To Boldly Sneak

To Boldly Sneak
Fernando de Sousa, Wikimedia Commons
Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits for Gut Check (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.

Show: Star Trek, the front-runner to be this year's Iron Man: a fun, exciting, even sexy reboot of an old fandom that previously had more than a whiff of mom's basement about it that goes on to be wildly successful. Terminator Salvation, I hope you took some notes.

Food: Shepherd's pie, vegetable terrine in a sweet walnut sauce and neeps from the Scottish Arms.

Difficulty: Varsity. Extensive repackaging was required and I utilized an additional cloaking device.

I had a crisis of conscience as I sat at the bar in the Scottish Arms, having a pint and waiting for my takeout order. While the pub itself is a jewel of genuine warmth, all rubbed hardwood, half-melted naked pillar candles and an impressive collection of gradually accrued Guinness mirrors and other genuine bar detritus, I was chilled to the bone by a display case highlighted by the early evening sun spilling in from the plate glass. For reasons I believe I may be culturally unsuited to understand, there is an enormous marionette of some sort in this case, about three feet tall and tricked out in a little kilt and cravat with an alarmingly functional-looking bagpipe.

And there are sequins.

My god, that spangly little Highlander is as subtle as Captain Kirk amidst the green women of Bustulon 36. I was concerned that a similar, Sneak-averse sentiment would express itself in the food in both flavor and packaging and was, once again, thankful for the roll of aluminum foil I keep around for just such an occasion.

If you can't stay in the Scottish Arms to soak up equal measures of atmosphere and beer, takeout is still a great option. I placed my order for shepherd's pie and terrine with a side of neeps at the same time I asked for a pint and got the food when I was less than halfway down the glass. If I was any sort of normal person, the takeout presentation would have been delightful, a gleaming white ziggarut of paper take-out boxes.

Had I a bold ribbon on hand and a special event to attend, I would have wrapped the whole albion stack like a gift and been welcomed for it.

The shepherd's pie was a lovingly swirled oval of mashed potatoes over braised meat with cheese broiled to light brown on the elegant top ridges. The terrine, layered with thin slices of sweet potato and rings of leeks, shared a slightly smaller box with a sealed plastic container of the sweet walnut sauce -- the consistency was more like a glaze, which allowed the natural textures of the terrine layers to come out. I appreciated the separate sauce container. For all my worries about clashing notions of subtlety, the Scottish Arms and I agree that soggy food is unacceptable.

Perched on top of those two boxes was a smaller box with my neeps. I have no shame in admitting I ordered the neeps because I had no idea what they were but liked the sound they made. I chose the Scottish Arms both for its obvious connection to a certain engineering genius who, despite protests to the contrary, can change the laws of physics and for the fact that I don't know much about Scottish food. I wanted to enjoy a new direction in a franchise that was all about new directions by boldly eating where I had not gone before. I felt fairly certain that popular culture and a descriptive menu had warned me of the pitfalls of the cuisine and the very helpful bartender was able to answer my questions about what was in various sides.

(I'm sure by now that the entire staff is sensitive to a certain look in a patron's eyes when they ask about the food though, a sort of narrowing of the lids as if in concentration, as if looking at a map on the far wood wall of the pub. The look invariably means: I am trying to determine if this contains sheep parts I do not want to eat, but do not wish to offend you, a probable eater of objectionable sheep bits, by asking.)

Neeps, it turns out, are some sort of turnip, cubed and roasted in butter until they are completely delicious. The Doctor, my mysterious long time gentleman caller and sneaking companion for this film, informed me on tasting one that I had my taste buds set to stun rather than kill, thus my definition of "delicious" is off by a parsec. When he gets space scurvy because of his hatred of tasty vegetables, I will be thoroughly justified in pointing and laughing.

The obvious problem with that pyramid of pretty boxes: It's not very sneakable. I kept the shepherd's pie in its original box (though, if pressed for space, I could have folded a foil envelope for it) and consolidated the neeps and terrine into one box. Bulky, but effective and acceptable because I had my sneaking tote. I also had the advantage of a large pashmina scarf which served the treble duty of swirling stylishly around my shoulders, keeping me warm in a chilly theater and dripping a concealing fringe over the odd corners of my bag. Thus cloaked, we entered unhindered.

Star Trek's about as much fun as you can have for under ten bucks on this side of the river. Many of the long shots of the ship in space look like they were taken directly from concept art rather than filtered through the dull gauze of what things are supposed to look like. Throw in the attractiveness of the cast and the kinetic storytelling of the action sequences and this is a movie that wouldn't be substantially less enjoyable on mute -- in the good way.

I think the most amazing feat it accomplished was imbuing the familiar mission with a sense of very real danger. In J.J. Abrams' lens, people are tiny: They are easily crushed, burned, thrown out into the dark of space. Captain Kirk's not going to be overthrowing any planet's god-king with mild fisticuffs, and the humpbacked whales best be working on their marksmanship if they want to save themselves this time around.

Starfleet uniforms have no pockets, which points to a future where science has eliminated the need for them. No wallets in the future, no tubes of lipstick, no rings of jangling keys. No sneaking. They would do much better to wear the kilts the bartenders at the Scottish Arms wear. Not only is it a chance to show off the shapely male leg -- a terribly undervalued part of the anatomy in the nascence of this century -- it comes with traditional accessories highly conducive to sneaking: the sporran (purse, in Gaelic) that hangs across the front and the sgian dubh tucked into the top of the sock to stab at strange hands questing for snacks in a Scotsman's lap and to open stubborn food packaging.

I have been and always shall be, your Sneak.
Scroll to read more Food & Drink News articles


Join Riverfront Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.