Halo: The Official Cookbook – Out Now!
You’ve stepped into the Mjolnir-clad boots of the Master Chief to fight the enemies of humanity across the galaxy, but the time has come to swap the assault rifle for an arsenal of cooking utensils, as Halo: The Official Cookbook has released!
Featuring over 70 recipes for all occasions, from lunchtime snacks for a lone Grunt to dinners and desserts that will fill the bellies of a pack of Brutes, this is the perfect recipe book for cooks of every skill level—from Easy to Legendary. Step-by-step instructions, beautiful photos of finished recipes, and even a bit of in-universe lore to digest about the culinary offerings of the Halo universe...
Still here? Well, let’s sit down for a chat with author Victoria Rosenthal who takes us on a delightful and delicious odyssey about the making of this book.
AW: Hello, Victoria—and welcome to the Halo universe! Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us about some of the amazing things you do?
VR: Hello, thank you for inviting me. I’m the author behind several video game cookbooks, including Halo: The Official Cookbook, and the video game themed food blog, Pixelated Provisions.
I develop recipes for food, drinks, and all sorts of consumables found throughout many video game worlds. My goal is to inspire my fellow gamers to get in the kitchen and make delicious meals from the titles they love playing.
AW: To start things off, when did you discover your passion for cooking and how did things evolve from there?
VR: I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. I was always in the kitchen helping out with dinner or outdoors with the grill. Food has been a way of communication and connection for me. I found that a meal was a great way to start a conversation and to get to know more about the people I was cooking for.
Fast forward to after I graduated from college and moved away from my family in Chicago to Houston, I decided it was time to reduce how much I was eating out and to try and make many recipes from scratch.
After a bit of learning and experimenting in the kitchen, friends began requesting I share my recipes. I started up a super generic food blog - just some recipes and a few terrible photos. I did that for about 6 months before I completely abandoned the project. A few months later, I started to get the itch again to share these recipes I was creating. This time I decided to add the theme of food found in video games.
Ten years ago, I started Pixelated Provisions and it’s been going strong ever since.
AW: And from that point, how did you get started on this particular journey to writing about food in video games?
VR: I’ve always been interested in food in video games. I would become easily distracted by any food art that I found in games. I remember growing up I was super excited about chili dogs because of Sonic, trying to imagine what Rare Candy would taste like from Pokemon, or just trying to convince my parents to take us out to a restaurant that served some of the delicious food my Sims were eating.
My culinary journey truly kicked off when I started playing Guild Wars 2 and I began leveling up my Chef skills. I was so impressed by the amount of detail the development team put into each of the recipes. You start by mixing some basic staples, like seasoning mixtures, sauces, and basic doughs. From there, you use those items and other ingredients to make the final dish. Each one gives your character a boost to help you during your quest.
I immediately started taking notes and setting up Pixelated Provisions to begin expanding my culinary skills. From then on, I spent a lot of extra time in all the games I played staring at any hint of food there. I’ve also taught many of my friends, because there are so many games to play, that if they see food to send me all the screenshots.
AW: Speaking as somebody with a very similar journey in opening pathways through finding a particular “niche” and writing about it, this is awesome to hear!
You’ve come from the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Fallout, the far-flung stars of Destiny, and more before arriving at the sprawling shores of Halo. What are some of the flavors that you think define this universe and why?
In the vast, cold, empty grips of space travel, travelling between stars in hunks of metal to your next (and possibly final) battle, you need something to bring you a little joy, and the recipes in this book do just that!
I pulled a lot of recipes from my childhood, recipes that I’ve made to cheer me up throughout the years, and several of these recipes are actually ones that my mom shared with me. I’m happy that I was able to share those staples in my life in this book. There is a lot of fried food in this book. What's more comforting than something deep-fried!
AW: I’m getting hungry just thinking about it... and speaking of something comforting, this hot chocolate looks like the perfect thing to have in the colder months on the horizon!
When you embark on this esculent endeavor, how do you start? I’d love to hear about the process that goes into figuring out what kind of recipes are fitting for a given universe.
VR: When these projects come to me, I always take a really long look at the franchise. For Halo, my husband and I started to replay through the series in order to get the overall mood of the games into our head. From there we started looking at any hint of food left behind by the developers.
Halo: Reach got me really excited the moment we ran into World Cuisine and I saw the menu. There were several simple pictures of combo items that I could work with. We continued playing and then there were the vending machines filled with drinks and food. After going through all the games, I started to look over summaries from the novels to see if anything was mentioned there, like Jim Dandy.
Once my initial pass of looking for any food callouts, I began to organize the book. We wanted to highlight the different locations and sources of food that were found throughout the franchise. Some of the locations required a bit of filling in and additional detail for the meals they prepared. This is where that theme of comfort really started to show up and shine. A lot of the food called out in the games were things people would enjoy back home, with some minor changes based on the produce they could access.
343 Industries requested that this book be written from the perspective of a civilian. So the next major step was creating the writer of this book which ultimately led to the creation of a new character, Arturo Bustamante.
A little bit about Arturo’s background: his previous job took him across many of the different worlds featured in the Halo universe, but Arturo himself only knows as much about Master Chief and the Halo rings as what he’s seen on the news. Arturo was once a corporate manager for Yaka Frutas, an intergalactic fruit company in the Halo universe. He managed a lot of contracts and other soul-sucking corporate work, but it sent him all across the galaxy to different colonies, outposts, and cities.
In his retirement, Arturo wrote this cookbook because he wanted to share his experience interacting with the people that work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep everyone supported and fed across the galaxy. Traveling on UNSC vessels (strictly on business), visiting Reach before the fall, exploring the side streets of New Mombasa, Arturo’s hope and my hope as well is to bring more to the Halo universe and expand on an already rich lore with rich food.
Arturo decided to write this cookbook to bring the foods of his far-flung business trips to those who might not have the same connections to jump around space, sharing the cuisines and cultures of the vast expanse of human space to the everyday civilian.
AW: What were some of the easiest and most challenging recipes to draw up based on Halo sauces—I mean, er, sources?
VR: The easiest set of recipes to work on were from the World Cuisine and Fronk’s spots. Those locations had full menus for me to work with. While locations like Kuku Cafe and Jim Dandy had simple descriptions about what they were serving. So this allowed for a bit of freedom to pick items I felt fit with the location.
AW: What’s a good starting recipe that folks should look to try their hand at if they’re not the most confident cook? And then, cranking the difficulty up to Legendary, what’s a recipe that veterans of the culinary battlefield should give a go?
VR: There are a large variety of recipes you can find in this book that vary in difficulty. If you are looking for a place to start, Tallarines Verdes (pg. 125) is the recipe I would recommend to someone who is just starting in the kitchen. It is a wonderful Peruvian spin on a pesto pasta. A lot of the heavy lifting is done by a blender, and it makes a decent number of leftovers! It is super easy to put together.
If you’d like to take a smaller step, Groob (pg. 175) is another great option. Groob is a delicious smoothie, which again the blender does a lot of the work. As you make this you can also slowly start adding fruit or vegetables to make it your own.
Now, if we want to bump it up to Normal Difficulty, I would dive into either the Tuna Gyros (pg. 67), Moa Caesar Salad (pg. 89), or Smörgås (pg. 163). Each of these have several components to bring it all together. Many of the components can be done ahead of time before the final dish is put together. All of these recipes will teach you a new skill and help you improve in the kitchen in some way.
Finally, if we want to push it to the limit on Legendary, it would be the Full-Stack Ground Pounder (pg. 93). This recipe has several layers and requires many techniques to put together. But building it isn’t the only challenge, eating this thing will really push you to the next level too.
AW: The Halo universe has some food which has been referenced in the lore, from moa burgers to alien delicacies like irukan. What’s the creative relationship between yourself, the publisher, and our Franchise team to make this as authentically Halo as possible—particularly with narrative framing?
VR: I met with folks at 343 Industries and discussed what they were hoping to see in this book. After getting this general overview of what they were wanting, I did my first pass of the outline and wrote the introduction piece of the book’s writer, sent that off to the team, and awaited approval.
A few more back-and-forths, and the team was excited about what I outlined and allowed me to create this book. As mentioned earlier, it was very important to the team that this book be framed as being through the eyes of a civilian, which gave a unique perspective of the universe.
AW: We do love our narrative framing devices!
Cooking is something that I think a lot of people come to discover as a passion, rather than knowing from the outset that they want to cook. Do you think that cookbooks like these, set in beloved fictional universes, are an accessible gateway to possibly ignite that spark of discovery within people?
VR: This is exactly why I started my blog. For many, cooking is probably viewed as a tedious chore that you have to do rather than a passion. I felt with the connection to these fictional universes it can inspire a positive feeling while they cook, like remembering a moment when their favorite character enjoyed the meal they are making.
I’ve had several parents reach out to me saying they were so happy they got one of my cookbooks for their child because it got them in the kitchen—even cooking up a meal for the family! They never imagined that would be a possibility, but the food being related to a game they are in love with was enough to start them on a path to enjoy cooking.
AW: Halo is filled with an interesting variety of characters. If you were throwing a dinner party, who would be on your invite list? Could the Gravemind’s hunger possibly be satiated with the perfect moa burger?
VR: I don’t think any amount of food I make would be enough for the Gravemind. I would probably be cooking for the rest of my days to finally fill them up!
I’d be happy to invite anyone to a dinner party if they were hungry, but I could think of a few characters that appeared throughout the Halo universe that would be on my invite list.
Miranda Keyes would be an amazing person to have a dinner conversation with. She played a great role in the games, leading through dangerous times and being a strong female role model. It’s great to see more representation in games and I’d love to hear about her adventures.
I’d extend an invitation to the Arbiter. I don’t have enough expertise on Sangheili cuisine, and I’d love to learn more about it. I really love the Arbiter’s story and would really enjoy getting to hear their perspective about the events of the game. They played a great role in the series and would certainly have a lot to share.
But, just adjacent to Halo, it’s Sarge from Red vs Blue who would have to be on the top of my list! As a fellow Chicagoan, I bet we could have a lot of conversations about the city. He’s been all over the place, maybe he’s found better food than what Chicago has to offer (although I doubt it!) I’ve also heard that he gives great hugs, so I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.
AW: Miranda, Thel, and Sarge—that's quite the holy trinity! For those of you reading this, we’d love to hear which Halo characters you’d invite to a dinner party as well (and what would you cook for them?)
Thank you very much for your time in joining us today, Victoria! Do you have any closing words you’d like to share?
VR: I hope everyone enjoys the book, both from the food they make and through reading Arturo’s story. This was a really fun project that pushed me creatively and I hope it gets more people cooking in the kitchen. If I can influence at least a few more people to give cooking a try, then I’m happy and proud to have helped!
Whether you’re entering the kitchen solo, looking to do some co-op cooking, or turning up the heat in a competitive cook-off, pick a recipe in Halo: The Official Cookbook and get an authentic taste of the universe—courtesy of Arturo Bustamante.