Hollandaise of Our Lives

New York City, 1894

Lemuel was hung over. A failure in the Argentine wheat crop had sent the markets tumbling, and the exchange was in chaos. He had escaped the trading game in time to avoid wading through the mire personally, but now his retirement was looking grim. At least we have old Grover back, thought Lemuel. He'd been a Bourbon Democrat through and through, and the threat of economic collapse had seemed as opportune a reason as any to honor his party with a generous imbibing of its patron libation.

But bourbon had always been an investment of severely diminishing returns. In the end, it was his head that split, and his eyes that swelled. Lemuel shuffled through a drizzle, up Fifth Avenue toward the recently-erected Waldorf Hotel. Heck of a time to open a hotel. Uncle Sam is pulling lint from his pockets and old Astor throws up a testament to luxury to remind everyone he's rich, Lemuel mused. New York was 35% unemployed, and he figured the jobless must have appointed Fifth Avenue their new point of congregation. He walked through a gauntlet of outstretched hands. The rain pooled in the beggars' palms and ran into the gutter. His head throbbed.

At the Waldorf, Lemuel ordered a breakfast aimed straight at his hangover. He had long relished the incidental contact of assorted breakfast fare; today, he would live intentionally.

"I'll have buttered toast, poached eggs, some bacon—nice and crisp—and a hooker of Hollandaise," said Lemuel.

"Very good, Mr. Benedict," said the head waiter, who was in the habit of taking things personally, Lemuel's order included.

When the head waiter, one Oscar Tschirky, returned to the kitchen, he instructed the cook to make him an extra portion—his interest was piqued.

Through the rainstreaked window, past the wet and emptyhanded poor, far down Fifth Avenue at Delmonico's (the Delmonico's), Charles Ranhofer was enjoying his own "peach pudding à la Cleveland" as he penned the final pages of The Epicurean. It would be a tome for the ages, as long as the Good Book, and every bit as practical, if he dared say so. His fingers wagged over his vintage Hansen Writing Ball as if controlling an invisible marionette before descending on the keys.

Under the heading, "A selection of interesting bills of fare of Delmonico's from 1862-1894," Ranhofer carefully punched a new entry onto the page: "Eggs à la—Benedick / Eufa à la Benedick."

Ranhofer had always enjoyed naming his finest creations after his favorite people. It was an honor for all involved, and elevated his dishes to their proper level alongside the era's finest achievements in architecture and engineering. If tariffs and bridges could wear the stamp of personhood, why not veal pie? A veal pie certainly beat the Dickens out of a tariff, anyhow.

"Cut some muffins in halves crosswise, toast them without allowing to brown, then place a round of cooked ham an eighth of an inch thick and of the same diameter as the muffins on each half. Heat in a moderate oven and put a poached egg on each toast. Cover the whole with Hollandaise sauce."

There. Charles thought often of the Captain and Mrs. Le Grand Benedict. The Mrs. had been positively impossible to sate after some time, owing to the frequency of her visits. (And to the opulence of her rearing, Charles posited.) But the muses had been kind, and a few staples had been enlivened considerably by that pillar of haute cuisine, that matron of sauces, Hollandaise.

Charles pondered the endeavors of Oscar Tschirky, his one-time second, his apprentice of years past, not a dilettante but neither a virtuoso in matters culinary, and wondered what pilfered shadows he was serving far down Fifth at the Waldorf. He wondered if Oscar would be so bold as to use the very same pet appellations that gave his (Charles's) own fare such distinction. Certainly he would content himself on simply absconding with the recipes. The names must remain inviolate.

Meanwhile, Lemuel Benedict finished his breakfast. In the kitchen, Oscar Tschirky savored a final, Hollandaise-sodden bite of Lemuel's suggestion. He would add this creation to the menu immediately, under the moniker of its poor, beleaguered inventor.

And so two truths were born of one, never to reunite. 


  

World's Best Prison Food

Prison is hot right now. (Really hot, in a lot of prisons. During the summer, many prisons may exceed a hundred degrees. This has been a big deal.) I can't see this being for any reason other than the existence of "Orange is the New Black," just as there was a renaissance of cultural interest in prisons when "Oz" debuted years ago on HBO. A main subplot early in Season One concerns a vindictive kitchen head "starving out" the protagonist for a perceived slight. The characters of Oz also used kitchen access as a means of moving contraband, as well as a means to murder each other.

Now that I'm thinking more about prison, just like everyone else with Netflix, which is everyone else, I decided to look into the reality of prison food. Kitchen shankings and drug trafficking make fine mass entertainment, but what of the more quotidian realities of prison dining? And ultimately, which prison has the best food? I feel naked without Yelp reviews. Luckily, many prisoners are at their wittiest when describing the fare they are forced to reply upon for every meal. I can't safely link any such inmate food ruminations, but they're out there. One cleaner-than average meatball review on a prisoner's blog stated, "I joke to my cellmate that they taste like an entire groundhog was put through a wood chipper, and with the help of some soy emulsifier, made into meatballs."

It may never be "destination fare," but the world's prisons serve a wide variety of food. After all, a man's gotta eat. (A woman's also gotta eat, but a prisoner is about ten times more likely to be a man.) The pesky necessity of regular food consumption takes on a whole new dimension when a population cannot acquire its own food. The consensus, of course, is that the food falls neatly between "barely edible" and "weapon of mass demoralization."

Blast freezing. Snap-freezing, or "cook-chill," which should not be confused with a chili cook-off. "For institutional use only." Prison food is so unique and alien that it requires a whole different lexicon. Cook-chill describes a process wherein food is cooked in shallow trays en masse, then cooled to just above freezing for transport. The food is then reheated when ready for consumption. So the entire prison population is essentially eating leftovers, unless they have enough money to buy other food.

Dietary and religious accommodations are made to a limited degree in U.S. prisons. While one may not be guaranteed healthy, edible chicken in prison, one can be guaranteed kosher beverages. You can't be sure what meat you're eating, but you can be sure it's halal, upon request. America.

American prisons can't provide meals that conflict with a prisoner's religious affiliation. That doesn't mean they can't yank a meal away altogether.  

Many prisons are replacing cold cuts with budget cuts. Texas, the executin'ist state in the union, finally decided that death row inmates would not receive a last meal, as of 2011. This makes sense, but if you ask me, it's a slippery slope. The last meal may be a "waste," but what about the second-to-last? 2011 also saw Texas delivering its brand of big justice to another, less likely culprit: lunch. Breakfast and lunch have become one, albeit reluctantly. (This is a concept familiar to most Texans.) Yes, Texan inmates can join the ranks of late risers and hipster buffet enthusiasts everywhere, as they now have Brunch.

American prisons have idiosyncrasies, like freedom of religion, but they really can't touch the luxury of (some of) their international cousins. So... who has the best prison food?

Bastoy Prison, about an hour from Oslo, Norway, is probably the top contender. While doing your Norwegian maximum sentence of up to 21 years, you can enjoy tennis, saunas, and cross country skiing. Which already makes the food taste better.Why is there room for all that in a prison? Because the prison is an island of cottages housing many dangerous criminals, all of whom have jobs integral to the self-sustaining island community. How's the food? It's hard to say exactly, but we know they serve salmon, chicken, and fish balls. Given the prison's general vibe as an ultra-humane antithesis of our prisons, and the fact that the food is prepared by a chef, it's probably pretty good. What's more, the prisoners can and must prepare two of their three daily meals. With a daily $10-$20 earning potential through their jobs, the inmates have access to some very decent fare from the commissary.

The bottom line here is the same bottom line you're likely to find in many other situations: don't go to prison.




A Health and Beauty Aisle Fantasia


Sunday: for many people, a day of rest and reflection. For me, these concepts are not always the most congenial bedfellows. What to do with Sunday... as I lather my hands with a generous blob of "A La Maison" Rosemary Mint hand soap, it's clear to me I should go purchase more soap. I've got plenty, but a little stroll through Foods For Living's Health and Beauty Aisle couldn't hurt...

I love soap as much as music, and that's OK, but there was a time when I thought it wasn't. Nowadays, you'll often find me in FFL's Health and Beauty Aisle, inhaling lemongrass and lavender oil, masquerading as a well-adjusted person. I'm at peace with it. Let me explain.

Even in this digital age, I love looking at CDs (especially at local antiquated media stores like FBC). There is something fundamentally appealing about the way the titled spines fill the boxes in perfect uniformity while the print upon them is a wild spectrum of color and purpose. Unknown metal bands with their names in runic fonts somehow both austere and hokey. The more obscure the band, the wilder the proclamation, right down to the local acts with unutterable blasphemies screaming across their jewel cases.
            One part of the satisfaction I get from this perusal is the predictable pleasure of cultural tourism, sifting through this torrent of sound, both familiar and alien, with my fingertips. When it comes to shaving off the hours, to finding something a tune to whistle at the bus stop until that final number 13 comes droning out of the fog for me, CD browsing is fantastic. If asked why I enjoy it, I would reply—unreflectively—that I like music as both a sensual experience and as a cultural artifact, and so I like looking at it, picking it up, turning it over in my hands. I would say this while holding a hopefully unreflective jewel case in my hands, maybe (already) squinting at the fine print to see if someone interesting maybe played the panflute on Track 8.

A Socratically persistent person may ask if I were any more or less happy combing through the daunting array of available shampoos and essential oils in the Health and Beauty Aisle of Foods For Living. Of course, it would make me seem like a buffoon (or at least unemployed) to straight-up admit that I could easily be lost for the better part of an hour in the forest of handmade bar soap there, that I could be transported to regions antipodal to everyday experience, if only for a second, by smells lacking any natural analogue.

This hypothetical prosecutor of my secret self may note how nothing about my love of secondhand music perusal involves actually listening to the music.

For a long time I thought I had a pathological need to browse, with bouts of accompanying retail therapy. If something as respected and abstract as music could just as easily be replaced by a tray full of food-grade, local, organic essential oils (wink), was I not merely a simpleton with a need to cruise the shelves? Maybe. But I no longer think of it that way.
I love the shampoo shelf more than I could ever love a particular bottle of the stuff. And as much as I may love a particular album, it is ultimately not the Known—the treasured and Already Owned—that drives my compulsion to consume. The urge to stop and smell the rose-scented lotion surfaces anytime I am not engaged with something more pressing. The context changes, but the urge does not.
The immensity of life cannot be approached in any given moment. We dare not. The Bilderbergers, Higgs boson, Osiris, quanta, 14 billion eyes, the thousand lives one will never lead, who, thanks to fiction, you can still dive half inside and come out of face first and more terrified, the mortal reality of the life you dove into fiction to escape in the first place, refocused and more immediate than ever…but the shampoo gives one little pieces. LorAnn Oils can summon the mind to distant shores with a breath. Sandalwood can be a memory, or a half-memory and a puzzle. Knowing that such journeys wait inside each bottle, I can rarely stop before whiffing at least a dozen.

On the surface it’s easy to cast myself as a victim of consumer culture. It’s easy to imagine my infant body as an undiscovered island, the conquistadors of shiny new things planting flags of desire and fear in my young mind. Baby Me, all pudge and unbridled want, hears his first commercial on a hospital TV before his eyes ever open. Strangers in conference rooms are parsing and mapping Baby Me’s brain, so that when I am old enough to be “self-sufficient,” I can trade in my time for some money, and trade in the money for some goods and services, and these people can take my money and trade it in for some time of their own. It's a fine system. It’s easy to see these advertisers as vultures or puppet masters. A little too easy. I no longer see this as anyone's fault, or a fault at all.

I no longer feel my compulsion to consume is subtraction from some other, whole person who does not feel he needs to cheat death by delving into shampoo otherworlds and album cover art.

Good soap and delicate incense create miniature universes. They are portals into desert bazaars and hidden groves. Such vials of adventure keep us from grieving overmuch for the aforementioned unlived lives. The world suggested by a colloidal oatmeal exfoliating body scrub isn't a proxy, but a place I wanted to be all along. Holding basil mint soap in my hand while the world around me plods on is terraforming, planewalking, the ingestion of a utopia. And to imagine that 100 such places exist on the same shelf, a whim away from one another...

Eating Bugs For Fun and Profit

Leaning halfway into my trunk to retrieve some groceries, I was enveloped by a curious sound: something like a dozen open mouths full of Pop Rocks. The sound turned out to be the many tiny footfalls of a posse of earwigs. Dozens of them had stowed away in the legs of a roadside furniture purchase. Besides Journey's smash hit "Don't Stop Believing," no other sound is more viscerally, instinctually repulsive. When I say "instinctually," that's exactly what I mean. As humans, insects share a place in our collective psyche with other prehistoric classics like "fire," and "heights."  Of all the actions I could take upon finding a few dozen earwigs in my trunk, my last inclination would be to begin gobbling them up, one by one. Could there come a day when my grocery bags would be willfully filled with insects, instead of just incidentally?

Issues surrounding food scarcity, purity, and origin are reaching new heights of public awareness in the First World. Meanwhile, food shortage is ever an issue in the Third World. (Who knows what's going on in the poor Second World, that seldom-mentioned pariah of global numerical designations.) The question presents itself as we endure The Summer of the Mosquito: why don't we eat bugs already?

First off, we, as a species, always have. Entomophagy, or the human consumption of insects, was practiced by the people of the Ozarks, for instance, long before they were people as we know them. The fossil record tells us that eating termites predates bluegrass by a fair margin. The plenitude of insects in an era when the "spear" was next-gen tech makes eating whatever is crawling on the cave floor an obvious choice.

While desperation has its place in the bug-eating world, many cultures have integrated insects into their cuisine as a matter of choice.

In Columbia, many people enjoy eating ants. Invariably, these ants are specified to be "big butt ants." The hormiga culona  is an ant queen, often roasted and eaten with salt. Eating these ant queens is not limited to indigenous or desperate people in Columbia. The Colombian Ambassador to England, for instance, regularly imports his favorite six-legged taste of home. Objectively, this is no stranger than eating shrimp, but that's the intellect talking. Cultural conditioning is every effective: I still have no desire to eat an ant. (I don't like ordering food by mail.)

Not much of a hunter? Look no further than a Mexican street market for dried roasted crickets, sold by the pound. Aficionados recommend removing the legs before consumption. If you love crickets but don't want to support the cruel cricket livestock industry (that I may have just invented), trapping your own requires naught but a mason jar, some fruit, and some patience.

Grasshoppers are also a popular choice in some regions. Uganda hosts quite the grasshopper trade, with many entrepreneurs using flood lights, sheet metal, and oil drums to "harvest" them. Again, removing the legs and wings is key to good hopper prep.

The people of Cambodia get giddy at the sight of a deep-fried tarantula. Southern Africa loves its mopane worms. And who doesn't love a locust basket with a good brew?

International food chic aside, it seems impossible than Americans could ever embrace a plateful of termites. But is a pile of termites any crazier than a little wooden boat full of raw fish and pleasantly popping salmon roe? A few decades ago, finding a sushi bar in the Midwest was uncommon, to say the least. Now you'll find a few in most major towns. Can the country that brought the world Extreme Sports and punk rock step up and replace pork rinds with locust... rinds?

Well, why would we want to?

Insects are plentiful, nutritious, and may not feel pain or have any sense of individual identity. Insects are also hearty, and adapt easily to artificial breeding climates. This may not matter much to those of us with a Foods For Living around the corner, but the benefit to famine-stricken or low-income regions is obvious. And while America is not "famine-stricken" by any stretch, the harsh truth is that many people go hungry in our country every day.

What about the affluent? After all, insects are as much a delicacy as a last resort in many cultures. What may draw the yoga/smoothie crowd in America is the nutritional content of many insects: they're great sources of protein, fiber, and micronutrients, such as copper and zinc. I've often speculated that labeling anything "Superfood" could move it off the shelf, but crickets may be the limit of that hypothesis.

People professionally concerned with famine and food insecurity, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, have long advocated eating insects. But the last few years have seen this idea come to the forefront, with edible bug articles featuring heavily in both humanitarian and epicurean circles.

Eating bugs is generally safe, in the way that eating plants is generally safe; you should know what you're eating and prepare them properly. People have indeed died from eating bugs, and the causes of such fatalities are not always clear.

Not everyone agrees with the eating-bugs-to-save-the-planet angle. No, PETA does not approve of eating insects. But they do offer some interesting nonlethal countermeasures for pest infestations in their website's FAQ.

If we in the Western world are to embrace insectile cuisine, we must do something that does not come naturally, by definition: we must allow our intellect to eclipse our instinct. The idea that bugs are gross is embedded deep in our DNA; tickling and itching probably have a lot to do with bugs. But we can adapt, and if the world keeps tacking on a billion people every few years, we'll have to. Even insects eat each other, and they're smart. Even cockroaches know enough to adapt their taste when the situation demands it.

So get with the program. 2 billion people are already doing it. And when you tell your friends that you've become a bug-eater and hear only the sound of crickets in response, at least you'll know where your next meal is coming from.

The Week's Food and Health News Roundup

It's been a busy, crazy week in the food and health world. While I'm sure you're celebrating National Tequila Day (July 24th), take a moment to reflect on developments both local and national:

Dark Horse Nation
The section of the History Channel's website dedicated to Dark Horse Nation, a new reality series about the craft brewing operation from Marshall, MI, tells me I "may also like" the series "Vikings," "Mountain Men," and "Swamp People." I'm not sure if Dark Horse should be offended or flattered. My recent visit to the Dark Horse brewery and beer garden did not suggest a longboat or swampside shack, although the similarities in personnel to the aforementioned cultures was notable. Regardless, a small town in Michigan is going to host its own national reality show about craft brewing, and I'm excited. America is currently in love with small business entrepreneurs who could also be bouncers (Pawn Stars, American Pickers, all those tattoo and motorcycle shows), and I sincerely hope Dark Horse Nation lives up to its lofty name. The auto industry it ain't, but a third nationally-recognized microbrewery is a great feather in the cap of my favorite state.


Horrock's: Now Hiring Bouncers Who Can Recommend a Good Smoked Gouda
We all know you shouldn't grocery shop when you're hungry. What about tipsy? Horrock's, whom FFL considers a friendly neighbor too far away to be competition, is just the place to find out. Horrock's Farm Market in west Lansing is offering 30 taps of beer and glasses of wine at a new walk-up bar. Horrock's joins a prestigious list of casinos and gentlemen's clubs in encouraging their customers to imbibe throughout a visit.


No MERSy
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronoavirus, who prefers to omit the "C" from its acronym to differentiate itself from the Minnesota Employee Recreation and Services Council, may be an airborne malady, according to a paper published this week on the website of the American Society for Microbiology. (The Minnesota Employee Recreation and Services Council had no comment when I contacted them about this potential PR nightmare.) There have been 288 deaths since MERS's appearance in 2012, with 836 confirmed cases of infection overall, according to the WHO. WHO? The World Health Organization. When something like this happens, the WHO's on it first.

The deal is this: dead MERS particles can be transmitted through the air, in scenarios including sneezing camels, but it is unclear whether live, infectious MERS can actually be contracted through the air. So, steer clear of camel noses, and you should be fine. You may also want to avoid Minnesota until this all blows over, just to be safe.


Listeria Hysteria
An outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes at the Wawona Packing Company has people tossing more fruit than a bad production of Romeo and Juliet. The very serious Listeria was found on some stone fruits (two nectarines and a peach) during internal quality control at Wawona. This has prompted a nationwide recall, affecting customers of Kroger, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Ralph's, and others. You know who has nothing to worry about? The shoppers of Foods For Living. (I'd love to say this has something to do with curating an entirely organic produce section, but it doesn't.)


Supersurprise Me
Perennial punching bag McDonald's is in the news again. Shanghai Husi, a meat supplier for the fast food giant, has drawn the ire of the Chinese government—never a grand idea—after footage was captured of employees using their bare hands to pick up meat from the floor and process it. Many other fast food companies have severed ties with Shanghai Husi, but Ronald is more forgiving, and has no such intention. KFC, among many others, will no longer be sourcing meat from Husi, so we can be sure our genetically engineered, beakless football chickens will continue to meet the same exacting standards.

Bread of State
Whether you think the First Lady is a crusader for fitness and a great role model for healthy living, or a draconian dictator telling us what we can and cannot eat, she is certainly passionate about good food, children, and health. This week, the White House hosted the second annual Kid's State Dinner, where contest winning junior chefs traveled from around the country to enter a charged diplomatic environment in an attempt to broker a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis dine with the First Lady. The contest, sponsored by website Epicurious and the Let's Move! initiative, brings together young chefs from all fifty states, with the aim of promoting healthy cooking and celebrating culinary virtuosity. Watch the dinner in its two hour entirety, if you're into that sort of thing.

Good luck out there, be safe, and remember, tequila is like food news itself: clear, and best consumed in small doses.






Sci-Fi Food: Where Is It Now?

Every time the Jetsons make a meal, I roll my eyes. In an otherwise unfailingly realistic depiction of the future, the imagination of 1962 got the future of food very wrong. We're two years past the end of the world, and I have yet to eat a sandwich prepared by a robot (unless you count the average Subway employee). Robots build our cars, which will soon drive themselves, but making an omelet is apparently too much to ask.

While science fiction predicted bullet trains, cloning, space travel, holograms, laser weapons, flying cars, the Internet and so much more, sci-fi's predictions about food usually end up way off the mark. I, for one, am feeling jilted. Let's check in on sci-nonfi's progress with building the meals of tomorrow, if only to mock their attempts at improving our lives.

Food Pills

"Make you own sandwich, mister."
We all know a woman's place is in the kitchen—supervising and offering commentary as her husband makes dinner. (Joke. This may not be exactly how gender dynamics work in your kitchen.) In fact, I can't make any assumptions about the distribution of labor in your kitchen, or even the makeup of your family unit, since a number of social reforms have shed us of these assumptions. This wasn't always the case, of course. There was a time (like 1893) when I could have comfortably assumed who would be preparing the meals around a given home. And doing the dishes.

Women like Mary Elizabeth Lease had other ideas, however. A gifted orator and suffragette, Lease's contribution to the World's Fair of 1893's Visions of the Future project was, in fact, a meal replacement pill. Well, at least the idea for one. Whereas we might utilize such a pill to facilitate an active lifestyle rife with commutes and long hours, Lease's goal was something much more humanitarian: she wanted to free women of her day from the shackles of the kitchen, for the purpose of pursuing horizons beyond domesticity. Unfortunately, Lease was big on ideas and short on practical food science.

But that was over a century ago. What's stopping us now? A simple problem of physics. As you may have noticed, stores already carry food pills. These are known as "supplements," or "vitamins." And while they may provide nutritional essentials and prevent deficiencies, they cannot replace food. We simply cannot pack enough calories into such a compact form factor. Even pure fat—which is loaded with calories—can't approach the amount of calories necessary to constitute a meal. If you want a satisfying meal-in-a-pill, the pill is going to be the size of a softball.

The real-world applications for superdense meal replacement solids have evolved from feminist ideal or fantasy of convenience into treatments for acute malnutrition. Products like Plumpy'nut, a peanut paste manufactured by a company named Nutriset, are intended for medical emergencies, with a focus on combating third world food scarcity. Plumpy'nut contains peanut paste, milk, vegetable fat, and sugars, with the express purpose of pulling patients from the clutches of famine. Plumpy'nut and other foods designed to combat malnutrition fall under the banner of Read-to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF). From what I understand, this is different than Comfort Food, which is intended to be consumed alongside ice cream, and no less than four (4) episodes of a serial drama.

But if you want that sci-fi thrill of popping a full meal-tasting morsel, you may be in luck. Except you'll have to settle for gum. Scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England have developed a technique of storing flavor bursts in "microcapsules." The skin of these microcapsules can be engineered to withstand different amounts of pressure. The result is a single piece of gum (or pastry) that reveals different flavors throughout your chewing experience. Yes, I also see a horrific future in which a vast and pretentious gum culture arises, ultimately ruining the bottom of every public table everywhere.

Food-O-Matic

Most families of the future, as well as star ship crews, need only press a few buttons and wait before a machine synthesizes the food of their choice in seconds. This is another advance that has failed to materialize. We can use 3D printing technology to build guns, or even buildings, but the closest we have to full meal assembly is that contraption from the opening of Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

But tech moves in cybernetic baby steps, often taking countless iterations and subgenerations to comprise what we think of as a leap.

In other words, you can't print your food yet, but you can print a mush version of certain foods. German company biozoon is pioneering "food texturizers for the molecular gastronomy." Want some edible Martini foam? How about some senior-oriented...nutrition cubes...? The future is now!

Speaking of textural advances in food and space travel, NASA, the more fun of the two government agencies whose names contain the letters "N," "S," and "A," is funding an Austin-based company's research into 3D food printing, with spacefaring in mind. NASA says that the possible advantages of this technology would be significant, including longer shelf life, better storage options, and greater variety.

We may not be teleporting food just yet, but this era does contain some amazing advances: a hat that facilitates the drinking of two cans of beer, anyone? A sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt!? Skynet will be making you omelets before you know it. Literally.  

Talking to Your Kids About Food Songs

Would you trust this man alone with your citrus?
It's the moment every parent dreads: your child approaches you with Led Zeppelin II in his hand and asks why the heck someone would write a song about a lemon. Being prepared goes a long way in talking to your kids about food music. Simply read the included text verbatim to your children, and the discussion will be over before you know it. It's better than learning about foods songs from somebody on the school bus.  

Weird Al Yankovic's Michael Jackson Trilogy

If, like me, you considered Michael Jackson's entire career a staging area for three brilliant Weird Al Yankovic parodies, you've already noticed that 100% of said parodies are about food. Jackson's music was so much raw dough to be baked in the oven of Yankovic's genius. Behold.

Jackson's "Bad" evolved from a meditation on his own ineffable rebel charm into Yankovic's "Fat": a heartbreaking confessional about struggling with obesity. (Actually, Al's song is, if anything, more confrontational—but that's just the belligerence of a deep sadness.)

The butterfly to MJ's larva.
The King of Pop's "Beat It" was a tired meditation on the fight or flight response, which is right up there with "love" in terms of innovative pop music topics. Weird Al decides to go soul searching in his version. Adopting the persona of an overbearing parent, Al dredges up all the worst nags in dinner table admonishment for "Eat It." As the song progresses, we see how genuine concern for a child's nutritional well-being can so easily slip into pathological browbeating.

Not content to simply cash in on the controversy surrounding The King of Pop's 1991 smash "Black or White," Weird Al prudently mutates the song into a series of reflections about his unnatural attachment to between-meal eating and the resulting fallout. "Snack All Night" is essential Yankovic.

"Peaches," by The Presidents of the United States of America

The lyrics to this nineties novelty are not exactly fertile ground for literary criticism. In fact, they're not really ripe for any criticism, being a string of celebratory innuendos. To the Presidents' credit (?), singer Chris Ballew claims the song is an autobiographical lament about his experience squeezing the fruit under a tree after being stood up for a romantic rendezvous. Less to their credit, the song liberally borrows from Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love," a sentiment that is also, arguably, the song's real raison d'être.

"Cherry Pie," by Warrant
The Cadillac of singles.


Cherry Pie may be the only song about food that took less time to write than the titular food does to prepare. According to Warrant frontman Jani Lane, the song was penned in about fifteen minutes. The song's initial conception was scrawled down on...wait for it...a pizza box. (The box is on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Destin, FL. This is not a compelling enough reason to visit Destin, I assure you.)  If you like this song, but want something a little sweeter, just stick it in a blender, and you'll have...

"Pour Some Sugar On Me," by Def Leppard

At least the drummer didn't lose his sugar pourin' arm. A micrometer-thin veil separates this food song's spirit from its ostensible subject matter. The tune never even specifies the type of sugar involved in the entreaty. We can assume it's HFCS if the song's own unavoidability is any indication. Though a bit off-color, this is by no means the most polarizing song about sugar. That honor goes to...

"Brown Sugar," by The Rolling Stones

Though legendary rock critic Robert Christgau calls this classic shack shaker "beyond exegesis," it is more prudence than awe that keeps our visit brief. Suffice it to say that this is the entire rock cliche triad in one song, with some baffling references to great crimes of the past thrown in for good measure.

Sugar, Sugar," by the Archies

Act now and get this collectible coaster.
Ah, finally. An honest-to-goodness song simply celebrating the virtues of...kissing? Kissing!? The title is twice as misleading as necessary! Who comes up with this stuff, Little Caesar? Next!

"Savoy Truffle," by the Beatles

A bouncy little song, as sweet as the name implies. Supposedly a song about Eric Clapton's love of chocolate, it's wise to remember that nothing is as it seems in the word of sixties food songs. This trend would change when a spate of literalism found its way into the titling tendencies of rock's icons. (See "Cocaine," by Eric Clapton, which is about cocaine, or "Heroin," by the Velvet Underground, which is about heroin, despite the banana on the cover.)

"Cheeseburger In Paradise," by Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffet needs no introduction—either you know who he is, or you'll never need to. It should be no surprise that a man with an all-you-can-eat surname rose to fame on songs about epicurean delights. Though he is also fond of margaritas and Peanut Butter Conspiracies, it is "Cheeseburger In Paradise" that boasts an accompanying chain of restaurants. (Technically, Margaritavilles are only cafes...) Besides being awesome for taking a non sequitur cheap shot at the Holiday Inn hotel chain, Cheeseburger In Paradise is an oddly literate monologue of deranged craving borne by too much time at sea. It's pretty family friendly, as those go.

"A Cherry on Top," by The Knife

"A Cherry On Top" is from Shaking the Habitual, which one critic called, "A deranged beast running from a pair of fuzzy dice with machine guns." OK, that was less one critic and more just something I said. But it might not be where you'd expect to find a haiku-length song about dessert. The sweet treats invoked inside this song's fever dream borders may not be available on earth. If they are, though, I know where they're served: the diner in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. This song's scant lyrics mention strawberry, melon, and a cherry, before finishing with a reference to coffee, evening cream, and the home of the Swedish royal family—Haga Castle. It's almost nonsense graffiti, but not quite. The warbling soundscape evokes eating a sundae at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day, with little ambition to resurface.

Conclusions:
  1. Lyricists overwhelmingly prefer sweets over savory items, at least as fodder for singing mostly vowel-emphasizing pop hooks. 
  2. Food songs are never just about food, unless they're for children. This also goes for food blogs. It's good to know this going in.  
I hope this gives you a leg up when it's time to have The Talk. Good luck!