"The food shortages meant that people needed to cook with the new alien foods, whether they wanted to or not." Ruth stood in the kitchen of their alien invasion farm, an array of odd-looking foods on the table in front of her and a pile of three brightly coloured cookbooks to one side. "These days we're all familiar with the Gorax." She held up the fruit, which looked a little like a purple apple. "But the Timberlic, popular at the time, was hard to grow and is rarely seen these days." She held up what looked like a bright orange strand of hay.
"Chefs were quick to put out recipe books using these new ingredients. But many were too complicated for most people to reproduce. My favourite is The Five Minute Alien Cookbook by Al Enbigh." She picked this one up. The picture of the meal on the front of it consisted of different shades of brown. She opened it at the bookmark and read, "'Banana, Gorax and Timberlic pie will delight the whole family with its varied tastes in every bite.' I thought I'd give it a go as a treat for dinner tonight."
"We're planting Timblerlic today," Peter said, to the camera, as he walked across the yard. "It grows out of season, so it'll be ready to harvest just after Christmas. For the people living during the time of the alien invasion it became their staple crop, after the aliens insisted all farms grow it."
"We've done quite a bit of planting over the years," Alex continued. "So we feel like we know what we're doing. Except, there's a petrol shortage." The camera panned out as he patted the tractor he was stood beside. "The aliens cut off all oil trade and while that was fine for our electric cars, tractors had been slow to catch up with vehicle innovation. It was a little while before farms like this would have an electric tractor."
Peter took up the tale. "Fortunately, we have a couple of horses here on the farm." He stroked the neck of a gleaming black mare, her head looking over the half-open stable door. "They were bred more for their looks than their strength, so they're not used to doing heavy work. But we'll give it a go..."
The well-behaved horses were happy to be led out into the yard, occasionally nuzzling Peter or Alex for treats. They were also very good at walking in straight lines along the field. However, the minute a small plough was attached behind either of them, they were both spooked, running off, with the boys in pursuit. By the time they caught up with the horses and led them back to the stables, Peter and Alex were panting.
"I don't think it's going to work, Peter." Alex was bent over, his hands on his legs as he fought to get his breath back.
Peter, leaning against the stable wall, didn't look much better. "We're going to have to do it ourselves."
'We' in this case meant Peter pulled the plough, while Alex held it steady behind him. Peter plodded steadily along, in something approaching a straight line, although looking at it from one end of the field it did slope a little. When Peter reached the end of a line he stopped and wiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve. "This is hard work."
"Come on, you've got another eight lines to do yet." Alex grinned. "Giddy up."
"I am your new alien master," came a deep voice from the doorway.
Ruth paused in setting the table to look round. It was a good fancy dress costume, but nonetheless, she could see the pink of skin around the yellow eye holes, and the third, fourth and fifth arms drooped uselessly. She gave into the urge to laugh. "It suits you, Peter."
"How did you know it was me?" Peter asked, taking the head off.
"Who else could it be?"
Peter stepped into the room to put the head down on the kitchen counter and Alex entered behind him. "Something smells good."
"I just hope it tastes as good." While the boys sat down, Ruth pulled the pie out of the oven and gave it pride of place in the middle of the table. The boys frowned at it. The Timberlic had turned the pastry orange and it didn't look at all edible.
"Not to disparage your cooking skills," Alex said, "but should it be that colour?"
"The Timberlic stains everything." Ruth sat down and showed them her orange fingers, before picking up a knife and serving them a portion each.
"I know what this meal is missing." Peter fetched a bottle of wine from a cupboard and proceeded to fill their glasses. "Homemade Finchla Wine." He took a sip. "That's good stuff."
"Careful," Ruth said. "Finchla Wine is notoriously strong."
"Just as well there's pie to mop it up with." Which Peter dug into with his knife and fork.
"It's good pie," Alex said, swallowing his first mouthful of it. "You wouldn't think so, from the ingredients."
"The Timberlic has an amazing quality of bringing out the best in whatever it's cooked with," Ruth said. "It just looks so unappetising that demand for it dropped, once the aliens left and people returned to the foods they knew."
"You know, the alien invasion wasn't all bad," Alex mused. "They brought new foods and new technology. The resistance movement bound people together, and those who wanted to get off the planet got to go with the aliens."
"As their slaves," Peter pointed out, gesturing with his knife.
"They knew that and still went." Alex paused in his pie eating for a sip of Peter's wine, then coughed as it went down.
Peter smiled and shook his head at him, before mopping up the last bit of pie on his plate. "I am starving. Anyone mind if I have the last bit?"
"Works like a horse, eats like a horse," Alex said, as Ruth shook her head and Peter spooned the last of the pie onto his plate.
"Here's to being a horse." Peter held up his glass. As the other two raised theirs too, he continued, "And our new alien overlords."