So earlier today, I wrote a brief piece about this cool new map gizmo for folks looking to navigate Portland's maze of street food trucks and carts. And that was all well and good--a cool toy that I now covet like the neglected step-brother on Christmas morning. But thinking about that little bit of techno-food geekery got me wondering about some of the other food-world gadgets I wish had already been invented so I could have them in my arsenal whenever I feel like going out and getting a bite to eat..
Better living through chemistry!
So this, then, is my list of Things I Wish Would Be--a dream roster of excellent stuff which, like flying cars, jet packs, robot butlers and Martian colonies, I wish scientists would get around to inventing before I get too old to enjoy them. Because nothing is sadder than an old man with a jetpack. Except for maybe an old man complaining to his robot butler about not having a jetpack.
Everyone remembers the motion tracker scenes from Aliens, right? The terrified marines, staring down at their little rifle-mount doo-dads that showed them exactly where the aliens were? Hudson yelling, "Look, I'm telling ya, there's somethin' movin' and it ain't us! Tracker's off scale, man. They're all around us, man!"
Exactly. And what I want is one of those little tracker things, only instead of tracking aliens wanting to get all sexytime with lieutenant Ripley, I want mine to show me the presence of all tacos within sprinting distance, with the exact direction, elevation and distance-to-target all displayed on a cool green screen, just like in the movie. Oh, and if it could make one of those sonar-y pinging sounds every time I got close to a taco, that would be cool, too.
Food Pills That Don't Turn You Into A Giant Blueberry:
I've been waiting a long time for food pills to come on the market. It just seems like one of those things that ought to have been invented already, but hasn't. I mean, they have pills for everything else, but no one out there can figure out how to cram a meatloaf, potatoes, gravy and mixed veggies into pill form and sell it to a bunch of stick-skinny supermodels as a full and balanced meal in just one swallow? Madness. If Willy Wonka was able to do it (and yes, I know his version was a gum, but that's not nearly so cool), then so should we. And maybe the newest iteration won't turn everyone into giant blueberries when they get to the dessert course.
Oh, and speaking of Willy Wonka...
Granted, difficult to market (who would ever have to buy more than one?), but a candy that lasts forever and never gets smaller no matter how much you suck on it? That would be super-awesome.
I also wouldn't mind some Wonkavision, if only to use it to teleport more candy into my house. But since we're on the subject of delivery services, what about...
Predator Drone Pizza Delivery:
Look, eventually all these wars we're involved in are going to end. And when they do, it seems to me that the Pentagon is going to have a whole lot of Predator drones sitting around and nothing to do with them. Now rather than just letting the DOD eventually come the conclusion that they should be used to spy on us, why not get proactive and start right now retro-fitting these little honeys into high-speed pizza delivery vehicles?
I mean, think of the advantages. Even the fastest pizza delivery guy can only do, say, 60 mph through a school zone while trying to get that piping hot 'za to your door in under 30 minutes. A predator drone can do 135 mph, easy. A pizza delivery guy has to be dispatched from some central location and drive all over hell and creation delivering pies. Predator Drone Pizza can run a fleet of these things, all from one central location (likely a bunker buried deep under Cheyenne Mountain). A pizza guy has to actually stop at some point, get out of his car, and walk the pizza to your front door. Predator Drone Pizza can just launch your double-cheese-and-pepperoni from 25,000 feet and have it hit your front doorstep every time. The only trouble I see? What happens to a pizza when it hits said doorstep at 950 mph--the flight velocity of one of the Predator's Hellfire missiles. But that's a problem I'll leave to the engineers.
Fried Chicken Ice Cubes:
Okay, that's not really what this is. What this really is, is a unique new way for people who eat fast food to look like idiots in public: a small container for holding your Chicken McNuggets mounted right on the top of your bucket of soda.
But back to that ice cube thing for a moment. With all the resurgence in custom cocktails and bartenders who act like mad scientists when inventing new ways to get me hammered, why hasn't anyone yet come up with flavored ice cubes to use when making mixed drinks? Again, it seems like such a simple, stupid thing, but how cool would it be to be able to have a martini where the vermouth is just a frozen cube slowly melting into the gin. Or better yet, a proper gin-and-vermouth martini with an ice cube flavored like an olive dirtying it up as it melts.
Just imagine the possibilities... And then, when you're done imagining and get around to actually inventing, remember that I want a nice, fat check for thinking this one up.
Super Foods That Are Really Super:
No post about speculative science would be complete without delving, albeit briefly, into the world of evil science, and one of the long-standing complaints I've had with this crappy thing everybody calls "reality" is that it just doesn't have enough super-villains. I mean, really. When's the last time you flipped on the news and saw the anchor talking in worried tones about Dr. Megalopolis and his new Death Ray aimed at the Empire State Building? Never, right? And that just sucks.
So all I'm saying is, with these daily, dull and painfully real food recalls that keep happening over poison eggs and tainted spinach and lunchmeats infected with the plague or whatever, wouldn't it be a pleasant change to wake up one morning and hear about some mad scientist with a laboratory hidden inside a hollowed-out volcano who, using atomic energy and uranium and a bunch of those sparking electricity things that mad scientists always have, has managed to create super foods that really are super? Like a 400-foot-tall sentient carrot, or a cow with the powers of flight and revenge on his mind.
And as a side benefit, I would guess that while a few hundred million nasty eggs or a few thousand pounds of tainted meat aren't going to affect any sort of change at all in the way our government looks at food safety, a 200-ton stalk of angry broccoli that can shoot lasers advancing on the White House would probably get a conversation started right quick.
The vertical farm is actually a real (if only hypothetical) thing that lots of smart folks have been trying to get people interested in for years. And what it is, is basically just what's shown in the pictures above and below: a fully-functioning, multiple-crop farm which, rather than wastefully spreading out for acres in every direction on flat ground, extends upwards, like a skyscraper filled with produce.
Actually, not like a skyscraper filled with produce, but exactly that. The rendering above shows a slant version which takes advantage of natural light and growing cycles. Below is one that is entirely self-contained, using artificial grow lights and an internal irrigation system to grow hundreds (or thousands) of acres of crops in a space no larger than a city block.
The potential for this new kind of agriculture is amazing--imagine a farm-to-table dining experience where the farm is literally in the building across the street from the restaurant. And the only problem is, no one has actually built one yet. And of all the things listed above (except for maybe the taco tracker), the vertical farm is the one I want to see become reality in my lifetime.