The New Gastronome

“Go Away, Eating”

The Funky Foods of The Simpsons

Thao: It was July, the peak of whatever an English summer is, and Matt and I were cooking up a storm. Due to the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself stranded in England for about 3 weeks of quarantine on Matt’s futon, which led us to do a lot of what we enjoy the most  — culinary experimentation.

 

Matt: We were making tacos. We’re both obsessive about The Simpsons — our Whatsapp contains a certain percentage of Frinkiac images1  —  so we had to have an episode playing while eating dinner. Thao suggested Season 1 Episode 12, “Krusty Gets Busted”, which is something of a curveball. As we watched, Thao pointed out the bit where Patty and Selma are putting the family to sleep with their slides from Yucatan: “This is a Mexican delicacy called a taco platter,” pictured on the screen is Selma, looking emotionless, holding a dressed plate of THREE whole very bland looking tacos. How adventurous of these suburban Northern Kentucky aunts!

 

 

Thao: The thing about Matt and I is that we’re suspended somewhere between the realms of “foodies” and “food-why-nots”, meaning that our fixation on food is equal parts appreciative and yet debatably sacreligious. We’re weird food zine people — we enjoy unusual optics as well as the haphazard collaging that comes with adventurous cooking and eating2. We read cookbooks, try out the occasional food trends (yes, we made dalgona coffee), inhale frozen and takeout meals, as well as just smash together whatever’s in the fridge and eat it3. We’re not purists by any means…just curious and starving.

 

Matt: Over these 3 or so weeks, we made a lot of food that we just fancied cooking together or were feeling at the time such as Jollof rice, Khmer curry, and the aforementioned tacos. Our ritual was to eat delicious food and watch whatever episodes of The Simpsons we were feeling (turns out, we were feeling “very emotional” because Kirk van Houten thawing frozen hot dogs in a gas station sink from Season 8, Episode 6, “A Milhouse Divided” seemed to be the mood at times). 

 

We jointly decided that we had to make a dish from the show. However, after having a think about what foods from the show we could transform into dishes, we realised just how impractical, off-putting, or potentially life-threatening many of them were. Homer’s patented out-of-this-world moon waffle, served on a whole stick of butter (S4, E3). Chief Wiggum’s Guatemalan insanity chilli with the merciless peppers of Quetzalacatenango (S8, E9). Also, some of them just…aren’t possible.

 

Drawing by Matt F

 

I have become deeply disillusioned that the stick of Khlav Kalash is a dodgy invention of the series, but Crab Juice, I feel, must be out in the real world in some form (S9, E1). I spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to find (or draw up) a recipe for Butterscotch Chicken to no avail (S8, E6). However, some recipe blogs nominally have one but lean on whiskey rather than actual butterscotch, which…no. I mulled over making the giant Rice Krispies square, but my kitchen is too small. 

 

The Simpsons stills ©The Walt Disney Company

 

Thao: There’s just something about Marge Simpsons’ bright chartreuse Wasabi Buffalo wings which activates my fight instinct. I saw one fan-recipe added an ENTIRE TUBE of wasabi to the sauce and promptly decided that I wouldn’t attempt it. Perhaps I’ll try again someday, but also lean on some food colouring to get the desired effect I want. Then, there’s also the coveted all-syrup squishee which sounds amazing and yet not. 

 

Matt: After putting a lot of thought into it, we decided on some Chowder (or ‘shoudehr’) from ‘The Boy Who Knew Too Much’ (S5E20). I have a bit of an obsession with the Beat Up Waiter case, Freddy Quimby’s hysterical laughter at the clumsy Clouseau-esque waiter’s pronunciation of “chowder”, and also the bewilderment on the faces of his dinner guests in this episode.

 

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Thao: I’m pretty sure it’s my job as someone from the state of Maryland to enjoy chowder. Crab and corn chowder is a big thing where I’m from. 

 

Matt: Considering Oxford is far away from the sea, we opted for corn rather than clam and settled for Ritz in the absence of oyster crackers. Experimentally, we tossed some seasoned roasted potato skins atop our bowls as well.

 

 

Thao: Although the dish we chose to make wasn’t the most adventurous of Simpsons’ recipes, Matt and I decided we’d take a deeper dive into the food of the show’s universe to see if anyone has attempted the zanier stuff. We discovered a handful of social media accounts dedicated to these animated eats, but the one that stuck out to us the most was The Joy of Cooking Milhouse — I mean, who can resist a good Treehouse of Horror reference (S6, E6)?! Unsurprisingly we decided to reach out and pick the brain of Laurel Randolph, the creative mastermind behind The Joy of Cooking Milhouse for a short interview. 

 

Recipe Creation and Photo by Laurel Randolph

 

Thao & Matt: Of all the foods and cuisines of the universe and beyond, why did the foods of The Simpsons’ inspire you to focus on it in particular? 

I am a food writer, recipe developer, cookbook author, and big Simpsons fan. While writing for Paste Magazine years ago, I pitched a series called “Cooking The Simpsons” where I would recreate dishes from the show. The Simpsons is perfect for inspiring food projects since the show is jam-packed with food references and whacky dishes. The main character, Homer, is completely food-obsessed. And judging by the long list of iconic dishes—Krusty burgers, doughnuts, pork chops, etc—the writers are, too.

 

Thao & Matt: Are there any dishes that make you recoil in the Simpsons world? Conversely, are there any that you’re absolutely dying to make?

I haven’t cracked a way to make Tomacco or the three-eyed fish, nor do I want to. Some dishes are so gross there’s no way to make them edible. The Ribwich, a Simpsons version of McDonald’s McRib, is on my bucket list.

 

Thao & Matt: Of the dishes you’ve made, which was the easiest to make and which was the hardest?

Paul and Linda McCartney’s lentil soup was probably the easiest since the recipe is right there in the credits of the show and it makes a great soup. The only trick is you have to figure out how to listen to it backward (luckily the internet is here to help). Homer’s nacho hat was really tricky since I don’t own a nacho hat mold or a giant commercial deep fryer. I had to get creative making a form to drape the dough over that was the right size for my head and would also hold cheese dip.

 

Recipe Creation and Photo by Laurel Randolph

 

Thao & Matt: Considering some of the dishes you’ve made are quite unusual, do you taste test any of your Simpsons’ creations? How were they? Is there a best or worst?

Since I’m a recipe developer (and I love food), I taste everything I make. Sometimes the dishes as presented on the show are flat out gross, like Homer’s frozen pie crust with Tom Collins mix and whole cloves or his patented moon waffle wrapped around a whole stick of butter. I made the original, as-seen-on-TV version for both, experienced how gross they were, and then made delicious edible versions (a lemon cream pie dusted with clove and brown butter waffles with caramel sauce, respectively).

 

Recipe Creation and Photo by Laurel Randolph

 

Thao & Matt: Do you think there’s more pop culture cooking in your future? Are there any other foods from different shows/films/etc you’re interested in making? 

I haven’t run out of Simpsons recipes (and won’t anytime soon) so I’ll keep making those as long as I can. I have an Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook coming out later this year with lots of new and improved recipes.

 

With 32 seasons of content and growing, The Simpsons is chocked-full with both real and fictional delights which manage to both dazzle and confuse our taste buds. What The Simpsons does very well is showcase foods which are reminiscent of a questionable American foodscape while also giving space to the “what if?” corners of our culinary imagination. Whether you’re craving  a fun twist on a favourite, or interested in deciphering what a carton of Malk (now with Vitamin-R!) tastes like, the foods of The Simpsons has so much to offer to adventurous cooks, eaters, and food studies scholars alike.

 


 

Laurel Randolph is a food writer, recipe developer, cookbook author, and big Simpsons fan. She runs the blog The Joy of Cooking Milhouse and the Instagram account of the same name, where she recreates recipes from the long-running cartoon The Simpsons. She’s the author of The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook, coming in August 2021 via Simon & Schuster.

 


Footnotes: 

[1]  Frinkiac is a website dedicated to screencaps and quotations from The Simpsons

[2]  Matt’s got the lovely Chewn zine about food and tunes while I’ve got my own mishmash of food and feelings with the GastronomicalGrrrls zine.

[3]  Thao also took this hiatus from Italy to eat a bunch of different forbidden pizza toppings…mostly pineapples, jalapenos, and sausage.


About the author

Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam

Thao (they/them) is a medical anthropologist, budding ethnobotanist, and final year PhD candidate in Ecogastronomy, Education, and Society. Their research focuses on traditional food-medicines in Cambodia. They are the host of the podcast Bites of the Round Table, editor of the food and arts zine Gastronomical Grrrls, and write freelance on topics such as food, migration, and media. Their agenda? Dismantling the kyriarchy.

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About the author

Matt F

Matt F (he/they) edits CHEWn! zine (a zine about food and music and everything loosely held in between), cooks food for the community and for gigs (when there are gigs), listens to Placebo, laments and maybe does some other things. One day he will eat 64 slices of American cheese in less than one evening.

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