002: Maximum Freshness
written & directed by Julian Mundy
produced by Julian Mundy, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown
sound design by Mischa Stanton
[[SFX: The bridge of the Startripper]]
FESTON: Hello again, my friends. My name is Feston Pyxis, and welcome back to StarTripper!! Currently, we are waiting for Proxy to run ship diagnostics after flying through a nasty energy storm, so I’m rambling to pass the time. I flatter myself to think that someone, somewhere is listening to these, my modest transmissions from the journey of a lifetime. Which is a little imprecise, now that I say it out loud. “A lifetime.” If I were one of the Pameloy of planet Pamel, whose entire lifespan is a single one of their solar days, I’d’ve already spent enough time out here to see an entire lineage rise and fall! And rise again before being plunged into obscurity by an heir’s gambling debts. There aren’t many ways of feeling attached to anything out here, away from almost everything, all the time. If I were a maudlin sort of person, I might wax poetic about where I stand in relation to the rest of existence, a relative Frolian glimmer-grub in the middle of an infinite opaque ocean. But I’m bored, and getting hungry, so I can’t think of anything suitably bleak. How we looking, Prox?
[[SGFX: Proxy appears]]
PROXY: Diagnostics resolving now, Feston.
[[SFX: System chimes]]
PROXY: System checks return zero malfunctions.
FESTON: That’s great! It’s not like I’d blow through all the creds from selling that Yug plushie on repairs, but I want you feeling your best. You know how I worry.
PROXY: In the time we have known each other, you have not supplied data to support such a conclusion.
FESTON: Well, fine, but it’s not as though I forgot how! Hey, how far are we from the Palette system? Pleeeease say within lunch distance.
[[SFX: Proxy thinks about it]]
PROXY: We are a single slipspace jump from the nearest way-station in the Palette system. 64.66% consistent with the query “lunch distance.” Shall I set a course?
FESTON: The sooner you can get me to a staffed kitchen and a sober-ish waiter, the happier I’ll be. I’m in the mood for something fresh and piping hot, lots of sauce.
[[SFX: Proxy thinks about that too]]
PROXY: Parameters processed. Setting course for Loovadin Station in the Palette System.
FESTON: Sauce! And quickly!
[[SFX: The ship goes into slipspace.]]
[[SFX: A bustling space station. Feston draws closer to a milling crowd as he talks.]]
FESTON: Loovadin Station. Now this, THIS is what I’m talking about, folks! It’s like, the biggest damn farmer’s market you ever saw. I wish you could see it, or more to the point... [breathes in] SMELL it. It’s a fog bank of aromas in this place, and if they don’t cycle the atmosphere in here at a higher rate than average, everyone would either start to hallucinate from some of the spices, or go completely crazy with hunger. The maintenance crew gets paid well since, if they go on strike, the management literally risks patrons eating each other. Hey buddy, what’s all the excitement about? Is everywhere usually this crowded?
BONDI: We are waiting. Waiting for the chef to arrive!
FESTON: Yeah, thanks, but I was hoping to find something a little, I don’t know, more casual? What sorts of places do savory puddings around here?
BONDI: The chef will have the answer to the riddle your appetite proposes.
FESTON: Is this answer expensive?
BONDI: The chef asks for nothing in return. What riches are greater than a satisfied stomach? In this, the chef is rich indeed!
FESTON: Free food? Hmmm.
[[SFX: A door opens. A drone pootles out.]]
DRONE: [robotic, singsong] Thank you all for your patience. The chef is ready for you. This way please.
FESTON: So, uh, the food’s really something, huh? You come to this place often?
BONDI: Never often, enough, my friend. Never often enough.
FESTON: Works for me!
[[MUSIC: jaunty, reggae/hip-hop beat]]
[[SFX: A crowd whispers excitedly in anticipation.]]
FESTON: [whispering] So, uh, what was your name again, little green pal? I’m Feston Pyxis.
BONDI: [whispering] I am Bondi, sir. Just Bondi.
FESTON: Real hoopy to meet you, Bondi! Now, tell me: do they keep it pitch black all the time, like as a gag, or is someone falling behind on the utilities?
[[SFX: Someone shushes Feston.]]
BONDI: It is the same each time. Now hush, friend Feston, the chef will explain.
[[MUSIC: A Taste of the Divine theme music]]
BONDI: Oh! Ah! At last, at last! Oh, he is here!
FESTON: Hey, wait, what's with the–
[[SFX: As the music swells, the crowd erupts in cheers]]
CHEF LIDIVALDIVINO (LIDI): Well hello, you beautiful, hungry people! Who’s ready to get cooking?! Yes! Yes! [laughs]
BONDI: [coos with delight]
FESTON: [with mounting horror] Oh no. [sotto into recorder] Friends, I have made a terrible mistake. What I was led to believe would be a nice bit of dinner theater is instead that most insidious of torture devices to the hungry mind: a popular cooking show.
LIDI: Welcome back to A Taste of The Divine, folks. As ever, I am Lidivaldivino, and we are here today for something very special. No dishes like this exist in the known universe, and frankly, they could be eating ANYTHING in the unknown parts, so we won’t worry about them! Yeah, of course not.
[[SFX: Studio audience laugh!]]
LIDI: Today, we are going to prepare and sample a little-known, much-sought-after entree of Tempic origin: The Immediate Delicacy.
[[SFX: The applause swells again, accompanied by some interested muttering]]
BONDI: [a little overcome by emotion] It’s true! It’s true! I hardly dared imagine, but they’re going to do it! The Immediate Delicacy! Lidi! Lidi, I love youuuu!
LIDI: I love you too!
FESTON: Bondi, what the skwaz is–?
LIDI: Now, I can hear some of you asking: Lidi, what is this tantalizing title supposed to TASTE like? What could be good enough to attract such a mystique? Well, I’ve done my research, folks. I spent months in a dusty old Tempic culinary archive on the planet Saskatan Sigma, with nothing but a Lidivaldivino Deluxe Home Cookery Kit, a hemorrhoid donut, and the cackling old crone who led me there for company. If it weren’t for the backlog of episodes, you’d have crashed the whole Wave with speculations of my certain demise! But I found the answer, at long last, I found it. And I’ll share my hard-won secrets of the Immediate Delicacy with you folks... right after this message from our lovely sponsors. Don’t you go anywhere!
[[SFX: Applause rises over the theme music that plays to signal the transition.]]
FESTON: Bondi! What gives?!
BONDI: Isn’t the chef just wonderful? Lidivaldivino is said to have a palette at least twice as refined as the Omnivorous Tongue-fiend of Croom!
FESTON: So who gets to eat the thing after it’s done? Someone DOES get to eat it, right, they don’t do that thing where they throw out half of the–
BONDI: [mortified] Of course someone eats it! What a horrible thing to say, to throw away food made by the hands of the great chef Lidi–
FESTON: Yeah, yeah, but who eats it? Does the whole thing get shared around the room?
BONDI: Oh, I cannot say, my friend, for I do not know. Only the chef may decide.
[[SFX: the house music returns, and the audience cheers.]]
FESTON: [shouting over the noise] This is crap, Bondi! Double-plus grade horse-nonsense! I was promised a meal, and instead I get to stare at gourmet self-congratulations for ten full ticks?!
[[SFX: The noises of the crowd and stage have died away, but Feston is still shouting.]]
FESTON: [to LIDI] Hey guy! Do you have one of those pre-fab finished dishes back there? Because otherwise, my seat neighbor is about to become very familiar with the term “hangry!”
[[SFX: A collective intake of breath from the audience; this is simply not done!]]
LIDI: [unfazed] Why, no, I’m afraid not! I am sorry, but that would be quite impossible.
FESTON: What the hell kind of cooking show is this–
LIDI: [perfectly calm] The recipe is slightly more complicated than average. If you’ll allow me to explain a bit further, I’d be happy to let you sample the results! Your name, my friend?
FESTON: Er, Feston Pyxis. Sorry for shouting. Long trip.
LIDI: Not at all, not at all! Please come on down, Feston! Let’s have a big round of applause for the hungriest being in the house, folks! That’s right! Come on down!
[[SFX: The crowd applauds and the house music plays as Feston descends from his place in the stands. Bondi can be heard making inarticulate sounds of misery and disbelief.]]
LIDI: Now, Feston, let me explain why we’ve all gathered here today. Am I to understand that you’ve never been introduced to the joys of Tempic cooking?
FESTON: [weirded out by all the attention] No. No, I have not.
[[SFX: The audience mutters in disbelief]]
LIDI: Well! [to the audience] At one time, the Tempis people of Saskatan Sigma experienced more instances of deja vu occurring per capita than any other recorded civilization, almost one in four people per week. So when the population of a planet is constantly stopping to make sure they haven’t already done the thing that they are currently doing, that put understandable pressure on society. The government of Saskatan Sigma began a study of the Tempic diet, and what they found was that the diet of the colossal glow-beetles that formed the basis of Tempic protein intake was having an effect on the people. These beetles would eat a cave fungus that was psychoactive to most sentient species, but quite nourishing to the beetles themselves. So when the buildup of fungal enzymes in the Tempic digestive tract reached a certain level, you got brief, intense prognosticatory fits. Pretty soon, the word gets out, and rather than everyone steering clear of Saskatan Sigma, tourism starts booming! Everyone and their brood mother wants to try this new kind of cooking that lets you see the immediate future. With a little research, one Tempic chef isolated the glow-beetle organ, the “kloot-strainer,” which processes the enzymes. Which brings us to The Immediate Delicacy. If you’ll please step over here, Feston, that’s right.
FESTON: Uh... okay.
[[SFX: Feston steps aside; Lidi claps twice, and his chef station rises out of the stage with a smooth series of whirs. The audience applauds.]]
LIDI: Now I know you want to ask, "how did they make this dish?" Go ahead, ask me.
[[SFX: An uncomfortable silence while the audience pins Feston with its collective gaze.]]
FESTON: [playing along and hating it] How did they make this dish?
LIDI: Well! What I’ve got here in front of me forms the base; one Arcturan megasquash, six ripe podge fruits, three cups of Saskatan barley, and a handful of frit-stalk, finely minced. But I hear you ask: “Lidi, what about the kloot-strainer? I don’t see anything here that could’ve come out of a glow-beetle!”
[[SFX: The audience laughs; they are so here for the bit]]
LIDI: This is the other reason for the name of the dish; the kloot-strainer must be extremely fresh prior to cooking. As in, the “sixty seconds or under” kind of fresh. Take any longer than that getting the organ out of the thorax and into the hot pan, and it starts to decay rapidly. There goes the flavor, there goes the effect!
[[SFX: The audience makes appreciative noises, some applaud.]]
FESTON: Is this the part where you tell me what I’m up here for?
LIDI: HA! You’ve got some fizz in you! Good! You’ll need it if you’re going to help me with finishing this dish! Bring out the guest of honor: our secret ingredient!
[[SFX: A panel slides away to reveal a huge, chittering monster of a beetle; by the sound of it, it is about the size of a horse. The crowd oohs and ahhs.]]
LIDI: Whoa, it's a lively one!
FESTON: [tearing horrified gaze from the beetle] What do I do with it?
FESTON: Hey, what--!
[[SFX: Lidi throws Feston a knife; he misses, and it clatters on the ground.]]
LIDI: Now get me that kloot-strainer while I prep the ingredients!
[[SFX: Lidi activates a force-field, trapping Feston in with the beetle.]]
FESTON: Well friends, wish me luck. If I die, make it sound way cooler than it was... You give me my lunch, you bastard!
[[SFX: The beetle rears back as Feston charges; outside of the force-field, we rejoin Lidivaldivino as Feston fights inside.]]
LIDI: While my zealous assistant harvests the kloot-strainer, I’ll show you how we prepare the base.
[[MUSIC: pleasant acoustic guitar, a la Barefoot Contessa]]
LIDI: First, you're going to halve your Arcturan megasquash, hollow that sucker out. You want to put all the meat and pulp into a side bowl, we’ll need it in a little bit.
[[SFX: Lidi scoops the squash into a bowl; Feston and the beetle dance around each other behind the field.]]
LIDI: Now, we’re going to blend these podge fruits for just a few seconds.
[[SFX: The beetle growls and lunges, hitting Feston; Lidi blends the fruit in a blender, takes the dish and pours it into a hot pan; Feston recovers, slashing at the beetle's hard exoskeleton with the blade]]
LIDI: We’ll just let the puree brown for half a tick. It needs to thicken to get that smooth texture. As podge cooks down, the characteristic bitterness is cut, and you get that subtle sweetness that really ties the whole thing together. [tasting] Oh yeah, that’ll make a great reduction. [to Feston] How’s it coming back there, pal?
FESTON: [behind the field] Uh, we're doing okay!
[[SFX: The beetle growl menacingly]]
LIDI: All right, so we’ve had the Saskatan barley in the pressure cooker for a little while now, so it should be almost ready.
FESTON: Serpentine. Serpentine. You got this. You got it! RAAGH!
LIDI: Ooh, that’ll come out nice and fluffy! You really can’t beat Saskatan barley when you pick it in the third Spring.
[[SFX: The beetle cries out; Feston leaps, lets out a war cry and plunges the blade deep into the beetle; Lidi takes the pan off the heat and pours the reduction into a container]]
LIDI: All right then, the reduction is all set, but here’s the thing: once we set that aside in a tureen, we’re going to leave the pan heating so we can get all of that flavor cooking into the kloot-strainer meat and all that megasquash flesh we set aside just before. Looks like our special guest almost has it ready for us!
[[SFX: Feston cries out, makes one last chop, and the beetle goes down; the audience applauds. Lidi drops the force field]]
LIDI: Good show! Now, you’re gonna want to roll it over so you can get at its underbelly. Slit it open and look for the thing that looks like a glowing orange knot!
FESTON: What? Oh kak. Okay...
[[SFX: Feston flips the carcass over]]
FESTON: I’m really sorry, buddy, you were a mighty opponent. They’ll sing songs of this lunch I’m gonna have.
[[SFX: Feston chops the beetle's carcass open with a hiss.]]
FESTON: Ugh. Or I will, anyway. Depending on how good it is.
[SFX: Feston searches around inside of the beetle for the kloot-strainer. Once he finds it, he grabs it with a squelch.]]
FESTON: Aha! I got it, I got it!
LIDI: Now quick, get over here and throw it in the pan!
[[SFX: Feston pulls the kloot-strainer free, runs over to Lidi’s chef station and drops the kloot-strainer into the pan, producing a wonderful sizzle. Feston breathes hard.]]
LIDI: Didn’t he do a great job, folks?
[[SFX: The audience cheers. Lidi covers the pan.]]
LIDI: We’ll just let that sit for a little bit. So Feston, what brings you all the way out here?
FESTON: [still catching his breath] Oh I'm um, I’m going on a trip. Ended up on the station for a quick bite to eat, and kind of ended up on the show by accident.
LIDI: You know, I think you' the first accidental guest we’ve ever had here on A Taste of the Divine! Let’s give him a round of applause for being such a go-with-it sort of frood! Feston, everybody!
[[SFX: Wild cheers! Bondi is the loudest.]]
LIDI: Now folks, I am just about to plate the final result of all this struggle and commotion. What we have here is not only a powerful tool of almost foolproof future-sight, but a pleasantly nutty, slightly sweet dish that goes a treat with Silusian wines and runny cheeses. Mmm, yes take in those aromas.
[[SFX: A hush descends upon the audience. Lidi opens the pressure cooker, spooning out one portion of barley; he uncovers the pan, barely sizzling, and serves out a portion of the squash and beetle-parts. The crowd OOOs.]]
LIDI: Enjoy, my friend!
FESTON: Oh... That’s… the whole thing? That’s, uh, not what I would call a “hearty portion.” Not even for a single-hearted being.
[[SFX: The crowd murmurs anxiously.]]
LIDI: Why, I couldn’t serve you any more than this! In greater doses, the kloot-strainer has a truly frightening effect on the digestion. This, however, is quite safe, and scrumptious.
LIDI: You’ll have to let us in on what you see in your future.
[[SFX: Feston digs in almost too quickly; the food is still very hot, but he chew it excitedly.]]
FESTON: Yeah, pretty nice! You said nutty? Yeah, I caught some of that. I mean, I’m not sure I’d serve it to guests, but yeah, if you like that sort of thing.
[[SFX: The audience descends into muttering conversation.]]
LIDI: [wind taken out of his sails] Well, I suppose some palettes aren’t broad enough to capture the subtleties of Saskatan cuisine.
FESTON: I dunno, guy. I just know what I like, and I’d probably go with this if it were a special occasion? Like Arbor Day, or Pervoween. It’s just a lot of work, you know?
LIDI: [actually sounding pretty hurt] And no, um… You’re not feeling anything?
FESTON: Not really. Does podge fruit kind of make your tongue go nuphumn-HAAGN....hlaaagh.
[[SFX: Feston slumps to the stage, twitching and making inarticulate noises of wonder at seeing through the veil of time. Bondi & the crowd cheers!]]
[[SFX: The bridge of the Startripper; Feston is in the middle of eating something out of a takeout container.]
FESTON: Hope you don’t mind if I skip ahead in the narrative a little bit. So I saw my future, I guess, and it was actually kind of helpful. By which I mean, I saw myself standing at the takeout counter of a really nice little hole-in-the-wall stir-fry joint on the lower concourse. But let this be a lesson to you all: cooking shows were invented by monsters! You’d all be much better off just staying home and cooking together with your families.
[[SFX: Feston swallows another forkful of food, sighing contentedly.]]
FESTON: Bless the stars, that’s nice. I swear those pink chunks are stewed flumpkin. So good!
[[SFX: Proxy appears.]]
PROXY: My dashboard sensors will not function properly if the surface is obscured by sauce, Feston. Please be mindful of generating waste in the flight deck.
FESTON: Sorry, Prox, I’ll tidy up. I just needed to get away from all the noise, you know?
PROXY: Indeed, the station has increased in traffic. But it would appear that our immediate objective is complete. Perhaps we should depart. Shall I pin this station for future visits?
FESTON: Yeah, well, you can fight the beetle next time, Prox, sound good? Anyway, friends, thanks for joining me on a journey I think we can all relate to: just where the hell is the next meal coming from? Some find the answer a lot easier than others. Goodbye, hungry travelers, until the next serving of… Startripper!!
CREDITS: Startripper!! was created by me, Julian Mundy, and produced by me, Mischa Stanton & Ian McQuown. This episode was written and directed by me, sound design by Mischa Stanton, with performances by:
Ian McQuown as Feston,
Giselle De Silva as Proxy,
Zach Ehrlich as Bondi,
And Garrett Mercer as Chef Lidivaldivino.
Music by Ketsa, for more check out KETSAmusic.com.
Check us out on the web at whisperforge.org/StarTripper, for transcripts and links to subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or your preferred audio curator, or on social media, where you can find us @StarTripperHQ.
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Thank you for flying with us. And now, this week’s StarTrip Survival Tip: Always pay your debts. Unless you can turn invisible. Turning invisible is usually the better option.
A PRODUCT OF THE WHISPERFORGE: SOUND AND STORY, BROUGHT TO LIFE