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More vampires need to play with their food

Just look at Only Lovers Left Alive’s blood popsicles

Tom Hiddleston’s vampire in only Lovers Left Alive sniffs a blood popsicle Image: Sony Pictures Classics

Even vampires deserve treats. One of the many sacrifices that people make in exchange for eternal life in vampire lore is flavor. They can only eat one thing for the rest of their elongated lives, and it’s a metallic, salty, sinister thing. We all know this. We accept this. But vampires shouldn’t have to give up texture, too. So, in 2013, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was brave enough to create a vampire with the vision to turn that blood into something good to eat: Eve and her blood Popsicles in Only Lovers Left Alive.

As a millennial woman, I have consumed more than my fair share of vampire stories. I grew up entranced by Interview with the Vampire. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series of books and films fell into my lap right on the heels of another fantasy series that, er, need not be named. Then there was True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the then-new app Hulu. But just once has drinking blood ever looked appetizing to me. Once have I ever vanted to suck blood, and that’s thanks to Eve.

Jarmusch’s moody hangout comedy stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires named Adam and Eve (don’t worry about it) who’ve been on-again-off-again spouses for centuries and reunite when Adam is in a particular state of ennui. He’s got a hookup at a local blood bank, so he doesn’t need to do any killing. But Eve gets experimental. In an effort to surprise and cheer Adam up, she freezes some O negative. Very refreshing, especially when you’re in “a hot spot,” she says. Now, Hiddleston enjoying “blood on a stick” is a finger-licking image by itself, but this is not that kind of thirst blog. Hand to Lilith, this is the first and only time I have felt represented on screen by a fictional vampire. This is exactly the type of thing I would do if I were undead. I love to eat Popsicles. I love to make Popsicles.

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Have you ever been in a situation where you had limited ingredients in your house — because of money, college, a thunderstorm, or a pandemic, for example — and had to get creative in order to avoid eating the same thing every day? Imagine that plus immortality. Shouldn’t vampires be messing around in the kitchen in an attempt to spice up their lives, like, all the time? The titular cannibal on Hannibal enjoyed sanguinaccio dolce, an Italian pudding, with human blood instead of the traditional pig’s blood. You can’t tell me Lestat wouldn’t be into that.

Vampires are inventive, prolific even, in many ways. Across literature, film, and television, their fighting styles vary. They choose to spend their daytime hours in different ways. You can always count on a fictional vampire to experiment with fashion. But not food. Whether the story is romantic or horrifying or a bit of both, we usually see vampires feeding on fresh human blood by sucking directly from their victim’s neck, wrist if they’re polite, or femoral artery if they’re nasty. It can be scary or erotic, but never exactly tasty. If a vampire doesn’t want to kill, and we have plenty of sullen and brooding faces in popular culture, they’ll find more palatable methods. The immortal teenagers on The Vampire Diaries drink blood-filled IV bags like Capri-Suns. Baz in Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On series, Interview with the Vampire’s Louis de Pointe du Lac, and the “vegetarian” Cullen family in the Twilight series hunt animals. Still, they’re drinking from the source. There’s no sense of fun. There’s no flair.

I can think of some notable exceptions. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the vampire Spike alludes to enhancing his blood with burba weed for flavor and crushed-up Weetabix for texture. At least once in season 6 we see him doing it, so we know it wasn’t a dry joke (hard to tell with those Whedon types). What We Do in the Shadows has a little fun, too. The vampires can get high off the blood of people who are on drugs. They can mix blood with Bud Light and get drunk. Still, that’s not very elegant or inventive. I expect more from them.

Others just merit an honorable mention. The glamorous antagonist known only as the Countess in the 1985 sex comedy Once Bitten drinks a glass of blood with a celery stalk. Occasionally you’ll see vampires drink their blood from a red wine glass or a flask. Presentation is important, so I appreciate that. Amy Heckerling’s romantic comedy Vamps mixes it up by having Krysten Ritter stick a straw into the rat she’s draining. That’s (a) gross and (b) boring! And True Blood, of course, is built around a synthetic blood that vampires can buy bottled and drink “out” in society. However, many of the vampires on True Blood prefer the real thing and tend to drink it in the usual way. Russell will stick his hand into a human’s chest cavity and pull out their heart, but he apparently can’t be bothered to prepare his food.

Come on! Where are the foodie vampires? I know that Hollywood’s best and brightest can do better. What about blood foam? Blood soup is already a dish in many cuisines. There are lots of foods cooked with blood, like black pudding or coq au vin. Where’s the whipping, frying, curdling, and coagulating? Show me a vampire starting the day with a steaming cup of hot blood. I don’t see why you couldn’t make freeze-dried astronaut blood for an afternoon snack. If Popsicles are possible, why not a bloody shaved ice, slushie, or sorbet?

I don’t even think I’ve ever seen a vampire lick a rare steak. Let’s face it: Being a vampire looks fun! Except for drinking blood, of course. That can change. If vampire fiction is here to stay, we owe it to them to give them something good-looking to eat instead of just someone good-looking to eat.