As is the tradition for over 30 years, I will be spending my Thanksgiving morning in The Herald-Mail Media Test Kitchen, answering last-minute calls and giving tips for a wonderful holiday meal.
Except I am not at Herald-Mail Media offices this morning, I am on the 10th floor of Twitter, where some fellow “hardcore” engineers and I are crawling out of our sleeping bags after 90 seconds of sleep and getting back to work.
We are not in a kitchen. We are in a clean, sealed area with computer servers and other blinking lights technology to show off the latest culinary innovation: 3D food printing.
Yes, you have heard about 3D printing, that dazzling advancement of human brilliance and enlightenment that allows a handful of plastic pellets to be transformed into an undetectable handgun suitable for subway muggings.
The same technology can now be used to produce food that is delicious, healthy, and won’t show up in a detector for metal.
According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, “Numerous concerns include food quality, nutritional value, climate change, environmental impacts, and having enough to feed everyone. These growing concerns about global food security and sustainability, as well as consumer demands for customized food products, have led to the adoption of new technologies, including 3D printing (of) food.”
Are you following me here? This could resolve the greatest problem for every home chef: How can you create a delicious, traditional holiday meal for 30 members of your family while drinking?
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According to the engineers, “3D printing is an ideal technology for food manufacturing because it can produce 3D constructs with complex geometries, complex textures, enhanced nutrition, and realistic flavors.”
Because that’s what you want in a festive meal: realistic. You want guests coming up and saying, “Thank you Edna, I don’t think I’ve ever had a Thanksgiving dinner that tasted quite that plausible.”
Materials for 3D-printed food are ordinary food ingredients — water, oil, flour, butter and eggs — and are appetizingly known as “food ink.” And forget braising, roasting and frying, the new food preparation processes have names like “selective sintering, selective hot air sintering and melting, liquid binding or binder jetting, and hot-melt extrusion.”
This could be the next step in an era where cooking shows (cooking programs!) are not allowed to exist. They can be aggressive and confrontational. The host can destroy a contestant by screaming, “Look at those sweet potatoes; you call that a hot-melt extrusion?” before shooting her with lasers.
Don’t despair! This is good news for Thanksgiving. Show me a family that is arguing about selective sinterings, and I’ll show you a family that is not arguing about Nancy Pelosi.
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I can still call you ladies ladies! It’s Thanksgiving and I’m feeling all traditional) 3D food printing should put an end to the lamentation that the “old man” never lifts a finger in the kitchen.
You know how guys are with anything that’s mechanical. Their voices deepen, and they start using words like “aggregate” and “load bearing,” and arguing over which is a better rifle, the 30-30 Winchester or the 30-06 Springfield.
This could be the best gift for women who don’t want to do all the work. I can clearly see a future where a bunch of guys are standing around a laptop shouting, “Who’s ready for another ingot of sweet potatoes?”
Matter a fact, this might be a “careful what you wish for” situation. Is it really worth letting men run the holiday dinner? Because it will turn competitive — you know that it will — and pretty soon guys will be printing up drumsticks the size of an upright freezer.
And given my experience with printers in general, I’m dubious. Nothing can ruin a festive mood quicker than running to Staples to buy a cartridge of eggs whites.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.