Archive for frankenstein food

Meaty Plants

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by javedbabar

As Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, Shama’s remit was residential, commercial and industrial building. He was not responsible for agricultural building. Bona fide farmers could build whatever they wanted to provided it served a purpose.

He did however have a watching brief. So when he wasn’t busy he would drive around, looking, to keep his new empire in check. This was his second week in the job, and he wanted to stay on top of things.

At first he thought it was a trick of the light. Bright fragments shone around the valley at dawn, illuminating bluffs and gleaming across forests. The sun was catching something large – what was it?  The source seemed to be away from the road – where was it?

More driving around indicated that it was likely the Old Percy Farm. He’d heard that the old fella had passed it on to his son, who had returned from Africa to live here. He’d also heard that the son was sci-fi author Balthazar O. Percy, one of whose books Shama had read in his teens. He recalled it being very strange, barely comprehensible stuff.

There was a gate and buzzer, newly installed. He was about to press the button when the gate opened itself. Was it an automatic gate? Then he saw the discreet camera built into the gate post. Somebody had let him in.

Shama followed the driveway, winding around a slough, and through a patch of forest. Why people built their homes so far from the road, he had no idea. What a waste of time and energy every time you went to town. Anyway, that was their choice, to hide.

A shaven-headed man stood on the road ahead of him, clapping. He increased his speed of clapping as Shama approached, and then moved and stood to the side.

Shama pulled up beside him. “Hello, I’m Shama, the new BCO. I’m familiarizing myself with the area. I hope you don’t mid me paying you a visit.”

The man was wearing grey overalls, and seemed like a prisoner or factory worker. “Not at all. Welcome to the ranch. I am the owner, Balthazar O. Percy. Would you like to look around?”

Shama spotted a vast greenhouse on the edge of a far field. At first glance he’d say the greenhouse covered an acre. It could be even more than that.

“Ah! I see the greenhouse has caught your eye. Let’s start with that. This is my personal project. I’ve wanted to do it for years. Now that Dad has passed the farm over to me, I am…”

Shama saw something moving inside. It didn’t seem like a person.

“… trying some new ideas. This valley has plenty of nutrients which could provide the ideal human diet, if only humans could absorb them. Animal production is very wasteful, they eat more then they produce. Plants are somewhat fickle, one flood or frost and they’re gone. I’m developing a new green food source, meaty plants.”

Shama could swear that one of the plants was looking at him.

“If the valley floods, they’ll swim. If it’s frosty, they’ll huddle. If there’s a fire, they’ll escape. They are independent and will ultimately create their own ecosystems. When nuclear war comes – we all know it is inevitable – they may even outlive us, and begin a new evolution stream, but right now they are fragile and need protection. That’s what the green house is for.”

Shama thought, I wonder how soon before we’ll need protection from them?

Fresh Foods

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , on February 22, 2012 by javedbabar

“Darling will you get me some mint?” said Claire.

“Sure, how much do you want?” said Daved to his wife, cheerful despite nursing a hangover. “Just a handful?”

“One of my handfuls, honey – not one of yours.” Daved clipped young stalks from the container using chained-up-scissors. The rush of freshness cleared his head, but the dullness returned. “Oh, and while you’re there, can you get some cilantro?”

“Sure honey,” he said, and moved to other containers.

“Is my hunky husband in the mood for some heavy digging” said Claire, her trailing arm circling his waist. “Some spuds and carrots please. Not too many. Just what we need for the weekend.” Daved pushed his hands into the soil and rooted around. He yanked up ten medium-sized russets, and a dozen purple carrots. The freshness of food these days was astonishing. Since the implementation of Local Food Laws, supermarkets grew produce right on their shelves. It was all fresh, local, healthy food. What could be better for you?

“Perfect,” she said. “Let’s get some tomatoes. Where’s the hothouse section? Why do they keep moving it around? Oh, there it is, I think. Or is that exotics?” She ambled over and pulled open a flap. “No, it’s tomatoes.” Claire snipped off a pound each of Black Princes and Green Zebras. The peppers looked good, and she decided to get some of those, selecting ripe Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Cayenne, and – what the hell! – Habanero peppers; all conveniently growing on the same bush.

“What else do we need, love?” she called out of the hothouse.

“I fancy fish today,” said Daved. “What about you?”

“Ok, go catch something Ahab. I’ll be in the dairy.” Claire was still pulling the Gau MataTM  udders – invented by the great Indian scientist Dr. A.W. Cooraswamy-Muchilinda-Moghlai – when Daved appeared with his catch.

“He had some spirit, this one,” he said. “Zipping around the tank like crazy. I couldn’t get him with the line so zapped him. Anyway, we have grilled wild salmon with coriander potatoes and minted carrots on the menu for tonight.”

Claire finished her milking. She loved the feeling of pulling these udders, it was so authentic; just like the rosy-cheeked farm girl in the ads. She wiped her hands and said, “Ok, just some beef now. I think we’ve got everything else.”

The meat section was always quieter in the afternoons. People liked “fresh” beef grown overnight – they said it was more tender – but Claire had never noticed the difference. She felt that they were kidding themselves; they just didn’t want to pay the extra for Veal. Daved carved thick strips of soft red flesh from the block, each piece well textured. That Indian Doctor was a genius, he thought– it’s a shame he was assassinated; think what else he could have invented. The meat block shook and made a squealing sound. The Butcher rushed over and said, “I’m so sorry Sir. Some of these meats are restless this morning. I’m not sure why.”

“The fish are pretty spirited too,” said Daved. “I felt like I was chasing Moby Dick.”

The Butcher smiled and said, “Well Buster here’s not going anywhere. Would you like me to finish carving? How much do you need?” He wrapped up their bloody meat and said, “Enjoy your meal. By the way, have you visited our new Fair Trade Department? It’s across the other side of the store.”

“No, we haven’t heard about it,” said Claire.

“We’ve kept it quiet deliberately; we don’t want any trouble. Look what happened to Dr. Cooraswamy-Muchilinda-Moghlai. That SFPF is dangerous; they say that they don’t condone violence but every terrorist incident seems to involve one of their members. Anyway, good folk like you won’t cause any trouble, I’m sure. Why don’t you take a look?”

A uniformed security guard allowed them entry to what must have been a previously unused warehouse at the back of the store. Daved and Claire gasped in amazement. It was ten degrees hotter than outside, and pretty humid; the lush green area was divided into continents. In “South America” they saw tattooed Amazon tribesmen picking Brazil Nuts. In “Africa”, red-blanketed Maasai warriors tended coffee bushes. In “Asia” Saffron-robed Sadhus picked orange pekoe tea. “Australia” had ochre-smeared Aborigines tending mangoes. “North America” featured Navajo squaws growing corn, beans, and squash. “Europe” had men in black berets and women in bright dresses treading barrels of grapes.

“What do you think?” said the Manager, catching up with them. “We need to fine-tune the costumes, I know, but not bad, eh? Sorry I didn’t welcome you earlier, but I was keeping my eye on the protest outside. It’s those Slow Food People’s Front extremists. Some people just don’t see progress when it slaps them in the face. Whatever we do is never enough for them. I mean, ten years ago who would have thought that our entire food chain would be fresh, local, and organic?”

He chatted with Claire and Daved for a while, and then asked if he could show them something special. “We always like to run things by our customers first.” He showed them a device that the grocery store was testing, called MORE (Modern Organism Replicator Engine). “Wait till we get this going next month. You’ve never tasted food so fresh!”

Ajar

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming with tags , , on January 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Iy hid among the produce; it was the nicest spot. Iy loved the beautiful colours, textures, and smells. Some of the round red objects were a little squashy, and Iy managed to squeeze out some salty juice. However the long orange things were hard; Iy scraped his gums along one of them, but the surface was bitter and impenetrable. The long yellow objects were also hard, but he found one whose tip was a little soft. When he sat on it, brown mush squeezed out. It was the sweetest, most delicious thing he had ever eaten. He squeezed out as much as he could.

Iy reached up for an orange ball, but as soon as he grasped it, countless others fell and scattered. Some of them hit him on the head, but they weren’t too hard. They bounced away, leaving a fresh, tangy smell in the air. Iy squashed one between his hands, and more smell emanated from within. He felt intoxicated, almost like… when? He rested a while among green bushes.

Iy wandered into a cooler area. The closer he got, the colder it became. He saw round tubs of something, and also cartons. Most of them were white, with colourful letters and signs, and pictures of a thing with black and white patches. This thing was somehow familiar. Iy found himself saying “Oom!” He reached for a carton but it was too cold to hold for long.

Iy ended up in a horrible area. It smelled of death. He left it and returned to his most reliable source of nutrition – the long tubes that you pushed and out came food. He was still amazed by the variety of things within them. How did you remember? How did you choose? There were hard, oily things the size of his toes. And salty, crisp things like his fingers. Plump things that for some reason reminded him of “Oom!” And sweet, bright mixes that made his head spin.

Iy had been here for a week now. Where he came from, he didn’t know. Why he was here, he didn’t know either. But he knew that he must keep himself hidden, and keep moving around. This all seemed wrong somehow. He felt this wasn’t the right place for him at all. Iy wondered if one day he would find that place, and maybe there would find others Iy’s.

There were alternating seasons. The first one was when beings with trolleys came with boxes and put things on shelves. Then many beings came and took those things off the shelves. Then beings with loud machines went up and down the rows. Then the quiet time, when lights were dimmed, and everyone left, and Iy could emerge for adventures.

Sometimes Iy wondered whether to show himself, but a voice inside said that he should never do that; these beings were not his friends; they were nasty beings. And this was confirmed when he saw the situation of other beings resembling himself. These tiny creatures were imprisoned by the giant beings. They were strapped to the giant’s bodies, or pushed around in mobile prisons. He knew about those somehow… Some of the tiny beings were allowed to move independently but only on a leash. They were made to repeat whatever the giants said, and often made to cry.

Some of the tiny creatures sensed his presence. They communicated enthusiasm and goodwill, and tried to alert the giant beings. Were they traitors, he wondered? Or maybe jealous of his liberty? Luckily their communication skills were undeveloped, and they were unable to give him away.

The scariest moment was when a new kind of being caught his scent. It came right up to his hiding place behind the long tubes, and sniffed and woofed. This being was familiar. He said to himself, “God”. This being was kind, and realized that Iy should be left alone. The god retreated, pulling one of the giant beings behind him, who had big black eyes, and a long white finger that tapped the ground. Despite his being guided by the god, the giant was clumsy and collided with a trolley, causing a box to fall off.

Iy felt a surge of awareness. Something inside that box made him feel angry and happy and sad. These were the strangest feelings that he had ever experienced. He needed to know what was in that box. Iy considered crawling over immediately, but a giant being appeared, so he hid himself away.

When the being was gone, Iy couldn’t restrain himself. He crawled over to the box. He lifted himself high and peered over its edge. But the box was empty. The being had already put its contents up on the shelves.

When the quiet time came, and lights dimmed, Iy attempted an audacious adventure. He found a stack of blue cans on a row end, and climbed upon them, one at a time. He made it to a shelf near the top. But there was no easy way from there. Iy hauled himself up as best as he could, grasping plum sauce jars, and catching footholds on pickles. He peered over the edge of the next shelf up.

There were jars filled with tiny beings like himself, all sleeping, with smiling faces. Their labels said, “Happy Baby Brand – Genetically Modified Meat – Too Cute To Eat!” He had a brief moment of elation, when “Iy” became “Iy’s”, followed by horrific despair. Iy grasped two jars – he wasn’t really sure if for support, or to pull them off – and fell with them to the ground.

Next morning, workers cursed the mess. “Oh shit!” said one. “I was rushing yesterday. I had to play hockey. Maybe I didn’t stack them well. What’s the worst they’ll do? Take some jars off my wages? I’ve never been able to eat them myself. It almost seems like they’re alive.”

Yam Men

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, World Myths with tags , , on January 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Michael saw the rise of the Yam Men from the beginning. But there was nothing he could do. He was just a kid – a naughty kid who didn’t like Math much – who was offered a new cookery programme. “A man should know how to cook,” his father said. “You never know what kind of trouble you might get into. At least you can eat.”

The classes took place in the school’s commercial kitchen. Michael spent the first ten minutes looking at people’s distorted reflections in gleaming steel units. Mr. May said, “We are going to chop and mash today, so everyone, please wash your hands.” He showed them the proper way to do this – you run hot water at full blast, reciting “O Canada, We stand on guard for thee,” twice while rubbing and rinsing.

He handed out large knives, and told them to each take a yam from a cardboard box. It was a simple instruction, but for some reason Michael didn’t want to do it. He held back his hand. “Can I use an ordinary potato, Sir” he said, forcing a cheerful tone. “After all this is Spud Valley.” Mr. May’s eyes seemed to flash lilac as he said, “This recipe requires these special purple yams, Michael.”

So Michael put his hand into the box without looking. He felt for a lumpy tuber. At first there seemed to be nothing there, but then he grasped one. It seemed to jump right into his hand.

Michael placed the purple leather-coloured, torpedo-shaped lump on the cutting board. It had little growths, like tiny limbs. The Yam rocked and settled itself into place. He put both hands together on the large knife and pushed down hard. He wasn’t sure what happened next. There were squeals all around the kitchen. It seemed that everyone had cut themselves. But when they looked at each other’s hands, there were no injuries or blood. Just cleanly chopped yams, shining purple inside.

They finished the job, boiled them for ten minutes, mashed them with salt, pepper, and butter, and took them home. They were delicious. “Almost like eating meat,” said his father.

The rest of the cookery course was less eventful. Mr. May never again mentioned yams. But he encouraged their consumption of ordinary potatoes, which he said were a different species. He promoted the MAC diet: MACaroni cheese, MACkeral, MACDonalds – with roasted, boiled, and fried potatoes respectively – and he suggested that they visit Scotland to eat MacMACaroons.

Other classes also got weirder. In music they tried a new instrument the school had just purchased – the tuba (pronounced tuber said their music teacher). In English class they played word games. “If someone threw a root vegetable at you?” said their teacher. “Would you yammer?” In Religious Studies, they discussed the Jewish yamulka. In Chemistry it was polyamides.

And the strangeness spread further. Instead of going to garage sales at weekends, Michael’s dad said that he was rooting around. The Mayor, who was also a farmer, began to campaign as the Y’amor (to appeal to both youth and Quebecois, he said). People asked for their sandwiches with Yamonnaise. When friends asked about his birthday, even Michael couldn’t help saying, “The second of Yam”. There was pressure everywhere, on everyone, to use the Y-word. And the streetlights were changed to produce a purple glow.

In spring, people removed their winter gear and revealed more skin. Everybody was sunburnt and more leathery than before. And despite no longer wearing clunky boots, or carrying skis, their gait remained the same. They walked around stiffly, as if they had no joints. Lumpy masses of purple-browned flesh roamed the streets.

There were peaceful protests from the yoga crowd, who occupied the supermarket car park. Then they chanted together at the Farmer’s Market. It was unnatural to be that stiff, they said.  People were meant to be flexible, and fluidity was a sign of good health. They were supported by members of the Tai Chi, Karate, and gymnastics communities.

Their campaign had some early success in the village, but soon their battle was lost. For all along the Valley, farmers were building special hothouses, amending their soils, and making egg-sized holes. Michael got a farm job that summer, working with his friends on a planting crew. Their bodies became stiff from bending over, and their skins burnt purple from sun exposure. As they dropped seed yams into holes and covered them over with dirt, they heard small cheers.