Carp Surprise

Having looked over the Stardew recipe list many times now I can say with absolute confidence that no other dish has a name as hilariously unappetizing as "Carp Surprise." I mean, that's an intriguingly bad premise, right from the start. Add in the description--"bland and oily"--and it's downright irresistible, just from a curiosity standpoint.

I did not follow a recipe, as I felt reasonably certain I could produce a bland and oily fish dish all on my own. I was correct! (I did it by heating up the fish in a pan, and then taking no further steps.) The real surprise of Carp Surprise is not that it matches the description exactly, but rather that carp contain significantly more bones than you would think possible, just based on physics. So many bones.

The other surprise of our specific round of Carp Surprise was not that it was received poorly by the children, but rather that one child threw up proactively, about fifteen minutes before dinner was even served. Astounding!

I did not document said sick child in the hour of her illness, as it was actually quite pitiful, but she did gamely do a dramatic reenactment of her sorry state for me the next day.

Her sister was unimpressed by the performance, and provided her own interpretation of events.

ASSESSMENT: Bland, oily, and surprising, this recipe delivered on its promises 100%. I would sooner re-visit the sea cucumber than the carp.

PROJECT STATUS: Just tearing through all the iffy seafood bits


Lucky Lunch

You would think that for my birthday I would choose a Stardew recipe as far to the edge of the Very Pleasant scale as possible, one of the two lovely cakes perhaps or a blueberry tart or even a nice stack of pancakes. But what you may not realize is that for me, the greatest, most prized and elusive feeling in this life is not enjoyment or satisfaction or indulgence, but rather relief. In this specific instance, the relief of crossing one of the most baffling/concerning items off of my to-do list, courtesy of my friend Alex, she of the insisting that I make every recipe, even Lucky Lunch and all the stuff with eels. (No eels yet, saving that as a Christmas gift to myself, probably.)

In-game, Lucky Lunch is one of the best dishes to have because it bestows a +3 luck buff, which is invaluable in endeavors such as mining. In real life, making a cohesive, edible dish out of a tortilla, a fictional flower, and a sea cucumber is a significant challenge. 

I eyed the edible flowers at Central Market for a very long time, but 1) they looked nothing like the Blue Jazz of the game, and 2) they were not at all appealing as an element of a seafood dish. I decided the best solution was a pile of purplish micro greens, which give a sort of flowery effect and could be tossed with a vinaigrette to make a reasonable, salad-y base.

If you squint and back up very very vey very very very very far away this look essentially the same as the flower

The next element was the tortilla, which is the only bit of Lucky Lunch that is very easy, especially when you have Alex there to draw a star pattern for you after you make a couple of clumsy attempts at it. Fry up that star tortilla and you're good to go.

The last hurdle is the sea cucumber, which at first blush seems like it might be impossible to obtain without significant expense and/or hassle, oh well, until you realize that you live in a city with a number of very well-stocked Asian markets, and that Alex is going to gift you with a package of frozen sea cucumbers as well as a tub of Filipino corn and cheese ice cream. My cup truly runneth over, or at least my freezer does.

Always exciting to receive a package of food that includes the instructions "Remove intestines." Here's what a small sea cucumber looks like when you cut into it:

Just chock full of...all sorts of stuff

And here's what I look like relieving said sea cucumber of its insides. Please note that seven years later, my "interacting with sea life" face has remained remarkably consistent.


The thing about sea cucumber is that it has a very gelatinous texture which is a a struggle if it isn't something you're used to. I decided to cut it into small bits, cover it with curry powder, and fry it to give it a little crispness.

And then I made Alex eat some, which honestly she should 100% have seen coming.

ASSESSMENT: Was this meal lucky? The fact that it turned out not only edible but kind of good? Feels pretty lucky to me.

PROJECT STATUS: Dragging itself into summer.


Rhubarb Pie

Today feels like...it needs a pie? Of all the Stardew recipes I had never tried before, Rhubarb Pie was probably at the top of my list of things I was looking forward to, even though it involved explaining to my children "yes, it's a vegetable" about a dozen times. I went with all-rhubarb, because I've had strawberry pie before, and a shortening-based crust and I am 100% converted because it was much easier to work with than butter. According to that NYT recipe, using shortening is what makes it American pie rather than a French pastry, which makes sense because it's less healthy and less work and also what I am doing from now on because I am a patriot.

Trans fats! Super easy (as long as you do not care at all about what it actually looks like)


Look how RUSTIC and SPRINGY in front of the green leaves, there are practically wavy cartoon aroma lines emanating from it

How I view my emerging gray stripes update, deceased GOT characters edition:

Most days

Best days

ASSESSMENT: "Mmm, tangy and sweet!" Every word the truth.

PROJECT STATUS: Crazy like a Gray Fox Wolf Mockingbird


Survival Burger

On its face, "Survival Burger" seems like a recipe you would only want to make in pretty dire circumstances. It has a real "literally the only option" sound to it.

When you actually check out the ingredients, though, you will find that it's...hmm, no, that's also some pretty last-resort stuff.

And, unlike fiddlehead ferns which are a real thing, we have finally come to what seems to be a fictional ingredient.

You would think "this recipe includes a non-existent item" would be a deal-breaker, but this is not a blog where deals are broken, my friends. My solution was to scour the produce section for the plant that most closely resembled said non-existent item, which on that particular day at HEB was a malanga root.

Much like the flush of accomplishment I felt upon discovering fiddleheads in the real world, I was surprisingly excited to procure a plant I had never heard of and immediately shred it like a potato.

Turns out you can make hash browns out of exotic starchy roots and have them turn out just as good as

if not better than

potatoes! I actually felt like the crispy root was a little bit wasted on the eggplant burger it was accenting. Roasted eggplant and beans mushed up together taste exactly like you would think roasted eggplant and beans mushed up together would, except slightly messier to eat.

They were fine.

ASSESSMENT: I'm sure if I were actually in a cave and starving this would seem like manna from heaven, but I still can't imagine a planet on which this is considered a "convenient snack." No way to eat this without giant gobs of eggplant mush ending up all over the cave floor.

PROJECT STATUS: As long as it knows how to love I know it'll stay alive


Salad and Bean Hotpot

Okay, the birds outside my window are singing very aggressively, like I'm almost sure they're just reading off a printout of my Twitter TL but in actual tweets, which means it's time to knock a couple of SPRINGTIME ITEMS off the list.

"Salad" is a thing that you look at and say "well obviously I have made salad many times, this is very easy," and then you see that the specific ingredients listed are a leek, a dandelion, and a bottle of vinegar and you realize you have to maybe reconsider your strategy. In my case, that strategy was finding a recipe that utilized the three ingredients listed plus maple syrup, bacon, and poached eggs.

Going to try adding maple syrup, bacon, and poached eggs to a lot more things going forward

Here are the girls either welcoming spring or re-enacting the final scene of The Breakfast Club But With Cows

Here I am updating my spring wardrobe to be everything Michelle Pfeiffer wore in What Lies Beneath

"Bean Hotpot" involves exactly one ingredient, which is green beans, and one strong implication, which is that they should be served hot. I tried to rationalize giving this dish its own post but I could only stretch "so I served the green beans hot" to like two paragraphs max.

The wiki claims that Bean Hotpot is supposed to include an energy buff in the game but it does not actually work. In the real-life application I found that our max energy was unaffected but curiously the beans did cause my children to forget how utensils work. So I guess that's like a +3 Fork Amnesia buff, and I would say it lasted about five minutes.

ASSESSMENT: The salad was really good. The green beans were fine, probably because I added butter and garlic to them. Man, I probably could have eked out three paragraphs now that I think about it.

PROJECT STATUS: Don't you/ forget about beans


Fiddlehead Risotto

My primary reason for wanting to make all of the Stardew recipes was that I love lists of things I was intrigued by a handful of dishes I had never tried before. Not only had I never eaten fiddlehead ferns before, I had never heard of fiddlehead ferns before, and in fact had to research whether they were a real plant or an invention of the game. Turns out--real plant! And what a plant it is.

The reaction of my children when I opened a paper bag full of these and informed them it was dinner was worth this entire project, and possibly this entire blogging endeavor

I will say, it was surprisingly delightful to track down an item that for 30-something years I had no inkling of and for six months or so kind of thought was made up. Seeing that weird green wormy pile right there in the middle of Central Market gave me the same sense of accomplishment as finding an elusive item in the game, so my ultimate plan of turning my real life into Stardew Valley is inching forward promisingly.

It was...slightly less delightful to see how many search results for fiddlehead ferns included terms such as "toxic" "food poisoning" "your whole family will definitely vomit if you feed them this plant" etc. But what's an adventure without unnecessary risk? I pressed forward, boiling them for a few minutes before following a basic Asparagus Risotto recipe with the ferns swapped in for the asparagus.

Good news: my children love risotto so much that you can put any ol' slightly toxic, snake-looking items on top of it and they will still be on board.

Even better news: here they are a full 36 hours later, foot-loose and vomit-free.

ASSESSMENT: Pleased to say that my version was not in fact "a little bland," but rather tasted very much like garlic and butter, which is to say, 100% perfect.



Cheese Cauliflower and Omelet

I decided to pair up Cheese Cauliflower and Omelet because neither dish really makes a meal on its own and they are both very easy and neither are abhorrent to children also their Stardew sprites are nearly identical, and that's fun. It's like a matching game!

Okay, I did...not do a good job matching them in real life, but everything else stands

Seriously, look how alike they look in-game:



ASSESSMENT: My omelet was fluffy and my cheese cauliflower smelled great. Everything checks out. This is also the closest my in-game ingredients and real-life ingredients have come to matching up, since neither dish requires very much more than the game version.

PROJECT STATUS: Fluffy and great-smelling

Anyway, hope everyone is doing well, I picked up some on-sale Easter candy for you: