The Zombie Foodie Diet
By all estimates, I have about ten days to live.
Apparently, a very real plague is due to take over the world within the month, turning every human being on the planet into extras from The Walking Dead. This got me thinking.
One thing that zombies and I have in common is the fact that we love to eat. Zombies eat brains. I eat all other food.
I’ve been an amateur chef for over twenty years now, having learned at my mother’s side growing up in our suburban home in the San Fernando Valley. My mom always had me helping out in the kitchen, and it wasn’t long before I developed an exotic palette at an early age.
I’ve spent most of my adult years putting that palette to use. I’ve developed an appreciation for the finer things, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to let an unstoppable necro-virus get in the way of that.
I’m going for the good stuff.
The theory goes like this: Kobe beef tastes wonderful because of the strict rules under which cows are raised. They are grass-fed, free-roaming beasts that are massaged and coddled all of their blissful lives. And because of this, their meat is delicious.
So I’m out to find Kobe-level human brains.
During one of my more despondent moments in the last month or so, I was reminiscing and sifting through my Facebook page when I came upon a pic I took at an Annenberg lecture by Frances Anderton. Then it hit me.
I grabbed my laptop and immediately sifted through every bastion of brain power I could think of. I scoured sites like TED, NPR, McSweeney’s, NASA and the Harvard Business Review. I discovered a virtually limitless supply of well-cured brains before me. They were all so perfect. All of those brilliant minds often encased in soft, nerdy bodies. These were not people who could run fast or put up a fight. These were people who had memberships at Burke-Williams and ate very well, exercising their jaw muscles over any others in their bodies. My mouth actually began to salivate.
After a great deal of research, I decided I would work my way from the west coast to the east, dining on the best of the best. I developed the following meal plan:
LOS ANGELES, CA: Ken Robinson
Diced brain scouse with diced swede, onion, carrots and potatoes. Served in multi-grain organic sourdough bread bowl, with aubergine crisps and a shiny red apple on the side for the teacher. Paired with Fess Parker 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay.
Robinson’s wit and wisdom will undoubtedly be a delectable place to start. The marbled texture of his gray matter must be incredibly tasty.
PALO ALTO, CA: Susan Wojcicki Wafer-thin sliced brain served on sheets of pineapple glass with blown sugar isomalt spheres and transparent ravioli. Paired with white sangria in suspension and finished off with a guava snow egg.
Susan Wojcicki’s brain deserves an innovative, forward-thinking touch, which is why I’ve opted for a molecular gastronomic feast. Only someone who was at the beginning of videos on the internet could get me to break out my chemistry set.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Anne Lamott
Raw brain with organic hemp granola, flax seed and almond milk. Served with berries and greek yogurt. Paired with virgin piña colada protein smoothie.
ANNE LAMOTT is a wonder. Her books like Help Thanks Wow, Small Victories and Bird by Bird got me through college and years beyond. She always helped me enjoy the grace of everyday moments, and I find it only fitting to enjoy her quintessentially bay area brain in an earthy, natural way with only organic, locally-sourced ingredients.
NAPA VALLEY, CA: Dave Matthews
Skewered and grilled brain sosaties with herbs and green peppers. Served with traditional South African Geelrys and vetkoek. Paired with, of course, Dreaming Tree 2011 Crush Red. Best consumed under the table and dreaming.
Few musicians are able to manage a steady stream of hits and a winery at the same time. Only the multi-talented Matthews could pull off such a feat, so there’s got to be a pretty incredible brain in that body. I can almost hear it begging me to open up my head and let me out.
LAS VEGAS, NV: Teller
Baked brain wrapped in chains and submerged for thirty minutes in giant tank of water. Then withdrawn and placed in a small featureless box and speared blindly. Once removed, brain is served en flambé in cherry sauce with mashed sweet potatoes and kale chips. Paired with a classic Silent Third served neat.
Teller has forever been an enigma to many of us. He has always drawn my attention far more than his loquacious partner, Penn, and this time is no different. For decades I’ve been wanting to dig into his brain and figure out how he makes all of his magic — without uttering a word. I plan on having some very lengthy discussions with this genius before enjoying his brain in absolute silence.
MISSOULA, MT: John Green
Freeze-dried brain served in a segmented tray with reconstituted mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and warm apple cobbler. Heated in the microwave for ninety seconds and served in front of what else, but a screen full of excellent programming. Paired with an ice cold can of Jolt Cola.
What better way to enjoy this quintessentially prolific brain than by encasing it in a dining experience that seems, much like Mr. Green himself, from another place and time when things just seemed to make more sense. Only a TV dinner could take all of the parts of the multi-faceted creative and educational guru behind Crash Course, VidCon and The Fault in Our Stars and compartmentalize them into a nice, orderly meal. Mama always said that I should always eat my greens, after all.
CHICAGO, IL: Ira Glass
Deep dish Chicago-style pizza topped with crumbled brain, sweet Italian sausage, parmesan and capers. Served with a heaping portion of vocal fries. Paired with a glass (get it) of Jameson on the rocks.
This American life is bound to be delicious. For years I’ve listened to Mr. Glass spin tales of human wonder, and I can only imagine what that’s done to the three pounds of squishy stuff between his oh-s0-seasoned ears. I mean, the primary auditory cortex of his temporal lobe must be one of the most exquisite in America. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.
BLOOMINGTON, IN: Jill Bolte Taylor
Whole brain sliced down the middle and plated on a bed of spinach with turmeric-infused olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Served with individual ramekins of curry, dark chocolate, broccoli, walnuts, berries and beets. Paired with a bottle of 2013 Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
This woman knows brains, and I plan to enjoy hers the way she did — by experiencing the connections between each hemisphere as they hit the tip of my tongue. I consider this meal a stroke of pure genius.
CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ: Maysoon Zayid
Ground brain Kibbeh Roll filled with pistachio, onion, bulgar and spices. Served with stuffed cabbage rolls, maftoul and fattet hummus. Paired with a glass of Arak Madu (shaken, not stirred).
Ms. Zayid’s identity revolves both around her Palestinian heritage and her life with Cerebral Palsy. But like most of my heroines, she has not let her disability hold her back. Her success as a hilarious comedienne, dedicated nonprofit founder and insightful social critic make her brain one of the most fascinating on this list.
This particular meal will be a bit of a gamble. If there’s anything to be learned from IBM Watson’s recipes, it’s that I should not expect a Michelin-level meal. Fortunately, Ms. Breazeal’s masterful technologies like JIBO will keep me company, so at least the conversation will be interesting.
BROOKLYN, NY: Reggie Watts
Grilled brain with whatever comes to mind at the time. For this recipe, it seems only fitting that I improvise it on the spot. Paired with a Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier in honor of Watts’ birthplace in Stuttgart.
Reggie Watts is a force of nature, and I am under no misconceptions that finding him in the first place will be easy. His unpredictable nature makes him one of the most challenging brains on the menu. Someone who comes up with a gem like “innovation is an innovation unto itself” is not to be trifled with. But I’m game, and looking forward to discovering the man inside.
BROOKLYN, NY: Maria Popova
Diced brain served with a selection of Bulgarian dishes like pecheni chushki, kyopolou and snezhanka salad. Paired with a traditional Brooklyn cocktail and a heaping platter of Friedrich Nietzsche, Susan Sontag and Margaret Mead.
My father’s birthplace has always had a special draw for me, and this time is no different. I imagine Ms. Popova’s brain will taste like a sweet sponge on the palette, and I expect it to help me recall all of the great words of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years. I just hope I’ll still have an appetite at this stop along the way — the last thing I want to do is just pick at my food.
BANGOR, ME: Stephen King
Butterflied brain, one side pounded flat with a wooden mallet, the other thinly-sliced and served raw over white rice. Paired with a traditional bloody mary. Finish it off with a nice slice of blueberry pie for dessert.
Talk about a well-seasoned, one-of-a-kind brain. I can’t think of a more fitting end to the first chapter of my journey. I’m sure Mr. King won’t mind my stopping by for a visit. After all, as he said in his Dark Tower series:
No one ever does live happily ever after, but we leave the children to find that out for themselves.
Well, now that I’ve put together my menu, all I have to do is reminisce about days gone by and wait for the symptoms of the plague to kick in. These include dizzyness, slurred speech, slacked facial muscles, uncontrolled drooling and bloodshot eyes. And yet, I seem to be fine. All I feel is hungry.
I think I’ll go for a walk.
If you have any recommendations on recipes for me to include on my culinary journey through apocalyptic dystopia, please add your victim — er… meal idea to the comments below.