I made panna cotta for the first time a few months back. It was delicious. Also, I learned two things, the first of which is that it’s panna cotta and not pannacotta. Who knew?
The second thing was more interesting. I learned how brilliant it is working with leaf gelatine. If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, apologies for what follows – and frankly, gelatine is the sort of thing that makes you want to be a vegetarian or a vegan in the first place. Anyway, leaf gelatine is completely fascinating. You bring it out of the packet and it’s crinkly and thin: it’s basically like money. It’s very hard to count out the number of sheets you need for a recipe without feeling like you’re a bank teller. Anyway, once you’ve counted it out you have to bloom it. You put it in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Then, if you’re me, you worry that you’ve left it too long, or not long enough, or that you’ve ruined it and you don’t have enough spares and now nobody will ever eat panna cotta ever again.
But when you reach into the bowl you’re like, Wow! What happened? What happened is that the crinkly, thin leaf gelatine has turned into a wonderfully rubbery, squeezy muddle of stuff. You gently press the water out of it and then you get on making panna cotta. This leaf gelatine will transform the cereal milk – thanks, Christina Tosi! – into wonderful wobbly domes of caramely goodness. You will place a spoon on top and the surface will hold and shimmer and bounce.
All of which is to say, what the actual f*** happened to Loot Lake last night? The purple cube that has been rolling across Fortnite’s island hit the lake yesterday evening and sank below the surface. For a while, people have been pondering what the cube was made of. Ponder no longer, sportsfans: it was made of leaf gelatine. I went out onto the lake this morning and that’s exactly what happened: I went out onto the lake. The cube is gone, as far as I can tell, and the lake has turned to purple jelly. It’s set. You can’t wade through the water anymore. You can’t even walk on it. Instead, you bounce, madly, wildly, without a care. But I had a care. What happened to my lake?
— LootLake.net | Everything Fortnite Battle Royale (@LootLakeBR) September 19, 2018
If you’ve put much time into Fortnite you will probably be aware that Loot Lake is not a popular location. It’s a wide stretch of water that slows you down and makes you an easy target for snipers who can cluster around it in many of the tall buildings. In the centre, meanwhile, is a rickety old house that sometimes doesn’t even have any treasure chests in it. If you get to the house and there’s nothing there, you are bang out of luck. If you get to the house and there is something there, you’re generally still bang out of luck because you have to get away again, which means either building a path to freedom or wading slowly, both of which are invitations to get shot from afar.
Loot Lake, then, has a reputation for slow, unrewarding, one-sided encounters. I can see why it’s the sort of thing that developers and players alike might want to change. But there’s a problem! Honestly there is. Loot Lake is also kind of wonderful. It’s wonderful because of what it brings to the fiction of the island.
To put it another way, that house on Loot Lake? I had already picked out a bedroom. I know which room I’ll be waking up in when I finally buy the place and move in. I know where I’ll have breakfast, and where I’ll spend my evenings looking out the window and watching for storms and thinking about the old days. Loot Lake conjures a kind of calm middle-aged fantasy quite easily. It offers a fiction quite away from the whittle-99-players-down-to-one fiction of the rest of the game and more along the lines of, if this lovely island was a real place, where would I choose to hang out? That house may be a pain to defend, and it may be a place that often fosters a weird kind of uneasy cohabiting, one player landing on the roof and controlling the attic while the other gets the island and the rooms indoors, but it’s also a lovely clapped-out 19th century joint in the New England vernacular. It offers calm and contemplation in my imagination. It’s my spirit house, if you will, which is a bit like a spirit animal but for boring people.
And the lake is essential to this. The lake that is not only a risk to cross but a boring, unsatisfying, soggy risk. That lake’s dullness combines with its beauty to protect the house at the centre from harm. Sometimes, hanging out in Loot Lake in mid-game, I can’t hear any gunfire, and I can’t really imagine that there’s anyone else out there dealing damage or getting the drop on someone. It’s just me and the house and the lake. I dread the changing of the seasons.