly, with some olive oil and salt until the onion browns a little and becomes translucent.
Serve sliced meat alongside the salad, topped with onions and strawberry sauce. It should feed four easily, or two extremely hungry people.
You can’t serve a SOYLENT GREEN themed dinner without making some Soylent Green for your guests. I didn’t want to use the actual ingredients used in the movie (in case you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spoil it. However, it is the basis of one of the most quoted last lines in sci-fi flick history). Instead I made dessert cookies.
SOYLENT GREEN TEA SHORTBREAD COOKIES
2 sticks butter, softened
½ cup sugar
6 green tea bags
2 cups flour
Mix the butter and sugar until fluffy. Cut open the tea bags and empty into a food processor. Grind up into a fine powder. Add the tea and flour to the butter/sugar mixture. Once a dough is formed, mold into a long rectangular log, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least a half hour until it firms up.
Preheat the oven to 325. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (it makes clean-up a lot easier). Slice the cookie log into ¼ inch slices. Bake about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked. Once they’ve cooled enough to handle, remove from pan and enjoy!
SOYLENT GREEN was meant to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of overpopulation. If they had focused on the crowding of the cities and lack of space left for the residents, people would have shook their heads at how bad that would be. If they had focused on the lack of energy and resources, people would have thought about how that world would suck to live in. But by focusing on the food and what was left to eat, audiences were horrified. Yes, streets covered with homeless people and a lack of power is bad, but if all the food you’re given is disgusting, then people stand up and take notice.
© Copyright 2011 by Jenny Orosel