May the Fourth Be With You

Nerds of the world, rejoice! Star Wars has its own national day in May.

As my regular readers know, I am exploring the National Day Calendar this year. And so, it is with great pleasure that I inform you that May, besides being  a graduation month, and mother’s month, and a labor month, is an incredibly important month for space nerds. I’m guessing you might know one or two, given our proximity to both JPL and Hollywood. National Space Day is May 3, National Astronauts Day is May 5 and the holy grail of nerd holidays is May the Fourth, commonly known as National Star Wars Day.

May the Fourth hasn’t been National Star Wars Day for long. It was initiated in Canada for a 2011 Star Wars film festival, and the date was chosen for the play on words — a brilliant move that I can’t believe wasn’t conceived of earlier. On this day, you should greet everyone with “May the fourth (or force) be with you,” and if you are a real fan, you will don your May the Fourth T-shirt, and serve up some blue milk.

Unfortunately, blue milk (served up by Luke Skywalker’s Aunt Beru in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) is the only real food that can be positively associated with the films. Because, unfortunately for us recipe writers, there is little in the way of eating in any of the other 10 films associated with the franchise. Sure, there are the power-bar-looking things Luke eats on Dagoba (when he first meets Yoda), and there is the magic-towel food Rey eats in Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but there is nothing really significant. No great feast with scenes of our heroes digging in, or extended meal preparation that would inspire a chef-fan. Okay. Aunt Beru does make something with roots; there are incidental fruits (Anakin makes a pear float in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which is supposed to be sexy but isn’t), and there are many creatures eating other creatures (Chewbacca roasts the adorable Porg over a campfire in The Last Jedi).  But if you want to throw a Star Wars Party on May the Fourth (and why wouldn’t you?), you will have to resort to the hackiest method of menu writing — pun foods. There is simply no resource for thoughtful insight into foods of the galaxy.

There is one series of cookbooks officially licensed by Lucasfilm, and it is full of recipes that are amusingly clever plays on words. And that’s totally fine — more power to the authors. They scored gold with that deal, and I would have 100 percent done the same thing. In fact, I have tried and failed to sell franchise tie-in cookbooks over the years. It ain’t easy.

But for me, when creating a themed dinner, I prefer that the recipes tie into the theme’s universe. I want to look into the fictional material and imagine what agriculture would be like, what spices might be available, what cultural cooking methods might be employed. It’s all made up anyway, so why not make it interesting and delicious, rather than simply cute? And for me, a meal must first and foremost be delicious. Wookie Cookies (which are just chocolate chip cookies, and aren’t even hairy), Death Star Cheese Balls, Princess Leia Cinnamon Rolls and Luke Skywaffles are all very amusing, but not really related to the Star Wars universe. And frankly, they wouldn’t make a very nice dinner party.

But that said, I have little to offer because, although it has happened in the past, this year I will not be throwing a May the Fourth party. Mainly because the biggest fan in the family is far away. But also, although my family is incredibly nerdy (which, if you are a regular reader, you’ve already figured out), I’m really not. Once, long ago, I met a guy I thought was cute. I wanted him to like me, so I watched all the sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV shows he liked. They were fine — but I was not moved emotionally by their content to the same extent. I was, however, moved by him. Eventually this nerd fandom progressed to attending conventions and spawning baby nerds. Still, throughout all this I have remained a nerd by association — a contact nerd.

Fast-forward 30 years, and suddenly being a nerd is cool. When we were kids, admitting you were a nerd was super lame, and it almost certainly guaranteed you a swirly (a teenage method of torture too gruesome to describe in a food column). But today being nerdy is sexy. So much so that people just say they are nerds without even really knowing what that means. It is a cultural phenomenon that has lost all meaning because it became ubiquitous — and I won’t do it.

Not really being a nerd, I suppose I ought not be so irked by the appropriation of nerd culture. But it bugs me just as much as sports teams doing Native American chants, and Mickey Rooney playing Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It doesn’t belong to you. Find your own culture, then flaunt that. I don’t suppose it is exactly the same thing, but the inauthenticity annoys me. Then again, who am I to say what makes a nerd authentic? I’m no one, that’s who. But it has been interesting to watch the cultural shift from my vantage point. Having caught the my fifth-grader secretly watching all the Star Wars movies back to back in the middle of the night in preparation for the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces to better understand Luke Skywalker instead of doing math homework, I feel I have at least some insight.

But I suppose that if you are truly a nerd, you’re thrilled that all the cool people are wearing “nerds are sexy” T-shirts. Or perhaps true nerds don’t even notice, or care. And
I think there is something very appealing about people being true to themselves, and liking what they like without the need for cultural validation. Which is why I married one of them.  ||||