We took screen shots and put two fictional characters’ recipes through our non-fictional test kitchen. The results were pleasantly surprising.
If you happen to both identify as a Marvel fan and own a Playstation 4, there’s a solid chance that you’ve gotten your hands on the new Spider-Man video game put out by Insomniac Games last month (September 2018). The gaming company states that in this latest adventure, the fated arachnid-powered hero is “struggling to balance his chaotic personal life and career while the fate of millions of New Yorkers rest upon his shoulders.”
We have taken this to mean that Peter Parker is probably low-key struggling with a professional identity crisis (relatable), and wants to focus his time and energy into a career that allows him to better embrace his love of food and cooking. It’s not all that surprising, to be honest. He’s certainly not the first to feel that urge to leave a soul-crushing job to pursue a lifelong dream of being a chef. Maybe the guy is sick of spinning webs from his own two hands and would prefer to make the world a better place via spinning sugar into elaborate desserts—can you fault him for that?
Anyway, upon noticing the consistent culinary references peppered throughout the game, we decided to put a couple of Spiderman’s favorite recipes—May Parker’s Wheat Cakes and Mary Jane’s Chinese Pork Dumplings—through our own test kitchen for formal evaluation by one of our recipe tester/developers, Adam Dolge. (And as luck would have it, this particular test kitchen chef has an extensive background in reviewing video games given his former professional life as the editor-in-chief of PlayStation Universe.)
Having tasted both, our editors were thoroughly impressed. Here’s how both recipes measured up, according to Dolge.
Holy crap, they actually work!
May Parker’s Wheat Cakes
I’m most impressed with these pancakes. I’ve had a lot of buckwheat pancakes in my life (thanks to hippie parents!), and these are by far the lightest, most balanced “healthy” pancakes I’ve ever had. They greatly benefit from a pat of soft butter and maple syrup, but they would be a great alternative for anyone wanting a healthier version of a traditional fluffy pancake. The recipe yields exactly 4 cups of batter, and I’d say ¼ cup is the perfect size pancake for this recipe.
Mary Jane’s Chinese Pork Dumplings
The pork dumplings were also super solid. Dumplings are inevitably labor intensive, but with an extra pair of hands to stuff the dumplings (i.e. this is a great recipe for a team effort), you can get the 40+ dumplings done in a hurry. I will say, the sauce could use some minor adjustments. It’s intensely salty, but adding a little sweetness (by whisking in some honey or agave) or swapping for reduced-sodium soy sauce should fix that. The note at the bottom of the recipe card, about how MJ’s stove runs hot, led me to believe that the dumplings needed to be cooked at a high heat. I tried that and it worked out well, just keep an eye on them and be careful not to let ‘em burn!
In all my years writing video game reviews, I don’t remember ever seeing recipes in a game. I think the big takeaway that you can pull from seeing random recipes featured as collectibles in the new Spider-Man PS4 game is this: Cooking, and generally knowing things about food, is cool. Or at the very least, it is as fully integrated and prevalent in popular culture as it has ever been.
The fact that video game creators not only included recipes intentionally, but took the time to make recipes that work, is an awesome illustration of that. These recipes may be part of the lore in the Spiderman universe, but they are not massive, central themes or components of the Spiderman experience. However, the cool-factor surrounding cooking is so strong that the developer decided to give the gamer a treat—working recipes they can try at home.