“Life should be like a basket of chicken wings–salty, fatty, covered in vinegar and served with way more celery than you’ll ever eat.” – Welcome to Night Vale, Episode 8.
Welcome to Night Vale fans? Welcome to The Gluttonous Geek, keep reading. Soon-to-be Welcome to Night Vale fans? Open your mind to a podcast about a “friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”
Welcome to Night Vale
The best description I can give for this podcast would be a surreal and hilarious community radio show in the style of “News from Lake Wobegon” — were it written by a modern, desert-dwelling H.P. Lovecraft. Imagine a community where every conspiracy theory is true, but that is also considered entirely normal. There are dog parks masquerading as ritual grounds, otherworldly invaders flying a hundred feet above the Arby’s sign, and extremely noisy sunsets that do not fall under the town’s jurisdiction.
The show mentions food all through the series such as local food truck festival serving “Korean BBQ, vegetarian chili, and veal ice cream” or Subway’s special “mashed potato sub” topped with “vegetables such as french fries and Nutella.” I, however, decided to start our foodie tour of Night Vale with some Desert Flower Wings and Pineapple Sage Lemonade.
What I wanted to accomplish with this recipe combo was a meal that resonates with the spirit of Night Vale – a vision of all-American small-town wholesome grotesqueness. The driving appeal of Welcome to Nightvale is the sense of familiarity painted with just the right amount of wrong. Everything is only a part of the day-to-day in Night Vale, whether it involves a glow-cloud becoming school board president, or angels ruining your corn muffins because they took away your salt.
This fact is why I chose to deviate a little from the source material and make an American small-town classic beverage that the local Fear Scouts might sell to advance to the rank of Eternal Scout. But since sage bushes are mentioned in the show, I took advantage of the overgrowing pineapple sage in my front yard and used it to make lemonade.
Pineapple sage is not really found in grocery stores, but you can find it in the garden section of Home Depot. It grows like crazy, especially in this heat wave we’ve been having recently. Appropriately enough, traditional Mexican medicine also uses it in the treatment of anxiety and high blood pressure — which I imagine one might sorely need in a town like Night Vale.
If you want something a little more available, though, some common sage replacing half of the syrup water with pineapple juice should give you a similar flavor.
Pineapple Sage Lemonade
Equipment: Stovetop, saucepan with lid, gallon-size pitcher, citrus juicer, wooden spoon, refrigerator.
- a handful of pineapple sage
- 4 cups sugar
- Juice from 3 lbs lemons or 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
- 10 cups water
- Bring 4 cups water and sage to a boil covered on the stovetop, turn off heat and let steep 8 minutes
- Remove the leaves and discard. Pour in sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer and stir for 6-8 minutes, until sugar completely dissolved. Turn off the heat again and let cool completely.
- Pour the lemon juice, the cooled syrup, and 8 cups of water into the pitcher. Stir thoroughly, add at least 2 cups of ice, then chill in the refrigerator before serving.
For the next recipe, I was inspired by the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex. The owner, Teddy Williams, in episode 8 finds a doorway into an underground city in the pin retrieval of lane five, and reports to hear an army marching toward the world above. Believing that “nothing really matters now,” he declares that “bowling is half off and comes with a free basket of wings.”
I may have taken the “Desert Flower” part of this recipe literally, but I feel that works in this case. There isn’t much that remains figurative in Night Vale. Desert-grown plants included prickly pear and mesquite. I incorporated both by smoking the chicken wings with mesquite wood chips in a stockpot on the stove, and prickly pear jelly in the sauce.
Traditionally Buffalo sauce involves combining melted butter with hot sauce. I already mentioned that I used cactus fruit jelly in this recipe. Though as a nod to lane five’s invasion I also mixed in some truffle oil for a taste of the underground.
Now if you are lucky enough to have a full-sized smoker, you can make about 2-3 batches of wings with a single sauce batch. I chose this method, though, because most everyone has a stovetop and a ventilation hood.
So here it is, a recipe to savor as the end approaches. Why not start listening to Welcome to Nightvale while you wait for the meat to smoke off the bone? You can find it by clicking here or looking them up wherever you listen to podcasts.
Desert Flower Buffalo Chicken Wings
Equipment: Paper towels, mixing bowl, saucepan, whisk, stock pot with lid, aluminum foil, 9-inch steel or aluminum pie plate, collapsible metal steaming basket, cooking spray, tongs, oven, baking sheet.
- Dozen chicken wings
- 1/2 cup cactus pear jelly
- 1/4 cup Choula or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons truffle oil
- fajita seasoning
- kosher salt
- a handful of mesquite smoking chips
- Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels and liberally apply fajita seasoning on all sides.
- Line the inner bottom of your stockpot with aluminum foil and place the wood chips on top. Place the pie plate on top of to cover the chips and the steamer basket on top of that. Put the pot on the stovetop.
- Spray the basket with cooking spray and arrange the wings on top. Cover the pot and seal the edges with more foil. Turn the heat on the stovetop on high and set two timers, one for two hours, one for 10 minutes. Turn the ventilation hood on its highest setting.
- When 10 minutes is up, reduce the heat to low and let cook until the second timer goes off. Remove the pot from heat and remove the foil and lid while wearing oven mitts.
- Line a baking sheet with foil, spray it with cooking spray, then transfer the wings to the sheet using tongs. Cook it for 3 minutes in the oven on low broil to crisp the skin. Let cool while preparing the sauce.
- Melt the butter in the saucepan over low heat on the stovetop. When melted, whisk in the jelly, truffle oil, hot sauce, and a pinch of kosher salt for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Remove from heat.
- Transfer the wings to a mixing bowl and pour the sauce on top. Gently toss the wings until coated. Serve with more celery than you’ll ever eat.