There was a place in Brighton a few years back that used to do a drink called London Fog. If you’ve never come across it, it’s a sort of Earl Grey latte, really – tea with a lot of hot, foamy milk, and something else, some glittering flavour, that I struggled to identify. The place closed down just as I was getting into them, London Fogs. I looked up a range of unsatisfactory online recipes, and then bodged together a few London Fog concepts of my own, all of which were completely undrinkable in thrillingly different ways. Then I found this cookbook a few weeks ago – Destiny: The Official Cookbook. Page 171. London Fog. Honey and almond milk. It’s good. Actually, it’s great!
The London Fog is a favourite of Devrim Kay, who I once met in the European Dead Zone. I remember him crouched in the church, maybe in a sniper spot up in the tower, and I remember him talking about getting the kettle on once missions were done. He laid the Britishness on a bit thick, I had thought, and so does Destiny: The Official Cookbook in its own way. It’s a quantities thing – after following the recipe I had enough London Fog to see me through a week. But a good egg, Devrim. It was nice to think about him again.
Destiny is one of those mega-budget successes that I can still find it hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for. A gajillion-seller, sure, but it must have really sucked when the first thing that anybody got to see of the game was not concept art or a bit of story, but Activision’s cold-eyed business plan: release dates, Q4s and whatnot stretching out for a decade. Destiny came to us initially as a product rather than a work of planet-hopping imagination. To put it another way, we got the recipe rather than the taste. Except that’s unfair to recipes, which can often be brilliant bits of micro-literature by themselves, while business plans never are.
Now, in our office, whatever that word means in 2020, it feels like Destiny is something that is thought about more than it’s actively played, although I might be wrong. It is thought about with great fondness and a lot of appreciation anyway. Bungie knows action, knows how to make multiplayer sing. That’s the standard feeling. But there’s also something about the wilful, sometimes silly, sometimes arcane game that Destiny actually is that creates a sense of endearment. Remember those Grimoire things? Telling the complex story of a new universe in baseball cards. It should never have worked, and nobody would have planned something like that from scratch, but when the Grimoire cards were gone, people missed them. Destiny’s the gazillion-seller that is also pleasantly, frustratingly odd.
And so turning it into a cookbook kind of makes sense? It helps that Destiny: The Official Cookbook is written by somebody who is really good at this stuff. Victoria Rosenthal runs a blog called Pixelated Provisions, recreating consumables found in game – I clicked over a few days ago and the place was wriggling with Bugsnax – and also works for NASA, I gather. That first part probably explains why the Destiny book is filled with things I actually want to make, and why when I do make them they’re delivered via clearly written instructions with an obvious eye to the way people actually do things in home kitchens. Warning: this is an American cookbook, so expect cups and Fahrenheit and talk of broilers and scallions. But it’s generous: plenty of vegetarian stuff, and notes on adapting things for gluten- or lactose-free diets. Also Fahrenheit conversion and cups and broilers and scallions and all that jazz are a good fit for Destiny, a game in which players regularly converse in a wonderfully impenetrable language about Light levels and Engrams.
What really makes this book special, though, is the Devrim Factor. It’s written by Rosenthal, but it’s also written from the perspective of Eva Levante, who has travelled through the Last City “and beyond its walls” collecting recipes. It’s written in-game. It’s lore. It’s an apple pie Grimoire. I asked a resident Destiny expert who Levante was in the actual game. “She is the old lady from Destiny 1 who sold shaders before she and they got deleted,” was the reply. “In Destiny 2 she pops up for Halloween and other things.” Well in Destiny the Cookbook she has a new gig. She’s sort of like Guy Fieri, but with a Sparrow instead of a Ford Mustang. Who’s up for a raid in the Flavourtown Demilitarised Zone? (Speaking of Guy, Frosted Tips would make a great Destiny gun name.)
So it’s a cookbook that serves two purposes, and serves them really well. Firstly: it’s just an excellent cookbook. It has a useful glossary and a really good recipe for orange and lime rosemary salt. Secondly, it’s a lovely trip around a universe that a lot of people really enjoy spending time in. It has in-world mini-essays and lines like “Lemons can be so difficult to find around the Tower.” Can’t they, though? Thinking about marshmallows, Levante writes: “Sometimes the Traveller reminds me of a big marshmallow… I’ve heard, at least, that it smells faintly of vanilla on the inside.” That’s canon now. Deal with it.
Interestingly, I think these two different books come together in creative ways. Because Destiny takes place in the relatively distant future, and because the solar system of Destiny is such a mish-mash of cultures, so is the book. There are tagines and couscous and ramen alongside hush puppies and buttermilk biscuits and “Traveler donut holes.” Plenty of drinks and salads, which is great, but it’s also a fascinating glimpse into the future to discover that such playful, oddly lovable monstrosities of fusion such as the banh mi burger and bulgogi burritos exist. From beef stew to duck poutine, Destiny is just a downright rangy cookbook. It can be surprisingly technical too. They are not afraid to speak of brining in the year 3500.
And there is a useful truth here about all cookbooks. I love cookbooks, and what I’ve slowly come to realise is that they are all world-building, whether they’re introducing you to the food of Spain or dropping you into the expanded Nigella Universe for another patrol of the brownies badlands. Each book is a world of its own, and it tries to create its own culture and atmosphere and rules and traditions. Destiny started as a product, but it became what that somewhat annoying shorthand actually promised it would be: a universe, a place that felt coherent and surprising, and that people liked spending time in. And now they have good things to cook afterwards too.