(Part of The Future: A Retrospective)
|Potato Ice Cream|
|Cost||$2.90/1989 ($4/2007) per quart|
"According to Alan Reed, president of Reed's Dairy... he and his father, who was then president of the National Potato Board, were discussing the board's promotional budget. Alan commented that he wished the board would offer some funding to his then all-dairy ice cream business. [Reed's Dairy] His dad quipped that if his son put some potatoes in the ice cream, the board might distribute it."
With that, we get a glimpse into the world of National Councils and Advisory Boards, forever shoehorning their chosen fruit or vegetable into every food invented by man. Gaze, for instance, on the banquet held in 1930 at the annual meeting of the Northern Nut Growers. "It will be noted that nuts were featured." Yes, but it took 80 years to get noted! That's what you get for using the passive voice!
Anyway: potatoes in everything! Even ice cream! This is not potato-flavored ice cream (though you can do that). The initial spark of nepotism/inspiration led Alan Reed to replace milk solids with potato flakes, processed to turn starch into fructose ("nature's sweetener", aka sugar). The resulting ice cream has half the calories of normal ice cream. Or, as Future Stuff puts it, "slims the calories of Al & Reed's Desserts by half".
Here's a contemporary article. If potato ice cream doesn't do it for you, try the ice cream potato.
Having gotten the eponymous potato ice cream out of the way, we're now left with "other nutritious treats". The mamey is a fruit much prized, according to Future Stuff, by Cubans. It's like a melon but it grows on a tree.
"Meeting the anticipated demand could be difficult, particularly since the fruit grows slowly." Alternatively, you could anticipate less demand. I've never had mamey, or even seen it, except possibly in Old Masters paintings. The mamey is compared to the kiwi, another exotic fruit that was "introduced at a high price" and then caught on, which is fair enough except for the catching on part.
Noel Vietmeyer of the National Academy of Sciences, quoted in Future Stuff spent his career trying to get people to try new foods, especially tropical ones. Apparently he popularized quinoa and amaranth. He also invented PowerFlour. In short, the dude is much more interesting than mamey. Settle back, because he's also responsible for the next two entries.
Food species are like kitchen gadgets. It's easy to come up with one that fills a niche, but difficult to convince people that the niche is so big it registers as a previously undiscovered gap in their their kitchens and cooking styles. Arracacha is a root vegetable "between a carrot and celery". Wikipedia quotes without citing someone saying its flavor is "a delicate blend of celery, cabbage and roast chestnuts". But we already have those vegetables. Sorry, Noel Vietmeyer, of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington. Reading these entries I wonder if these were Vietmeyer's personal favorite underused crops, or if they were the ones he thought were most likely to catch on.
Also, none of these entries have a suggested price. I'm guessing Vietmeyer was above such petty concerns and Future Stuff had no way of finding out independently of the guy who told them about these crops. Hell, I'm in the future and I don't know how much an arracacha would cost. I'm gonna guess three dollars.
Who could it be introducing us to this overlooked vegetable? Say hello to "Noel Vietmeyer, of the National Academy of Sciences". It's like watching a sitcom the way this guy gets reintroduced every single time. Oca tastes like "a baked spud with the sour cream already on it." That "spud" tells you that the magazine-writing experts already said "potato" in a part of the entry I didn't quote.
Vietmeyer sees a more general trend towards specialty produce: "Surveys show that more and more customers shop where there is an interesting variety of produce, as opposed to the quality of the meat." Making meat-quality-based decisions does sound kind of 50s, but I'm not sure this trend really happened. I don't remember the 90s, supermarket-produce-wise, but it seems like the things that got added were 1) portobello and crimini mushrooms, 2) fennel, 3) celery root. Produce like the oca is still relegated to what used to be called "ethnic stores". My local supermarket is equivalent to about eight ethnic stores, and no oca.
Remember Raging Cow? That's what I thought of when I read about this plan of the sinister DRINC organization, research arm of the United Dairy Industry Association and experts in putting dairy products where they're not wanted. Except Raging Cow wasn't actually carbonated milk: it was just watered-down milk with HFCS and flavoring added. It was Qwik.
No, for real carbonated milk you have to go to a New York deli and get an egg cream. Which will be disgusting. Though Future Stuff disagrees, wondering "[H]ow can anything that tastes so wonderful and rich sound so awful and have such plain ingredients: milk, seltzer, and chocolate syrup? Even more baffling is why no company has ever bottled the stuff."
Thrill! To the rent-seeking as DRINC rationalizes that it deserves a certain slice of the beverage market, and that if people aren't drinking milk, they just need to be presented with milk that looks like what they are drinking. "The idea is to attract new, loyal milk drinkers by developing a milk-based soft drink, to be marketed... alongside nutritionally devoid Coke, Pepsi, and 7-Up." But nobody's stopping you from making your own egg cream.
Proposed flavors: "strawberry, peach, orange, banana, pina colada, chocolate, root beer, cola, and rum." Compare Raging Cow flavors: berry, chocolate, chocolate caramel, mocha, pina colada. Mocha wasn't really around as a flavor in 1989.
"Cupcake lovers are reading this and saying that cupcakes are perfect just the way they are." Or else wondering what cupcake additive will provide the fiber. "Mike Gould and his team of USDA biochemists" are the federal government's all-meddling Advisory Board. Not only do they have their fingers in every agricultural pie, they spend their days devising new kinds of pies to put fingers in. In today's episode they were tring to "find new uses for basic farm products such as oats, wheat, and corn." What they found was that "softened cellulose product" could "replace up to two-thirds of the flour used in baked goods." The cellulose just goes through you, but that's the point.
Today, International Fiber Corporation sells Solka-Floc® powdered cellulose, but it doesn't seem to be used in anything except specialized high-fiber drink mixes. Foodologists are still tilting at this particular windmill. Patents like 5026569 and 4668519 bulk up this entry with impressive-looking links that you probably won't click.
Mike Gould now works for Nu Tech Solutions, the company that demonstrates what generic company names look like in the 21st century.
|Cost||$0.90/1989 ($1/2007) per package, makes 1 quart|
"Most bottled pickles sold in supermarkets are simply soaked in vinegar and some spices." Charlie Rosen (not the basketball coach) sells "a dry mixture of those special fermenting cultures used in those exotic ethnic pickles." Here it is: patent #4985258.
I'm not a pickle expert, but I think Future Stuff got taken. Soaking things in vinegar and spices is called "pickling". The "special fermenting cultures" happen naturally as a result of you leaving the pickle jar out for a long time. However, Rosen's dried lactic acid bacteria do make pickles happen faster: "ten days to two weeks" instead of the many more weeks it usually takes.
Unsurprisingly, distribution was a problem for Rosen's small company: "It's quite difficult to penetrate these large food chains. And they represent 80 percent of the market." Indeed, though there are pickle kits available today, they're usually not much more than a bag of pickling spice—no bacteria. The patent expired two years ago, though, so go for it!
|Cost||Same as regular carrots|
"Put a super carrot next to an ordinary... [seriously, there were two more adjectives here] carrot, and you won't notice much difference." The perfect disguise! The Beta III carrot is a variety from Beta III, and it promises increased vitamin A for all! "There is research indicating that the orange pigments can protect against various forms of cancer." Cue the antioxidant craze!
Other things called the Beta III: an assessment test, a titanium alloy, a tubulin, and a preamp.
The Super Carrot needs a trusty sidekick to do the legwork and take the brutal beatings so regularly dished out by the world's vegetable villains. Enter... Super Spud! (Unlike the previous occurance of "spud", this "spud" is here for alliteration.) Dr. Jesse Jaynes of Louisiana State is recombining DNA to improve the protein content of the potato. His sidekick, in turn, is Dr. John Dodds of Peru's International Potato Center. Somehow "Center" sounds more classy than "Advisory Board."
Dr. Jaynes is now at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and his research summary doesn't mention potatoes. Dodds went to work for Mexico's CIMMYT in 2004. I couldn't find any information about this particular potato, but the Centro Internacional de la Papa is still working hard on potato improvements.
|Cost||"Double the price of beef"|
"Ralph Lauren, look what you've done." Future Stuff then goes on to somehow blame buffalo meat on Ralph Lauren. Anyway, buffalo ranchers are anticipating the proverbial demand, and trying to bump up the 1989 population of 80,000 bison, "using cattle as surrogate mothers". The population today is about 350,000 (unless Stephen Colbert has been messing with Wikipedia again), most of those being food animals and most of them being unwitting buffalo/cattle hybrids. I've seen buffalo meat for sale pretty often but I don't think I've ever eaten it.
This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Monday, March 31 2008, 00:26:30 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Tuesday, May 21 2013, 19:00:05 Nowhere Standard Time.