Try our ‘Hunger Games’ dishes
BY CAROL HILKER March 21, 2012 1:25AM
Studio illustration for a story on foods and the new movie "The Hunger Games." March 13, 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: April 22, 2012 8:02AM
Fiction writers use countless methods to explain imagery. For some it is clothing, hair color or even wallpaper. for others, it’s food.
From Charles Dickens, who penned the tale of a young orphan who bravely asked for seconds in “Oliver Twist,” to Herman Melville’s chowder at the Try Pots Inn in “Moby Dick,” food has existed in many of our most beloved stories.
Food plays a pivotal role in the popular The Hunger Games. Since its release in 2006, Suzanne Collins’ futuristic young adult fiction trilogy The Hunger Games has sold more than 800,000 copies and has been translated into 26 languages. On Friday, fans will be lining up to see the highly anticipated first of Lionsgate Entertainment’s “Hunger Games” movie franchise starring Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence as the book’s main heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen.
True to its name, “hunger” is a theme interlaced constantly throughout the three-book trilogy. Whether it be in District 12, where foraged edible roots and black market wild game are made into post-apocalyptic meals such as Greasy Sae’s resourceful tree bark, mincemeat and pig entrail soup; the savory lamb stew with dried plums from Panem’s wealthiest region, The Capitol, or the fish-shaped loaf tinted green with seaweed from seaside villages of District 4, the book has no shortage of imaginative cuisine.
Two Chicago chefs — Sandra Holl’s head bread expert Rachel Post of Floriole Bakery and Chris Nugent of goosefoot — agreed to take up the Chicago Sun-Times’ Food section’s challenge of creating a dystopian dish from the mythical land of Panem. A task few would be up to undertaking.
Post admits that it’s not everyday she gets asked, “Would you be willing to make a bread that is kind of salty. And tinted green — with seaweed, perhaps? And shaped like a fish? Oh, and did I mention that it has to be green, from seaweed?”
“At first it sounded pretty crazy, but the flavors work.” says Post of the fish-shaped fougasse bread the she and Holl invented in homage to the green-tinted, fish-shaped bread that represents the seafaring region of a post-apocalyptic North America.
“I was surprised when I was working with different seaweeds how they gave this sort of mineral-ly, herbal-ly flavor nodes to the bread, so it was easy to just work them in with other herbs.” The District 4 loaf by Holl and Post uses sunflower, sea salt and Nori and gets its green tint from a mix of parsley, thyme, tarragon and chives.
For Post, it also was important to keep the bread naturally flavored and colored. And it had to be tasty.
“With some of the pictures we saw online, it just kind of looked like moss green, tinted Play-Doh. It didn’t seem too appetizing, or natural,” she says. For this bread, Post relied on Breslin Farms Whole Wheat Flour from the Green City Market.
Chris Nugent, a 2012 James Beard Award semifinalist and owner of Lincoln Square’s goosefoot, also relies on locally sourced produce for his interpretation of the Capitol’s lamb stew with dried plums on wild grains. Nugent advises, “If you just go to the Green City Market you can find the culinary road map for this dish. Mint Creek Farms is the one that supplies the lamb. And Peter Klein at Seedlings is where we get our plums, and I would get all the greens from Tracy Vowell at Three Sisters in Kankakee. For the Capitol, we’d use the best of everything.”
“For us, this dish is neat because we are kind of taking the futuristic route and taking the classical route and in our own little way, we are merging the two of them together. In the book, maybe it sounds a little more classical, which is how I cook in general. But, I like to mix tradition with a sort of forward thinking way.”
Of the book, Nugent says he can relate to the story. “You know, it’s about surviving, it’s about taking care of each other, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Gale, Katniss, Haymitch. I think it’s kind of interesting, the different character roles they play. It’s kind of like the Chicago chef. There is one master person saying, ‘This is what you need to do.’ And some are like Haymitch — they want to help out, to help someone in their career. They’re giving you great advice on what to do next, and at the same time, they are like ‘Oh. Another one goes.’ You’re proud of them, but at the same time you have to kind of put your head down and recruit, and train the next teammate ... and then ultimately, you just might have to kill them in the Hunger Games someday.”
Carol Hilker is a local free-lance writer.