Review by C.J. Bunce
I’m just going to say it. This may be the greatest pop culture celebration book ever. It couldn’t be more keyed-in on its source material and fan base. Ugh. Gah. Zhuuh. You’ll make those sounds and more going through the recipes in Alien: The Official Cookbook, the latest Alien franchise tie-in book and a food prep guide for anyone planning the ultimate Halloween party. “Gross!” You can just hear those kids who are fans of gross-out movies as they try to pick what course to make first. It’s disturbing and a masterpiece at the same time. Normally I wouldn’t review a cookbook without preparing some of the meals, so I can present a read on the design and content as well as the desirability of the food. This is an exception, first: to get it out to you before Halloween weekend, and second: because if you’re like me then making these selections for a party will be more for the visual surprise than the eating (I may double back later for a review of the meals, too).
Eggs, chestbursters, and xenomorphs. Oh, my! The dishes are all presented in a way Alien designer H.R. Giger would have loved. Alien is known for its dinner scene, cut short by… intervening events of a horrific nature. (Insert a screaming Veronica Cartwright as Lambert here). Thanks to cookbook writer Chris-Rachel Oseland, you, too, can experience something similar.
Imagine having your friends over for a costume party–or better yet, invite them over any other time of year for a quiet dinner party. Maybe invite your ultra-serious boss over. Then start unveiling the courses with a straight face and see how they react–the ultimate… tasteless… dinner party. The cookbook is divided into items featuring eggs, both actual eggs and concoctions that look like eggs, a concept at the center of the Alien movies. Chef Oseland pulled out all the stops identifying every vegetable she could re-arrange to look like a simmering alien beastie. Cheese-stuffed mushroom eggs, stuffed acorn squash, hash brown quiche nests… those are only the starting point.
Just as visceral, maybe more graphic even, are the facehugger dishes. Vintage shrimp facehuggers, pear and cardamom upside-down cake, facehugger cordon bleu over potato skins. Make it stop! Nesting peppers sound tasty, until you see the design. Then the facehugger dishes: cucumber chestburster shaved salad, coiled chestburster veggie pastilla, red pepper quiche with sausage chestburster, whole roasted carrot chestbuster surprise, banana cream pie tarts. Save me! Oseland ups the ante by finding foods that look like teeth for her section on queen xenomorph dishes. Who knew pears could look so sinister? Do you have what it takes to face these repulsive creations? Of course you do.
I love that the book is organized not by the typical food types: hors d’oeuvres, salad, breads, main course, desserts, etc. Instead it’s divided into egg-looking foods, facehuggers creations, chestburster creations, toothy queen xenomorphs, and sauces.
Chef Oseland hasn’t forgotten the flavor, including an extra section featuring some of her trademark sauces. Beyond the recipes, she offers meal ideas–uses for the dishes and suggested combinations for the right occasion. She includes options to adjust dishes for vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo, halal, kosher, and gluten-free meals. And, of course, the book is interspersed with images from the film.
I love this book, and I can’t stop cringing and laughing at its clever–gross, but clever–ideas. You can also see the book being used for film school students interested in making prop foods for sci-fi or horror TV and movies. Delayed by the pandemic and just released from Titan Books in time for your Halloween fun, Chris-Rachel Oseland’s Alien: The Official Cookbook is available now in a full-color hardcover edition here at Amazon.