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Nonlocal Ingredient

by Michael Wen

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first ever Tranquility Gastronomic Society cook-off. There are only two rules. First, in accordance with club rules, all ingredients must be of Lunar origin. Second, they must be in compliance with U.N. patent law. The outcome of this contest will be decided in an anonymous ballot after both presentations. The winner will be admitted as a full member of the Society.

‘So, without further ado, let us begin the contest. First, we have Martin Dale, one of the best shuttle pilots in all of the Lunar colonies. Born and raised right here on Tranquility, Martin has been interested in the culinary arts for many years and has many innovative ideas. Take it away, Martin.”

The young man stood and gave a curt nod to the hostess. He was tall by Lunar standards, standing at least 1.7 meters tall.

“Ladies and gentleman, my dish is called anticuchos de corazón, a classic from the South American continent where my parents were from.” He shouted a command and a Robowaiter came in through the door behind him with a push cart. On the cart was a platter which contained a ring of skewered meat arranged in a perfect circle.

“This may look like your typical kabob, but the meat isn’t made of skeletal muscle. It is made of heart tissue.” He gave another command and the Robowaiter began to transfer the content of the platter to the guests’ plates, along with the ingredients list.

He continued to talk as the guests began to eat. “By and large, the Autovat 3000 does a decent job of producing quality vatmeat, including those based on organ tissues. However, there’s one organ that the Autovat just couldn’t duplicate right, and that is the heart. Almost everyone who had the chance to try the real thing said that vatHeart lack the crunchy texture that the real thing has.

“While it is identical to the real heart on the cellular level, there’s one thing that the vats could not simulate, and that is exercise. If you think about it, the heart is the hardest-working of muscles. It literally never stops working as long as the organism lives. A muscle that works constantly is bound have a different taste than one that never moves.

“So, after growing the meat using your standard bovine coronary sequence from Monsanto-Qinghua, I got the entire growth protocol from Pfizer’s Transplant Medicine subsidiary. After some tweaking to implement the sequence in the Autovat, I was able to grow a heart with its autonomic nervous system intact.”

The door opened again and the Robowaiter brought in an Autovat.

“Behold.” The cover of the Autovat opened to reveal the pulsating red mass within. The audience cooed appreciatively.

After everyone had a chance to savor the first course, the hostess returned to the front. “Well, wasn’t that something. I could never imagine that you can do this with the Autovat.”

She nodded to the front and a tall blonde stood. “Next we have Carol Holloway. Carol was born and raised on Terra, in North America, to be exact. She is the deputy director for Legal Services for Colonial Administration. Let’s see what she has in store for us.”

“First, let me congratulate Mr. Dale on his dish. It was excellent.” She opened the door and the Robowaiter came in with another cart with a big bowl filled with greens.

“Since the largest hydroponics center on the Moon just opened here on Tranquility, I thought it would be interesting to try a new type of salad. Like Mr. Dale, I also turned to my ancestral home for inspiration. My presentation is called the Caesar Salad, and it’s one of my childhood favorites.”

The Robowaiter began scooping the content of the bowl onto the guests’ dishes.

“The greens are the standard romaine lettuce from the hydroponics center. The brownish chunks are made of toasted bread. The white powders are cheese made from Dairy Product 11.” She passed out the ingredient list as the guests ate. Grunts of approval and murmurs of appreciation began to fill the room.

“Are those little red bits bacon?” asked a woman sitting at the back.


“It’s not on your ingredient list.”

“I’m sorry. I must have forgotten to include it.”

“What else isn’t on your list?” The question came from the front. It was asked by Martin.

“What do you mean?”

“A month ago you took delivery of a Level 2 clearance package from a biological supply company. I took the liberty of placing an identical order.” He took out a rectangular box made of metal.

“Recognize these?” He pulled on the ring attached to a side of the box, and it peeled open. After dumping the box’s content onto a plate, he gave it to the Robowaiter to pass around the room.

“I believe these are called anchovies. Did I say it right?”

Carol gave a curt nod in response.

The hostess held one up against the light to study. “What is the transparent filmy substance at the thin end of this thing?”

“It’s called a fin. It’s the primary means of propulsion for the organism.” Martin answered.

“Why would anyone replicate an organ that’s clearly not edible?” asked a distinguished-looking middle-aged man in the front row.

“They wouldn’t. They’re there because they aren’t replicated. They were harvested and then preserved by an archaic process called canning.”

“You mean these things used to...”

“Swim in a Terran sea, in all of that unfiltered water and the other good stuff.”

The hostess dropped her fish and blanched. Some of the members who were still chewing discreetly transferred the content of their mouth back to their plates.

“Is it true, Carol? Did you use this for your salad?” the hostess asked

“I used anchovies to make the sauce,” Carol responded. “Section 4 of the Bylaws says that sauces are not considered ingredients. What's the problem?”

Copyright © 2010 by Michael Wen

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