Created By: 32_Footsteps on June 21, 2011 Last Edited By: Sheora on June 10, 2012
Troped

Mess On A Plate

A dish that looks positively vile.

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"The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside." [Begins to cry]
Morbo, Futurama

A common saying among chefs is that "you first eat with your eyes." Cooks who produce this food apparently expect everyone eating to be blind.

It could take several forms - maybe it's collapsed into an indistinct brown or grey glop in a bowl. It would be a misshapen mound that vaguely looks like a cake. Random tentacles and eyes could be mixed in. If it's a cake, expect the decorations to be something out of the wildest imagination of a Nightmare Fetishist (whether or not the cook is actually one).

Keep in mind, of course, that this is completely distinct from a Lethal Chef or a Cordon Bleugh Chef - in fact, while food such as this is a frequent indicator of one of those two tropes, it's increasingly common for food to look terrible but taste just fine. (On a related note, food that looks perfectly fine should not be assumed to taste good.) Can overlap with Alien Lunch.

Can easily be Truth in Television - even in culinary schools, presentation is taught distinct from flavor, and it's fairly common for students to be much better at the latter.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Tina from Ai Yori Aoshi - as Taeko discovered, Tina's inability to make anything looking good did not stop her from making food that actually tastes good.
  • Ryo from Otomen can occasionally (usually with Asuka's help) produce food that tastes decent. However, it will invariably look terrible.
  • Naru from Love Hina is known to produce food that looks awful but tastes good.
  • Asuna's first cake from the first anime adaptation of Mahou Sensei Negima!. The second came out looking much better. Appropriate, as she's anExpy of the above.
  • Akane of Ranma combines this with Lethal Chef - she creates food that is both inedible and hideous to look at. The only exception is her curry, which is edible (if bland)... but still hideous to look at.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia: England's food is mostly portrayed as an indeterminable black mess. Sometimes it even gets pixeled out to emphasize this.

Film
  • Starship Troopers (the movie) had a scene where the recruits are in the chow line, loading up their trays with what appear to be different colors of pudding. Emphasized by one of them holding a ladle full up at eye level and disgustedly pouring it out.
  • In Accepted, Glen creates a recipe he calls "Wads" that look like a well, wad of melted chocolaty goo. The others recoil at first, but once they get brave enough to taste them they rave that it's the greatest thing they've ever eaten.
  • The eyeball soup in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
  • In the Star Trek parody, Galaxy Quest, the Thermians attempt to replicate food from the actors' supposed home world. Doctor Lazarus' dish is a bowl of clear liquid filled with live beetles.

Literature
  • Molly in Moon Over Soho whenever she tries to cook anything that isn't High Victorian, on one occasion producing what is described as rubbery vulcanised mass that looks like one of those novelty vomit mats sold in Joke Shops (it was supposed to be lightly poached eggs in hollandaise sauce).
  • In one of the Myth Adventures stories, Skeeve, having never seen spaghetti, describes it as white worms or snakes covered with blood red sauce.
    • Also from the series, Pervian food is described as being difficult to keep from crawling away from your plate. The rest is left up to the reader's imagination.

Live-Action TV
  • A popular classic Sesame Street skit has Ernie making a plate of mashed banana with ice cubes and gravy on it. Bert is disgusted by its mere appearance, but guess what Oscar thinks?
  • Star Trek occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The Klingon dish Gahkt comes to mind, though Klingons are Proud Warrior Race Guys and it may be meant as showing how tough they are that they eat things that look frightening to most sentients.
  • Babylon 5 occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The dish Spoo comes to mind.
  • Johnny Bago: When Johnny temporarily joins a circus (not that he wanted to join, he was blackmailed into it) the owner/ringmaster literally feeds the circus workers on garbage leftover from the previous day's crowds, all of which looks like scoops of brown blegh.

Music
  • Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" has one verse about dealing with the intersection of this and the usual wares of a Lethal Chef: "I don't care what these people think I'm just sittin' here makin' myself nauseous with this ugly food that stinks!"

Newspaper Comics
  • Frequently produced by Calvin's mom in Calvin and Hobbes.
  • Foxtrot: Surprisingly, not Andy's cooking, though it frequently involves tofu. The cafeteria glop qualifies, however.

Real Life
  • The traditional military dish of this sort is chipped beef on toast--better known to soldiers as "shit on a shingle."
  • The Hawaiian islanders have a dish called "poi", which is made from the root of the taro plant. It is purple, and has the consistency (and taste!) of Elmer's glue.

Webcomics
  • Schlock Mercenary has a restaurant chain that serves 'smutto', a combination of corn smut (basically mold), and natto (fermented soybeans). It's so vile that even Schlock (who'll eat pretty much anything) hesitates before eating it.

Western Animation
  • Bender's final presentation in the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef."
    Morbo: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside. [Begins to cry]

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • June 21, 2011
    Madeira
    Happens a lot in Calvin and Hobbes
  • June 21, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    Molly in Moon Over Soho whenever she tries to cook anything that isn't High Victorian, on one occasion producing what is described as rubbery vulcanised mass that looks like one of those novelty vomit mats sold in Joke Shops (it was supposed to be lightly poached eggs in hollandaise sauce).
  • June 21, 2011
    EmbracingShadows
    Naru from Love Hina is known to produce food that looks awful but tastes good.
  • June 21, 2011
    ArtisticPlatypus
    How about naming the trope Food Gorn, to contrast with Food Porn, like Scenery Gorn and Scenery Porn?
  • June 21, 2011
    Fanra
    In one of the Myth Adventures stories, Skeeve having never seen spaghetti, describes it as white worms or snakes covered with blood red sauce.
  • June 21, 2011
    AFP
    • Starship Troopers (the movie) had a scene where the recruits are in the chow line, loading up their trays with what appear to be different colors of pudding. Emphasized by one of them holding a ladle full up at eye level and disgustedly pouring it out.

    • Mass Effect 2: Several of the crewmen complain about the food aboard the Normandy. Justified in that the supplies for the cook to work with were pretty much standard ship's rations. That is to say, very cheap with a shelf life far longer than that of the crew. A sidequest in the game involves finding a source of better food for the cook to work with, allowing him to get the crew some proper chow.
  • June 21, 2011
    AFP
  • June 21, 2011
    AFP
    Also, at least one episode of Far Scape centered around the crew getting sick of their wafer-like food cubes and trying to find other sources of sustenance, including Crichton attempting to deep-fry some bugs he found (he tried one bite of this and spit it back out).
  • June 21, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Music

    Have you ever went over a friend's house to eat and the food just ain't no good?
    I mean, the macaroni's soggy! The peas are mushed! And the chicken tastes like wood!
    so you try to play it off like you think you can by sayin' that you're full
    and then your friend says "Mama, he's just being polite! He ain't finished! uh uh that's bull!"
    so your heart starts pumpin and you think of a lie and you say that you already ate
    and your friend says man there's plenty of food so you pile some more on your plate
    While the stinky food's steamin, your mind starts to dreamin of the moment that it's time to leave
    and then you look at your plate and your chicken's steadily rottin' into something that looks like cheese
    oh so you say "that's it I got to leave this place I dont care what these people think
    I'm just sittin here makin myself nauseous with this ugly food that stinks!"
    so you bust out the door while its still closed still sick from the food you ate
    and then you run to the store for quick relief from a bottle of Kaopectate
    and then you call your friend two weeks later
    to see how he has been
    and he says "I understand about the food, baby bubba, but we're still friends"
    --"Rapper's Delight", Sugarhill Gang

    Sorry, can't get forced linebreaks to work in the comment.

    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The Klingon dish Gahkt comes to mind, though Klingons are ProudWarriorRaceGuys and it may be meant as showing how tough they are that they eat things that look frightening to most sentients.
    • Babylon Five occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The dish Spoo comes to mind.

  • June 22, 2011
    Koveras
    Also from Myth Adventures, Pervian food is described as being difficult to keep from crawling away from your plate. The rest is left up to the reader's imagination.
  • June 22, 2011
    32_Footsteps
    @Artistic Platypus - I could see that, except a) I don't think it generally counts as Gorn, b) I'd like to avoid a snowclone if I can, and c) that's just asking for some militant vegetarian/vegan to throw in a Flame Bait note about meat in general. Or, for that matter, a comment about Foreign Queasine from someone who has issues with it.

    A few of those examples are, at least from the description, more along the lines of a Lethal Chef's wares - the Mass Effect 2 example doesn't actually note the description of the food, nor does the Far Scape example. Those might be examples, but since I don't know either (and you have to assume that J. Random Reader doesn't either), you need to describe why it fits this specific trope.
  • June 22, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    In Ranma One Half, Lethal Chef Akane creates food that is both inedible and hideous to look at. The only exception is her curry, which is edible (if bland), but still hideous to look at.
  • June 22, 2011
    Sheora
    Bender's final presentation in the Futurama episode The 30% Iron Chef. Could serve as a page quote as well:
    Morbo: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside. [Begins to cry]

    • In Accepted, Glen creates a recipe he calls "Wads" that look like a well, wad of melted chocolaty goo. The others recoil at first, but once they get brave enough to taste them they rave that it's the greatest thing they've ever eaten.
  • June 22, 2011
    SquirrelGuy
    A popular classic Sesame Street skit has Ernie making a plate of mashed banana with ice cubes and gravy on it. Bert is disgusted by it, but guess what Oscar thinks?
  • June 26, 2011
    AFP
    The Farscape example did actually describe the food: They were pretty unremarkable cracker-like wafers of foodstuff. They don't warrant much more description than that because there evidently isn't much more to them than that (worth noting that much of the stress the crew was going under in that episode was due to how tired they were of food cubes).
  • June 26, 2011
    SKJAM
    The traditional military dish of this sort is chipped beef on toast--better known to soldiers as "shit on a shingle."
  • June 26, 2011
    Taeraresh
    Schlock Mercenary has a restaurant chain that serves 'smutto', a combination of corn smut (basically mold), and natto (fermented soybeans). It's so vile that even Schlock (who'll eat pretty much anything) hesitates before eating it.
  • May 27, 2012
    Sheora
  • May 27, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Johnny Bago: When Johnny temporarily joins a circus (not that he wanted to join, he was blackmailed into it) the owner/ringmaster literally feeds the circus workers on garbage leftover from the previous day's crowds, all of which looks like scoops of brown blegh.
  • May 28, 2012
    SharleeD
    Quibble: The Pervian food example would be Alien Lunch, not this trope. It actually does taste revolting, not just look nasty, and its components aren't things humans normally ingest.

  • May 28, 2012
    Chabal2
    Foxtrot: Surprisingly, not Andy's cooking, though it frequently involves tofu. The cafeteria glop qualifies, however.
  • May 28, 2012
    HyperTurbina
    In Futurama, Bender's cooking looks about as good as it tastes.
  • May 28, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Webcomic: The Lydian Option features an interstellar prison where the food is chosen for "cross-species nutritional value".

  • May 28, 2012
    NimmerStill
    The eyeball soup in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.

    Also, I find it highly unlikely that this actually is "more common in media from Japan", and we seem to be finding just as many Western examples. I would leave that part out of the discription.
  • May 28, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Would this be a good image? [1]
  • May 28, 2012
    JonnyB
    • Star Trek has the Klingon delicacy "gagh", which is basically live mealworms in a bowl.
      • A Star Trek The Next Generation episode had parasitic aliens invading Star Fleet at the highest levels. The infested admirals ate bowls of live worms.
    • In the Star Trek parody, Galaxy Quest, the Thermians attempt to replicate food from the actors' supposed homeworld. Doctor Lazarus' dish is a bowl of clear liquid filled with live beetles.

    (Edit: I see gagh has already been mentioned, but the other examples are still valid.)

    Real Life example: The Hawaiian islanders have a dish called "poi", which is made from the root of the taro plant. It is purple, and has the consistency (and taste!) of Elmer's glue.
  • May 29, 2012
    Zanreo
  • May 29, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Also the food (and pretty much everything else in) eXistenZ
  • May 29, 2012
    NimmerStill
    So, this has overlap with Alien Lunch, though not the same thing.
  • June 8, 2012
    Sheora
    As the OP hasn't touched this in a year, is it safe to assume it is up for grabs? If it's OK to, I'll take it over and prepare it for launch.
  • June 8, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Please delete the Japan thing.
  • June 10, 2012
    Sheora
    Okay, as this seems abandoned, I'm taking it over for launch. Was there any ever citation to back up the claim about Japan? If not, I'll pull it from the description.
  • June 10, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ ^^^ @Sheora: According to our Up For Grabs policy, if a YKTTW proposal isn't edited by its original poster (in this case Thirty Two Footsteps) for two months, it's automatically Up For Grabs and anyone can prepare and launch it.
  • June 10, 2012
    Sheora
    Okay, thanks for the info. I'm still getting to know the rules around here.
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