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Palette-Swapped Alien Food

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"Alien Fast Food" by David Evans

Martin Lloyd: This is for scene 23? You think they have apples on an alien planet?
Prop Master: Why not? They speak English.
Martin Lloyd: Look, get some kiwis, and spray-paint them red.
Prop Master: (pulls out script) OK, so now it'll go "Nick walks into a garden of kiwi trees, says 'How like Eden this planet is,' and bites into a painted kiwi."

The culinary equivalent of Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Alien cuisine has a suspicious tendency to look like Earth food ripped from its terrestrial context and subjected to food colouring — leading to things like green egg yolks, glow-in-the-dark yellow sauces, obsidian berries, and blue meat.

This rises from production considerations, of course. It takes time and energy to think up genuinely alien foodstuffs, and money to fabricate them — and in the end, the viewer might not even realize it's supposed to be food. By keeping the forms the same, creators can make it clear that a pudding is the ambassador's dinner and not, say, his wife; by shifting the palette, they retain a sense of otherworldliness.

The more humanoid the aliens in question, the more plausible this trope becomes. Green-skinned people who are shaped just like humans might very well share a biome with red-skinned vegetables that are shaped just like asparagus. A Metal Muncher may munch on meals that have a metallic color, sometimes with visible seams and rivets to further emphasize that they are metal.

Compare Weird World, Weird Food, for when the food is as bizarre as the setting it comes from.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • Lilo & Stitch: Jumba and Pleakley attempt to bait Stitch with what appears to be an ordinary chicken drumstick... which is also bright green, and covered in purple spots.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek is fond of this:
    • Romulan Ale is blue.
    • TNG gave us the Klingon specialities Gagh and Bloodwine
    • Parodied in MAD's spoof of The Wrath of Khan, which mentions "green wine" and "brown wine".
    • The original series episode "By Any Other Name", Scotty offers a drink to an alien. When asked what it is, Scotty replies, "Well, it's... uh... it's green." Of course, this was after they had both drank several bottles of alcohol — presumably it has an actual name.
      • TNG has a Call-Back to this line in the episode "Relics" when Data can find no better descriptor for an unknown alcoholic drink from Guinan's stash, later identified by Picard as Aldebaran whiskey. Presumably not the same drink as above, as Scotty, who consumed both, did not recognize the second. (That, or he was too drunk the last time to remember.)
  • Shows up on occasion in Stargate SG-1. Lampshaded in the parody episode "Wormhole X-Treme!": "You think they have apples on an alien planet?... Look, get some kiwis, and spray-paint them red." Subverted by the little Food Pills the Asgard eat. The gag in "Wormhole X-Treme!" is a self reference, as in an earlier episode of the show a character really did eat a red kiwi.
  • Babylon 5 has mostly normal food, but sometimes shows off alien food as well... and has at least one of the characters fail spectacularly in preparing it for another alien. This was justified in that the two species have only slightly different senses of taste, so when he spiced it to his own taste it tasted horrible to them.
    • A memorable inversion occurs when G'Kar serves a fellow Narn Swedish meatballs because it resembles and tastes like a native dish called breen. G'Kar then mentions that every alien species has inexplicably invented a dish resembling Swedish meatballs. On some planets their version is a delicacy (like the Narns) for others it's some mundane everyday food (Earth's Swedish meatballs), but every race has a dish exactly like it (not just "resembling": another Narn he serves some too observes that the taste, smell, and texture are indistinguishable from their version).
  • Showed up a lot in Farscape and also included non-human-looking utensils. According to the commentaries, sometimes they just used Asian foods that would look alien to the intended American audience.
  • Hagro biscuit in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy 1981 looks like a blue panini topped with guacamole.

    Video Games 


    Western Animation 
  • Razer eats a grey steak in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Bonus points for eating it exactly like you would eat a steak.
  • A downplayed example in an episode of Arthur featuring George's mother being puzzled by a purple object she picks up in the grocery store that turns out to be purple okra, which Sue Ellen's father claims is delicious (so this would be Palette-Swapped Alien Food with Alien just meaning from another country on Earth).
  • Ready Jet Go!: A part of the classic three-part Bortronian meal, is just a hoagie, except the bread is red.
  • Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars!: Lampshaded by Bruce, who was hurled beyond known space by a warp drive malfunction.
    Who cares if these bananas is purple? They taste great!

    Real Life 
  • Some genera of food plants have a relatively broad range of phenotype worldwide, but one particular form is dominant in a given region. And food preparation can vary in unexpected ways as well. So traveling to a different country, or just eating with people of a different ethnicity, may seem like this.
    • Probably the most famous case of this is the carrot, which originally came in a variety of colors ranging from white to red to purple. Orange carrots only became widespread after Dutch farmers during and after The Eighty Years' War bred their carrots that way to proclaim their support for the House of Orange (and thus Dutch nationalism). For whatever reason, the color spread and stuck.
  • It is hardly unheard-of for chicken eggs to have moderately dark, greenish yolks, though commercially produced eggs in some countries tend to a brighter yellow (with differences in preferred shade; Germans for example prefer a saturated, slightly dark yellow, while the Polish prefer a faint, bright yellow instead). There are also breeds of chicken that consistently lay eggs with green shells. There are also blue, pink, gray, and probably others.
  • Century eggs in general are just a Palette Swap of the colors most typically associated with eggs.
  • Various traditional preservation methods and processing techniques leave food looking, smelling and sometimes even tasting distinctly inedible because food only had to last. This is in contrast with modern food technology, which aims to modify taste and shelf life with as little cosmetic change as possible even if artificial means must be used. Corning beef will turn it an unappetizing gray color, but saltpetre can be added to the brine to preserve its reddish-pink color.