Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Unhazy Stargazy

A Stargazy Pie with the Stargazy Studios logo replacing one of the fish heads.

I've known since early 2007 that I'd work under the name Stargazy Studios to develop my games. The word stargazy has a whimsical quality about it, but also means a lot to me and what I'm trying to achieve as a developer. I think few would guess that it was a cookery programme that provided this inspiration.

Stargazy is taken from the title of a classic Cornish meal, stargazy pie. It's a visually striking dish made in the most southwesterly county of England. Fish are arranged underneath a pie crust like spokes on a wheel. They are placed with tails at the centre of the pie, with their heads poking out skyward from underneath the crust's edge. The fish appear to be looking up in to the night sky, gazing at the stars.

Although I'm a big food fan, there are many classic British dishes, and so that in itself does not make stargazy pie exceptional. It was Mark Hix's version of stargazy pie, created for a national competition, that was extraordinary enough to christen a games developer.

The Great British Menu is a competition to bring Britain's top chefs together to demonstrate their cooking prowess on behalf of the nation. The chefs compete with each other to have their dishes selected for a final banquet, which has been prepared for guests that have included the Queen and the British Embassy in Paris. On the competition's incursion into the gastronomic heartland of France, Mark Hix represented his Britain with stargazy pie.

France's rivalry with Britain is famous. Particular pleasure is taken by the French in nurturing the perception that their cuisine is far superior to their poor Rosbif cousins'. Mark Hix harnessed British ingenuity, irreverence, and dry humour to strike a blow to Gallic aloofness. Instead of the pilchards traditionally used in stargazy pie, he selected rabbit and crayfish to make the filling. The result was stunning; the dish was sensationally delicious, and shot in to the premier slot of the main course at the banquet. The twist was that both rabbits and crayfish are considered pests in Britain's fields and waterways. By using them in his dish Mark was saying that British cuisine is so good that you'll adore it, even if it's stuffed with vermin! As the French dignitaries, chefs and celebrities eulogised the pie, they simply reinforced Mark's message. It was a proper work of genius.

I think Mark's stargazy pie epitomises what it is to be British. It demonstrates inventiveness, humour and downright gumption. The name Stargazy Studios was chosen to celebrate these traits, and I will honour them by imbuing my games with their qualities.

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