Thursday, October 9, 2008

Meatalurgy

I love science and I love food. When I can combine the two it is especially good. I had a brainstorm today that I think represents the future of food.



Metallurgy is essentially the study of metals and alloys (combinations of metals and other materials). Iron is one thing and carbon is another. When you combine the two you get steel which has some of the properties of each making a more useful material. It’s not that simple though as different ratios of iron to carbon changes the properties of the steel, as does adding other metals and materials. All of these combinations have special utility in specific situations - you can’t just make a steel that serves all purposes.



Classically trained Japanese Hamsmith
People have combining foods together as long as we have been eating. This has varied from things as simple as applying sauce to something else or as complex as Turducken. Alas our attempts at combining foods to date have been primitive at best. We put one on top of the other or perhaps stew one in the juice of another but our ability to combine foods has drastically lagged behind developments in European methods of combining metals despite having much more interaction with food.



Combining Foods At a New (Molecular) Level



Despite the “stacking” approach we’ve taken with combining foods we haven’t done very well with it. I think true innovation in food combination requires that we look to ancient Japanese metallurgy for inspiration. They created steel of extremely high quality by layering and folding materials then exposing them to heat and pressure. I think we need to explore food combinations produced through a similar process, which I call “Meatalurgy”.



Layering of Meat Atoms
We must start by taking existing raw meats and slicing them as thin as possible, preferably only a few microns thick. We then layer them together, alternating meats in a distribution that creates the desired ratio of meats in use. For simple 1/3 shrimp, 1/3 bacon, 1/3 pork chop you would just rotate the application of layers.



In the same way that steel is neither iron nor carbon, meats produced in this fashion are not the meats from which they were produced. They take on a whole new flavor, texture, color, and will require their own preparation techniques that will have to be discovered for each. As part of gaining acceptance, it will be important not to call one of these “hypermeats” by the ingredients and ratios but by unique names. We often find things displeasing because they contradict our expectations and not by their own merits so it’s important not to give the taster an inaccurate idea about what the hypermeat will taste like. A scientist colleague of mine suggested the name be a variation on the most dominate flavor. For example, if the most dominant taste is lamb you might call a hypermeat “Metrolamb”, even if there’s no actual lamb in the hypermeat.



Hypermeats Please PETA



An area of concern among many, particularly those in PETA is the genetic engineering of animals. The current climate of genetic engineering is the injection of genetic material from one living thing into another to produce an animal with the properties of both. For a lot of people this presents a difficult moral problem. This technique could produce animals with meat that combines the taste of chicken with steak. However, I believe the hypermeats produced by Meatalurgy are superior in many ways.



Creating hypermeats through Meatalurgy allows for greater control over the combination of meats producing the hypermeat. The creator can specifically produce a hypermeat of any desired ratios. Because GEd hypermeats are organically grown, this control is impossible.



Also, creating hypermeats with Meatalurgy allows for very complex combinations that would be extremely difficult to produce through GE as they may represent combinations of DNA that are not compatible. Beyond this, Meatalurgy allows for the production of hypermeats with materials that are not meats, like Tofu. This creates a whole new world where someone might be “85% Vegetarian” meaning they will not eat meat that is not hypermeat and only hypermeat that is 85% Tofu or more.



The Way to a Tastier Future



To get this burgeoning science of the ground, we need to encourage collaboration among chefs, butchers, and engineers around the world. With the advent of the Internet, nascent meatalurgists can exchange meatalurgical formals via email and produce the same hypermeats in their own labs as someone else on the other side of the globe.



I see a whole new industry on the horizon, where meatalurgists create new and exciting tastes to be explored by hypermeat engineers and produced by hypermeat technicians.



Join me in the quest for new dimensions of in the name of science!

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