algae stew

There’s nothing like algae stew for evoking “desperate-but-cozy”. Philip Reeve uses it in Predator’s Gold, part of the Hungry Cities quartet of post-apocalyptic young adult steampunk.

She sat out the storm in his kitchen, while the Aakiuqs fed her algae stew and told her about other storms, far worse than this, which dear old Anchorage had come through quite unscathed. (p. 115)

The mobile cities of this world have limited opportunities for crop growth; to survive, they must bring their sustenance-production with them in the form of algae farms, in at least one case. (p. 108)

Metaphorically, “algae stew” is a phrase often used to describe a dense morass of algae suspended in water, i.e. eutrophic waters. As a result, it is a favorite dish for at least a couple of anthropomorphic sea creatures. (See Stella the Starfish and Pagoo, the story of a hermit crab by H.C. Holling.)

Algae generally is a favorite ingredient of grim visions of the future of the world and space travel. (This is a whole topic in its own right.) Stew is a favorite of all sorts of genres. Between them, I’m surprised there aren’t more algae stews out there. Perhaps they’re hidden in all those space travel visions of ambiguously “synthesized” food. The only other specific instance of science fictional algae stew I’ve wandered across, other than the Hungry Cities one, may be in the Star Wars universe: according to at least one source, it’s a specialty of Yoda, a watery dish from a swampy planet.

See also “plankton chowder” in Blish and Knight’s A Torrent of Face. (Encountered via Westfahl’s “For Tomorrow We Dine” in Foods of the Gods.)

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*© S. Worthen 2009