For Erelvis Jiménez and Roberto Armas Saladrigas
This exquisite dessert, so emblematic of our era of space conquest, dates back to the 2103 recipe by Iljon Tichy, though some detractors of the celebrated cosmonaut refuse to accept this theory on the grounds that there’s no mention of the now-legendary delicacy in any of the many volumes of Tichy’s well-known Star Diaries. Great is human envy . . . and extraterrestrial envy is even greater.
What remains undisputed is that Rodolfo-Rudy “Basil” Turturro not only baptized the dish with the name by which we now know it, but made it famous galaxy-wide in 2135 by preparing it on board the Nohemi Fleet Outer Systems Vessel Mummeenuh during his first year on board, when he was still just a sous-chef. While there’s no record of that event in his widely consulted Memoirs of a Spaceship Chef, it has been credibly corroborated by several dozen enthusiastic witnesses who were among the fortunate passengers on the vessel in question.
Ever since that bygone era, interstellar biochocolate mousse à la solitaire has been the preferred dessert of astronauts who are embarking on long solo journeys—and are understandably anxious about that fact. It’s estimated that several dozen tons of the delicacy have been prepared in our Milky Way alone, and that’s only counting the batches whipped up by the watch pilots on generation torch-sweeper starships—pilots whose tours of duty necessarily entail months of solitude.
1 (one) pound pure cocoa powder (Theobroma cacao)
If the aforementioned chocolate powder is unavailable, grated chocolate bars will suffice, or even cocoa butter. The latter will give the mousse an antiseptic-white color, not at all as pleasing as the rich brown tones achieved by using pure cocoa.
Avoid the use of synthetic chocolates or crossbreeds like chococorn (Theobromazea cacaomays), as well as any variety of chocolate intended for use as a laxative. Reputable studies have determined that the results are likely to be . . . surprising, with a strong tendency toward the disagreeable.
1 (one) quart pure cow’s milk cream (Bos taurus), chilled
Possible substitutes include cream obtained from pasteurized, semi-skimmed, evaporated, or even condensed milk (though the latter is particularly laborious), rehydrated if necessary. Also acceptable is milk from any other terrestrial bovine species, such as the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis); the Kaffir, or African buffalo (Sycerus cafer); the American bison (Bison bison); or the European bison (Bison bonasus). There are no restrictions against the use of genetically recovered milk from the uro, or auroch (Bos taurus primigenius), or even soy milk, though the more extreme purists will always reject anything that isn’t 100% authentic cow’s milk, and may engage in lengthy debates as to the superiority of milk from the Brown Swiss versus the Holstein.
Warning: Do not under any circumstances attempt to recreate this recipe using so-called “milk” from extraterrestrial creatures like the dragonturkey of Colimán IV (Dracubirdius horribilis) or the flying policephalic shark of Swemartha SVII (Sharkopavornis aeris). The nutritional properties of the protein concentrates regurgitated by the former and excreted by the latter through its skin are impressive, no doubt—just consider the adult size and vertiginous growth rate of the offspring of both species!—but these substitutes are also high in strange enzymes and hormones.
Note that true milk is produced only by mammals, a zoological group that evolved exclusively on Earth. Do not accept mammaloid substitutes. Of the earthly mammals, milk from whales, lions, dogs, seals, or other members of the phylum is not recommended. As with laxative chocolate or synthetic substitutes, the potential consequences of “throwing out the cow for the dolphin,” so to speak, include considerable discomfort.
It is also not advisable to attempt the recipe with other lactic derivatives such as yogurt or cottage cheese, even if they are made with authentic milk from the earthly Bos taurus.
On the other hand, butter can be used, but be warned that the resulting flavor will be stronger and less refined . . . with all the attendant logical consequences.
1 (one) quart of water
The requirements for this liquid are not particularly specific. While the substance in question must indeed be H2O (and not, for example, H2O2, which is hydrogen peroxide), the concentration of organic, inorganic, metallic, and nonmetallic impurities is not an important factor, nor is the hardness or pH level. Distilled water can also be used. It is best to stick to common hydrogen and avoid heavy water-containing isotopes like tritium or deuterium; the resulting flavor and consistency will not vary, but the ingestion of massive doses of radioactive substances is not conducive to human health, as everyone knows.
Half-pound (8 oz.) of sugar
Basically, dextrorotatory disaccharide sucrose (C12H22O11). It may be used in cube or powder form, and may be refined, turbinado, or brown. Its origin is of little importance; it may come from the sugar cane itself (Saccharum officinarum), sugar beets (Beta vulgaris, of the altissima variety), or even the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), or may result from an artificial process. Note that it must be made of sucrose (monosaccharides like glucose or fructose will not yield the same flavor results) and it must not be levorotatory, as the human metabolism cannot process this class of stereoisomers or enantiomers, even though they are indistinguishable in flavor from the dextrorotatories.
21 (twenty-one) oz. of eggs, separated
As with the water, the origin of this ingredient is irrelevant. Rudy “Basil” Turturro was known to use eggs from chickens (Gallus gallus), but it is rumored that once, on a bet, a chef used eggs from an ostrich (Struthio camelus)—in a lesser amount, of course, given their larger size. In theory, it’s possible to achieve the same results with eggs from any bird, whether earthly or extraterrestrial, and even some reptile eggs will do, as long as the weight used remains consistent.
Obviously, eggs from turtles or similar zoological groups are not recommended, given that their whites thicken differently. The same also applies to alien species like the griffinoid of Ar-Guliag VIII (Trifibius entereoblasticus); the eggs themselves are enormous, but so are their embryos, which are markedly aggressive upon fertilization (“virgin” eggs don’t exist). Cracking such an egg into the mixture could lead to a sudden loss of appetite for dessert . . .
Salt (NaCl, sodium chloride), to taste
The amount of salt to add, or whether to add it at all, is at the discretion of the chef—or diner. Note that the mousse may take longer to set in the total absence of salt. But be sure to use sparingly. Arterial hypertension lurks.
1/30 (one-thirtieth) teaspoon coacervated broth from the planet Oparin
This is the recipe’s key ingredient, and what sets this dessert apart from other, more conventional mousses. Obtaining this singular substance may seem impossibly complicated—it’s not currently used in any other known recipe—but given the planet Oparin’s popularity as a tourist destination and the abundance of this type of pre-cellular biotic aggregate in the shallow sea that covers fifty percent of Oparin’s surface, finding small amounts of coacervated broth is much easier than generally believed. Some souvenir shops at transit stations near the planet even sell larger amounts in glass ampoules. Rarer objects, such as dragonturkey tooth splinters or xylogriffin skin shavings (Seudogriffanus sapiens), both used as amulets to promote fertility and good luck, are often to be found in the luggage of professional astronauts.
Prepare a meringue by mixing the whites (previously separated from the yolks, of course) with two teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of salt to stabilize the proteins. Beat vigorously to form snowy peaks or soft airy foam—whichever happens first.
Simultaneously (or shortly thereafter), beat the previously separated yolks (which were set aside, not discarded) with the cream (or butter) and sugar, until the mixture thickens to a semiliquid.
Combine the meringue and custard mixture, adding the grated chocolate or cocoa powder and stirring continuously until the mixture is smooth and uniform in color.
Note: The use of a magnetic mixer is not recommended under zero gravity conditions (the results can be quite violent) nor should the mixture be exposed to the frigid conditions and vacuum of outer space. While that may increase the mousse’s volume considerably, it can also irreversibly denature some of the key proteins that give the mousse its flavor, as freezing temperatures are known to break up carbon chains.
The recipe yields five large portions; serve these in bowls, cups, or glasses, according to preference, but do not overfill—the mousse may still expand.
Set aside four containers to chill (but not in the freezer or in outer space). Add the coacervated broth to the fifth portion, then take it to the fusion reactor’s external cooling chamber and let it rest there for a while.
Warning: Never, never add the coacervated broth to the other four portions. And remember to wear the appropriate anti-radiation attire. There’s no reason to risk leukemia just because you crave a little chocolate!
Essential: The final results depend in large part on the chef/diner’s patience during this step. If the fifth portion is only exposed for an hour to the radiation, hard ultraviolet rays, and static electricity in the cooling chamber, the incipient biopreparation will barely be able to drag itself along on its pseudopodia . . . . Even in the best of cases, the resulting porifera, coelenterate, tunicate, or other evolutionary equivalents will barely have gone beyond the sessile phase.
On the other hand, after an exposure time of several hours, it’s very possible that what escapes from the portion of mousse made with coacervated broth will be full of curiosity and ready to inspect the recipient that once contained it. Said escapee may crawl or even run around the cooling chamber on its articulated chitin legs in search of food and new experiences. Some have even sprouted wings, flitting about erratically. Whatever the case, it’s sure to be an enchanting spectacle.
Exposures of between twelve and twenty-four hours are especially recommended. While the results are random in nature, in ninety percent of cases the organism thus obtained will be more than capable of communicating in one way or another, whether through vocalizations, signs, or even—in rare, but documented cases—partial telepathy.
For this very reason, however, it is not recommended that the mixture be exposed to the intensely mutagenic factors in the cooling chamber for more than one day. The aim is to create a roughly compatible dining companion, not a being so developed it devours the diner ipso facto . . . or even worse (if applicable), squashes him like a cockroach (Periplaneta Americana) without conceding him the status of a sentient being—or, worse still, without noticing his existence in the first place.
In addition to the use of the radiation suit to recover the fifth portion of mousse, the selection of an appropriate deterrent before entering the external cooling chamber is recommended. A simple plasma bow or low-powered anti-matter disintegrator will do—nothing instantly lethal. More destructive weapons are also an option, as long as the user possesses a sure enough aim to avoid obliterating the reactor along with the hypothetically dangerous . . . or undesired . . . organism.
Obviously, these are extreme and unlikely scenarios. If the selection of ingredients and preparation (neither of which are terribly difficult, as illustrated above) are even moderately correct, the result will be a charming bio-pet that will effectively alleviate the stresses of a long, lonely journey.
A final word of advice: The first moments of contact are the most decisive. Call to it softly, pet it (if still slightly radioactive it may glow in the dark . . . which shouldn’t be too much of a health hazard), spoil it, make sure it recognizes and loves you . . . and as soon as you can, bring it to the ship’s dining quarters and share with it the exquisite chocolate mousse that has been refrigerated in anticipation of this very moment.
And here is why the recipe yields no fewer than four portions (without coacervated broth—that cannot be stressed enough). It should be clear by now that neither the diner nor his new pet will be satisfied with just one exquisite helping. And as they savor spoonful after spoonful, both will understand the meaning of the Latin word for chocolate: Theobroma, food of the gods.
“Mousse de biochocolate espacial a la solitaria . . . para dos comensales” © Yoss. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016 by Hillary Gulley. All rights reserved.