We're stepping into the kitchen in today's Concept Art Writing Prompt, with a hardworking alien chef. Is he working from a cookbook titled To Serve Man, or just trying to dish out a delicious meal? And why is that little girl skulking around in the background?
This illustration was created by Sylvain Marc, via The Art of Animation. This is part of a series of illustrations Marc made for the French children's magazine Moi Je Lis, about life aboard a spaceship. If you need further inspiration, you can see more illustrations from the series on Marc's blog.
Post your story in the comments. Here's mine:
After she cleared her plate, Rebinka slipped between the swinging doors into the kitchen. AI Fred was on the fritz lately, and he wouldn't even notice that she wasn't in xenobiology. Anyway, she figured that any time spent with Chef Xigwix should count as xenobio extra credit.
Chef Xigwix didn't notice her at first; he was too busy trying to wedge a can opener into a can of pickled octopus. Xigwig had arms all the way down his caterpillar body, but his fingers were little better than toes, and so far no one had bothered to manufacture a can opener for Grubling hands.
"Chef Xigwix!" Rebinka shouted, causing the can opener to shoot from the surprised Grubling's toe-fingers and clatter into a shelf of pots.
"Rebinka!" Xigwix gasped, letting the octopus can thud to the prep table. He whirled away around and peered at the girl. "What are you doing in here? Shouldn't you be in class?"
Rebinka tapped her pencil over the top of her notepad. She'd seen footage of old reporters carrying spiral-bound paper notepads, and she'd printed one off. It had taken forever with all those individual sheets of paper. "I'm here on behalf of the Tokugawa Tattler. Is that genuine Terran octopus you've got there?"
Xigwix began rifling through the shelf of pots, looking for the can opener. "Not from Terra, but Terra-cloned, yes. Now if you'll get out of my villi, I have a lot of work to do for tonight's dinner." He pulled out the can opener and wiped his forehead with one of his free arms.
"What do you say to rumors that you receive kickbacks for buying Eridanian flibberfish molded to look like Terran octopus?" Rebinka poised her pencil over her notepad.
"Do you even know how to write by hand?" Xigwix asked.
Rebinka crinkled her nose as her tongue darted out of her mouth. "I learned in motor skills," she said.
"Fair enough," Xigwix waved the can opener over the top of the notepad's spiral. "Alright, Miss Motor Skills. If you're going to stay in here, you might as well make yourself useful." Rebinka accepted the can opener and set down her notepad. "In answer to your question," Xigwix said as she crunched the wheel around the can's lid, "I would never feed the crew Eridanian flibberfish as humans don't digest Eridanian food terribly well. And a hungry crew is a cranky crew."
Rebinka handed the partially opened can back to Xigwix, who peeled back the lid and dumped the contents into a large mixing bowl. "I don't know," she said, "Captain Fred seems pretty cranky most of the time."
Xigwix grinned. "And imagine how much worse he would be if I was feeding him flibberfish." He turned his attention to chopping a pile of greens.
"What is that?" Rebinka asked, pointing to the leaves.
"Cilantro," he said. "Want to taste?"
She snagged a leaf and set it on her tongue. Almost immediately, she spat it out. "It tastes like soap!"
"Really?" He sniffed a leaf and then put it in his own mouth. He cocked his head toward Rebinka. "You don't like cilantro."
"No," she said, "I don't."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
She shrugged. "Mom says just to eat everything."
Xigwix thought for a moment, then walked into the kitchen's hydroponics bay. He returned with a stem from a different plant. "Try this."
Rebinka accepted the leaf, but this time, took the tiniest bite she could manage. She smacked her lips, then tried a larger bite. She nodded. "This is good."
Xigwix propped up all the arms on the side of his body, a motion that gave him a comically unbalanced look. "Rebinka, would you like to come here after class sometimes and give me a hand with the cooking? I could use a human tongue in the kitchen."
Rebinka stared down at her notebook, which was now flecked with bits of octopus juice. "Chef Xigwix, do you think cooking is more fun than being a journalist?"
Xigwix smiled. "I think cooking is more fun than anything."
Mel Chow sends us to a very unusual restaurant:
Raleigh Claire watches as the Chef struggles to open the can with three-out-of-many hands, his pointy green nose turning a deep shade of red. Finally, he succeeds, and a spray of purple vapour gushes from the opening made by the can-opener, leaving a rather obvious stain on the pastel white wall. Deftly finishing the job, he empties its contents straight onto the (also pastel white) countertop.
A smoking, vaguely quivering glop of purple.. something. She looks at the label on the now empty can. Just some random formless blo..no wait, an octopus.
She looks at the Chef, and gestures with the pencil and notepad in her hands.
On four out of his six legs, the Chef skitters over, and dumps the purple glop on a large hunk of faintly glowing meat in a bubbling saucepan. Raleigh Claire had seen the meat since she first arrived at Lepido's. For thirteen days and thirteen nights, it had sat in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil, basking in its pulsating orange light.
And wailed all the way throughout.
"Tentacle of the T̛h҉ir̕ty͘-Fo̵u͘r͟," the Chef says with a giddy smile. "Adds flavour, limited only by your..imagination."
"Best not to think too much about it though. You might start thinking in the wrong direction and well.."
The Chef sniffs the air.
"Alright! Special Sauce's almost ready! I'll be at the back, now you be a good munchkin and mind the store~"
And with that, the Chef lifts the saucepan off the stove with four arms, and skips to the door at the back.
"And remember munchkin, here at Lepido's, the best tasting yummies are made from.."
"..The blood and innards of screaming innocents!"
"Love munchkin, love! Not the blood and innards of the screaming innocents! Geez.."
And with that, he walks through the door at the back and it slides shut.
Raleigh Claire whistles as she twiddles her pencil idly. She does not have to wait long before she sees it. Through the porthole. Floating in the inky void of deep space.
Their first customers of the day.
The two of them float towards Lepido's, probably carried by the cosmic winds upon their outstretched, leathery wings. Humanoid, save for the wings, extra pair of limbs and feathery antennae where their heads should be.
One of them knocks on the porthole. It gazes at Raleigh with baleful red eyes embedded upon its chest.
Raleigh smiles a toothy grin, and waves.
A loud noise, a blinding flash of red light and the two of them are standing within the pastel white walls of Lepido's. They lower their wings behind them, and look about. Their skin is pitch black.
Pencil and notepad in hand, Raleigh Claire runs up to the two of them, jumps up and down, and smiles.
"Hello! And welcome to Lepido's! May I take your order sirs?"
Silence. They look down at her with their crimson eyes. She looks back at them, the smile still on her face. The silence drags on. The corner of her mouth starts to twitch.
Mercifully, one of them breaks the silence.
"Lepido's? I do not understand. This is indeed the Argent Pontifex! But..how..why..it was presumed destroyed, blown to smithereens by the Holy Empire of Paptimus Pang!"
The eyes of the other narrow, as it twiddles its antennae.
"Perhaps it was merely cast adrift, just as we are."
The first looks down at Raleigh.
"Tell us little one. Are there others alive upon this ship? Do other wings of the Elder Ones flit through the hallowed corridors of the Argent Pontifex?"
Raleigh Claire blinks, wide-eyed, and furrows her brow.
Erm..I..don't think so. But there's the Chef! I think he can help you!"
She runs to the door at the back.
"Oh Chef! There're some reeaallly nice people you'll like to meet~"
The first follows her, striding quickly to the door upon slender legs.
"Indeed. I have heard the..legends about that ensign. A little off the rocker..but nevertheless, arguably the best chef aboard the Argent Pontifex. What good fortune that we can partake of his cuisine, after drifting through the nether for so lon-"
-he stops, for Raleigh Claire had pushed a button, and the door to the back had slid open.
Beyond the door to the back, the room in the back has the same pastel white walls. Pastel white walls, stained and smeared a sickly greenish-blue. Greenish-blue, smeared thick, and chunky in a few places.
Greenish-blue, also seeping from the multitude of slashed open cocoons littered about the room, stacked in some corners from floor to ceiling.
The Chef stands in a corner, having just scooped a dollop of the Greenish-Blue out of a still-quivering cocoon. He turns around and sees them. He stops. His mouth hangs open. Silence.
The dollop of Greenish-Blue falls into the saucepan with a loud plop.
The last thing they remember is a loud slurp, and the voice of the second calling from the room in the front.
"Mmmm, oh my! This, this is genuine Tentacle of the T̛h҉ir̕ty͘-Fo̵u͘r͟! But just h̷oẁ ͝d̷i͜d h͏ę ́g̕e҉t͞ ̶it, įt͟'͡s ̶s̀up̶po̵s̡e̶d̴ t̡͊ͩ̎̈ͩͪ̍͊̚͏̨̫̙̯̞̺͓͔̭̰͚͞ͅo̼̰͈̻̪̥̘̘̍́ͤ̈́̉̇̐͛̔̑̂̓̊̂ͫ̾̋̽́͘͟͝ ̸̡ͦ̊̉̏ͭ͌͋̒̊̆̚͏̶͏̩̰͍͎̱̘̬̤̞̺͍̦b̸͈͍͚̱̖̟̩͈̪͖̫͖̞̩̼ͭ̉ͩ̂̂ͩ̌͗̇ͣ̈́̂ͮ̊͒͌́́e̵̗͍̫̤̖͖̱̠͎̪̖̺̗̤͎̥̩̐͗ͦ̊̿ͬ̊͂͋͊ͮ̆̅̀͘͘͠ͅ ̸̶̧̰̞̞̲̼̬̪̭̼̼̟͇͎̜̼ͩ̏̀͗͗ͪ̅͂̂̎ͯ́̊c̡̢̩̗̭͖̯͙̮̮̬̻̦͍̫̟ͮ̓̅̽͗̾͌̍̍̔͒ͪ͂͑̉̂ͯ̉̀͜ǒ̟̤͓̤̬͔̓̌ͥ̈̕n̑ͤͭ̇̃͌ͨ͗ͥ̒̋ͧ̚͏̴̛̩͇̘̪̫͍͇͔̜t̵̹̳̞͓̣̝͕̺̙̺̰̝̼̠̘ͭͩ̉̀̅̔ͯ̒̆̽̆̓̍̅̒͟͡r̴̟̬̮̮͚̱̣̬ͧ̌͐̾ͯͣͥͮ̊͘͜͞-̸̛̰͖͈͖͉̞̼̞̣̦̤͈ͥ̋̔͌͛̓̔̀̍̎̈́̈́̍͜͞"̡̿̈ͥ͗͒̑ͮ͐̅ͮͦ̈́ͣͤ͋ͬ̋̀̚҉̙̼̰͕̲̟̹̣̠̟͔͇͢ͅ
* * *
The two of them sit under a pink sky, watching it redden and the two moons rise. The Chef sticks a skewer into a still quivering cocoon, and with all six hands, deftly heaves it upon the firepit. Raleigh Claire pokes it with her pencil for abit, before going back to chewing on a rather crispy bit of wing.
Below them, in a crater filled with fire, smoke, mangled hull and other squirming unmentionables, the wreckage of the Argent Pontifex burns.
"So when's it gonna be me?"
The Chef looks away from the roasting cocoon, to see Raleigh Claire prodding him with her pencil.
"Hmm?" But he already knows what she means. He gives her a giddy little smile, and turns to throw more kindling upon the firepit.
"Don't worry my little munchkin, don't worry," he says. "After all, it's a whole universe out there, and I always save the best for last."
ChrisWhiteWrites notes that cooking isn't just for food:
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth
He's been taking this form for the last week – he always says something like "the more hands the merrier," or tells us how "handy" it is. It seems to make paying attention that much more difficult, when he inserts puns into our lessons. "Many hands make light work," he'll mutter, as though he were talking to himself, as though we don't notice him looking around the classroom for some response; the same reason he wears that ridiculous hat – hoping someone will mention it, that we'll strike up a conversation. Never look up from your notes. If he catches your eye he'll smirk, come walking over for some "one-on-one time."
I look up at the blackboard, but he mistakes it for a question. He sidles over, his intention clear. "You see, my dear, the cephalopods are possible the most important ingredient." He takes my bowl and wooden spoon, pushing me aside. "Watch and learn, little one, watch and learn. I hate it when he gets pontifical during a lecture, the way he patronises us – like we're children, cooking up our first little universe. "Mmmmm…you have to balance out your worlds, you need to add these layers to spice it up for the natives. Give them some history!"
You need to start off small, start with simple proteins in a chemical soup. Build up to the self-replicating agents – he can tell if you cheat, adding more complex vectors before their time. He can always tell, and the first they'll know about it is the sky aflame, a meteorite hastily assembled and sent on a collision course. He wiped out my reptiles last week, made me start over. He takes the spoon in hand and starts stirring in the cephalos. I wanted to put them in a bit later on, wanted to have something different to take over from the apes, even though the syllabus insists that the proper order is Fish, Reptiles, Small Mammals, Intelligent Apes, Rodents (technically just small mammals again.) After the rodents. That's when we're allowed to freestyle.
My fingers itch to get back into the mixture, "I can handle it Professor!" I insist, and reluctantly he steps aside. "Yes, very well, but don't let me catch you cheating. You know the dough needs to sit for seven days before you can inject intelligence."
In internetsoftguy's story, the alien has something to fear from this curious little girl:
"Carajo! This can won't open" said José, a latinamerican illegal alien in the USSA, working as a part time chef in a hipster pizzeria near Brooklyn.
"Uhm. This guy looks suspicious" thought Kimberly, the undercover pink ranger of the USSA Bureau of Foreign Issues, drawing closer to look at his weird foreign-looking eight arms.
"Can I help you with something", said Kim, stressing the s in something for some reason.
It -for in the place it came from, males had to prove themselves before given the honor of being called a hombre- kept trying to open the can, smashed it against the counter and looked back.
"What do you want?" it said.
"Where do you come from, misster..." she said looking at his name tag "Jossé?"
"San Francísco" it said, getting a bit nervous.
"Very well. Please come with me misster Jossé, we've got some issues to discuss" said the little girl, showing him her Bureau ID.
Arizona_Bkr teaches us how to prepare alien cuisine:
Sk'ataar was not a people person, and space knows he didn't even really seem too comfortable with the idea of someone watching him at work, taking notes. His Vrshiishk accent was really thick, and Maya struggled to follow along.
"A-get good, eh, what is word, ingredient," he said, with extra enunciation on the last word. "Jes, a-get gude ingredients, 'coz dat de start of a gude food, jes?"
Good ingredients, she wrote on her notepad.
He started with oil from a shakrak's kidney, and cut up some tiraks and some djuzu, dumped them in the pan, and sautéed them.
"A-keep de vegebles not too, eh, soft," he said. "No like uh, what is Earth vegeble, one I don't like, ahnion. Not like ahnions, dat ya want all soft and cooked-like."
Tiraks and juzu [sic] stay firm, she wrote.
He started some water and boiled some anzi. After about two minutes he turned the water off, drained most of the water, and put the anzi in the pan along with a little bit of water. They were pale, soft little polyps that looked like a bizarre combination of grains of rice, and krill or tiny shrinp.
"Sahm o' de water ya wanna save," he said. "A-don't keep anzi on de fryin' heat too long. A-wanna hev 'em on jahst a minute."
Save some anzi water, anzi not too long on pan, she wrote.
He turned the heat off and scraped the contest of the pan into a bowl. He moved the bowl over the counter.
"Nowie de spices," he said, and he shook some chakri, some avark, and just a tiny amount of chii on it, and stirred it up. The tiny amount of chii made the whole thing turn an unnatural shade of blue. It almost looked like it was glowing.
"Dennie de meat," he said, taking the can opener in one of his upper arms and slowly getting the valshrig can open. (He had eight arms, but they were all far weaker than an average human's.)
In the can was foul-smelling gray goop that had once been a two-ton tentacled beast.
Sk'ataar dropped the gray goop into the bowl with gusto, using a fork to aid little bits stuck to the sides, and then proceeded to plop another one in. "A-drop 'em in," he said. "De valshrik, in de bowl."
Drop in bowl, she wrote, now impatiently awaiting further instructions.
"Now, a-make shoore: de valshrik, a-smell good."
It didn't smell good, but then again, valshrig never did.
"What do I look for in valshrig smell?" she said.
"I dunno, ya know, a-smell good. No smell all, eh, likie dead fish."
She was sort of confused now. Given the choice, she would have gone with dead fish any day of the week.
Valshrig shouldn't smell like dead fish, she wrote.
"A-stir up de stahff in bowl," he said. "All de valshrik, all de anzi, all o' de veggies. A-get 'em gude and mixed. Mixie, mixie, mixie. Mixie den even more, jes?" He laughed a little.
The more-or-less authentic Kovachkian-style valshrig-and-anzi was ready. "Valshrik ready!" he yelled at an uncomfortable volume. Maya had no idea what her next lesson would be.
Drabbler deals with the problems of futuristic kitchen regulation:
"Thirteen hundred dollars?" Chef yelled, crumpling the tiny pink ticket. "My kitchen is impeccable!"
Rita made a show of pretending to glance at her notes. "For starters, there's your seafood chef."
"Fergus? Is this because he's a caterpillar? He has all the necessary permits and licenses, and he's wearing a complete set of safety gear, well beyond requirements! This is just harassment!"
Rita snorted. "Please. This has nothing to do with him being a caterpillar, and you know it. Did you think I wouldn't notice he's left-handed? I could have you shut down for having a leftie in your kitchen!"