As soon as I enter Heston Blumaroo's home, I am struck by his down to earth decor. I always suspected he would be, well, wacky, based on the many odd but wonderful recipes that have made him a Neopian renowned chef, but I was not prepared for the warm invitation and even warmer sitting room I was invited into.
Chef Blumaroo offers me a cup of I dare not guess what and I take it gingerly, unsure of what surprise might be waiting for me. For the confused reader, I should explain, Chef Blumaroo has recently devoted his career to what many of us would categorize as "gross food". Rather than an insult, this is an actual description of food the likes of 'fruity fly surprise' and the ever expanding 'fish pop' range. Chef Blumaroo notes my trepidation and puts me at ease by explaining that my glass contains 'run of the mill cup of tea. Breathing a sigh of relief and taking a sip I plunge into my interview on Chef Blumaroo's newest obsession:
Me: Chef Blumaroo, you have recently made the appeal that 'gross food' is this generation's 'misunderstood food'. What do you mean by that?
Chef Blumaroo: Every since I was a child, I experimented with food. Though I am known for my contributions to the Gourmet Food Club's recipe directory, I spent much of my earlier years trying to understand why any food should be considered 'gross'. Since establishing my reputation as a competent if not unconventional chef, I have decided to return to the question and, yes, I do believe that 'gross food' really is misunderstood. I believe that a large proportion of this category is delicious and inviting; it just depends on who you ask.
Me: I would like to get back to your 'who you ask' statement but first let me clarify, when you say you experimented with 'gross food', what exactly do you mean...
HB: Haha, yes, I see what you are doing there. It is not such a secret that I love ketchup and spent months perfecting my recipe for 'ketchup ice cream'. It was a challenge but I met with delicious success and it saddens me deeply that anyone could consider ketchup ice cream 'gross'. Whether you win a 'fish pop' from Tombola or stumble across a cheap 'lime milkshake' at the marketplace, gross food is everywhere, clogging up safety deposit boxes, unused and, in my humble opinion, utterly wasted!
Me: Which brings me back to the point you made earlier. You suggest that the description of 'gross food' really depends on the neopet eating the said... erm... delicacy?
HB: Absolutely! It's not even a question but its what makes 'gross food' so misunderstood. Allow me to explain: if you asked a Uni the last food on earth he would be willing to try, the answer might be a 'grubburger' or 'honeyfly smoothie' but you will find no other neopet that savours these foods more than, say, a Lenny or Pteri. Even the odd eyrie will admit to indulging in 'grub skewers' now and again. On the other hand, I have never seen a Uni that could resist 'rock baby cabbages'. It all comes down to who you are serving. Which brings me to my book...
Me: Ah yes, your book. I hear that your book, Heston Blumaroo: Perfect Food For You, is being released this Month of Storing...
HB: Yes, it has been a work in progress for many months and I am happy to say that it is finally completed. My book is a cook's guide to universal entertaining. I hope that it will bridge the gap between Neopians of different species and their wonderfully diverse eating habits. My book categorizes dishes based on species and even accounts for carnivorous Kaus and vegetarian Skeiths. There is also, as you may have guessed, an entire chapter devoted to 'gross foods'. I pair each 'gross food' with a neopet or set of neopets who will be both surprised and grateful that it has been added to their meal.
Me: Would you be able to give us some idea of this chapter on what you mean by 'interspecies dining'?
HB: I would be happy to. I have an excerpt prepared that I think you will enjoy:
The average Neopian tends, on the whole, to entertain for his own species. This does not imply that interspecies friendships do not occur, far from it, you would be loath to find a Draik who only associates with other Draiks. On the other hand, you are more likely to see a party thrown by a family of Acaras entertaining an almost solely Acara crowd with the odd Peophin or Xweetok putting on a game face, sporting a grin and an empty plate. This phenomenon is due to the underwhelming information available on interspecies dining. Yes, there are cookbooks devoted to 'Krawk family recipes' or 'favourite flotsam delicacies', but very little on how a Krawk is expected to feed a visiting flotsam.
The following chapter addresses this issue with recipes that will please all of your friends, regardless of whether you are a Kau entertaining a Skeith or a flotsam hoping to please a jetsam. For convenience, I have grouped easy to follow recipes with the species that are most likely to enjoy them. For instance: Skeiths, Krawks, Draiks and Grarrls are all staunch carnivores and will devour Bronto Bites and Nerkin Legs with relish. They are not Neopians only carnivores but those most likely to enjoy the aforementioned foods. I have a more extensive list with more detailed recipes and presentation suggestions in the chapter marked 'Carnivore'...
Me: Pretty enlightening stuff! Anything from your section on 'Misunderstood food'? I would love to see how you match specific gross food by species!
HB: Well, if that is all you are looking for, I would be happy to demonstrate. Name a gross food...
Me: Any gross food?
HB: Yes! Any gross food...
Me: All right, um, 'fresh seaweed pie'!
HB: Well, don't make it easy for me! I can guarantee you that Flotsams, Peophins, Kikos and Koi would thank you for serving seaweed alone and would be doubly grateful to find it in a pie.
Me: All right, how about... ground beef s'mores?
HB: Despite what you think, most carnivores such as Skeiths, Jetsams, Krawks and the like enjoy a bit of savoury with their sweet and would find the addition of beef with any dessert dish an added bonus. I also believe that buzzes and Chias would find this a most intriguing dish based on the combination of fat and sugar, which is attractive to both species.
Me: Well, I am a Zafara and I can tell you that I don't like gross food whatever the flavour combination. What do you suggest for me?
HB: Don't be so skeptical. Tell me, have you ever tried 'strawberry artichoke'?
Me: Not really...
HB: Then I must suggest you try it. The combination of sweet fruit in conjunction with tough plant material is a blend I doubt you could resist.
Me: I can see your research has really been paying off, I look forward to reading your book when it is released.
HB: Thank you! Can interest you in some ketchup ice cream for the road?