Microscopic Recipes To Celebrate the New Year: A Playful Fantasy
by Richard L. Howey, Wyoming, USA
The magnanimous economic Masters of the Universe have done the rest of us several great favors: 1) They have forced us to try to save what little extra money we can set aside. 2) They have forced us to eat less thus helping to solve the obesity problem. 3) They have taught us that a $10 bottle of wine may be every bit as good as the $4,000 bottles that Rush Limbaugh orders. 4) They have taught us the virtues of family dinners at home since we can’t afford to eat out much any more. 5) They have taught us that having the newest high-tech gizmo, the latest designer shoes or fashion gowns, or the biggest Hummer is not something that we ordinary mortals need aspire to. 6) Furthermore, and this is especially relevant here, they have taught us that natural food, fibers, and lifestyles require us to be creative and live healthier lives. So, already here in January of 2010, we can look forward to next November, since these International “Wall Street” wonders and Masters of the Universe have already given us so much to be thankful for.
Well, enough eulogies. Let’s begin to develop a menu for our New year’s festivities.
I recall many delightful older British films in which cucumber sandwiches were served at tea. Well, here you see, we microscopists have one up on everybody else because, in the middle of winter, cucumbers are difficult to get, rather expensive if you do find them, and they don’t keep awfully well. The solution: Set up large cultures of the colonial flagellate Synura uvella.
It often occurs in early spring, seems to like rather cold water and produces “blooms” which can give ponds or even modest-sized lakes the distinct odor of cucumbers. Now, it’s well-documented that various kinds of algae are quite nutritious and, if you believe the Synura-oil salesmen, provide all kinds of health benefits, curing everything from Appalachian acne to Zimbabwen fever. Now, most micro-algae when concentrated for human consumption have a disgusting taste and texture. Here’s where the Masters of the Universe Superplan to control the universe gives us guidance; it makes us be creative. I have always found a bit of crushed dill sprinkled on cucumber to be quite tasty, so you can concentrate the Synura, make it into little patties and lightly dust it with powdered dill which you prepare using a mortar and pestle If you are feeling a bit adventurous; then you might also sprinkle the patties with a bit of Parmesan cheese delicately flavored with a touch of garlic powder. Now, the problem is: What do you serve these delicacies on? Well, around ponds and in meadows, one can find a wide variety of grasses some of which, even dried, are quite tender and tasty. Collect a significant quantity, as they keep quite well, and when you want to use them for a special occasion, soak overnight what you need in a mixture of olive oil and wine vinegar. The next day, spread it out on a cutting board, let it dry, and then using a very sharp knife cut it into small squares, triangles, or rectangles and then bake in the oven until they are crispy. Try a variety of sizes; some fairly standard cracker sizes for the freshwater shrimp paste and some quite small ones for the amoeba butter. If you don’t have time to go prancing through the meadows, you can substitute clippings from your lawn, but then you need to add a bit of shredded confetti for texture and a bit of escargot juice for flavor. If it’s the dead of winter and your lawn is buried under a foot of snow, it is acceptable to substitute–but just barely–lettuce purchased at your supermarket. For the best results, mix lettuce–Romaine, Boston, and both red and green leaf lettuce. Mix and blend with olive oil, flour water, spread, bake until crispy, remove from the oven and cut into suitable shapes and sizes.
Clearly, the Synura cucumber spread is only the beginning. I mentioned the freshwater shrimp paste. Gammarus is very common in freshwater ponds, produces lots of eggs, and trout love to feed on them. Gammarus ordinarily are a rather drab green-gray color, but if they climb out of your sample jar onto your lab table, they turn a bright pink which is why trout feeding on them have pink meat and taste marvelous, so if trout like them they must be good, just as it follows that if you like a good steak, then you should eat lots of grass, since grass-fed beef is much tastier than corn-fed beef–so, get out there and mow your lawn and eat healthy.
Some people like to eat Gammarus raw with their shells still on, since they believe that the additional roughage helps keep their bowels regular. I prefer to boil them briefly which brings out that lovely pink color, softens the shell, and releases their inner juices to flavor the sauce. A dash of garlic, a pinch of pepper, and then skim off the shrimp and serve either on a bed of dandelion leaves or, if you live near the ocean, a thin layer of seaweed which has been well-rinsed and steamed. Finally, garnish the dish with lemon slices. Your guests will think that you are a culinary genius.
Save the broth and let it simmer until it thickens. How you proceed from here depends largely upon whether or not you are using freshwater or marine sources, so let’s consider an example of each.
1) Freshwater–If you have some ponds around you which have hard water; that is, a fairly heavy concentration of alkaline salts, then you may find either the stonewort Nitella or Chara growing abundantly. If the pond is shallow enough, you can put on some waders and hand-harvest these plants. If it’s too deep you can use a rake or make a chain hook portable dredge which you can toss out a fair distance and pull up the needed veggies. Now, when you get home, rinse the stoneworts carefully and cut off any roots. The plants will be either a beautiful yellowish-green or a dark, rich forest green. Place them in the Gammarus broth and let it simmer until the stoneworts are thoroughly cooked, yet crisp. If you overcook them, then you will get a spinachy sort of sludge that tastes fishy and looks like green slime. When done properly however, you have a pleasant shrimp taste with some nice crunch and nutritious greens, since stoneworts incorporate the alkaline materials in the pond into their structure and form tiny calcareous plates which is what gives them their nice chalky, crunchy texture.
If, on the other hand, you’re one of those culinary conservatives who has a problem with texture, you can marinate the Nitella or Chara in vinegar to dissolve out the crunchy bits and then after you add it to the Gammarus broth, boil the hell out of it, make it into a thick paste, pour it out into a baking pan, pop it in the oven, and turn it into pseudo Soylent Green crackers, which, in all honesty, are really quite tasty.
2) Marine–Here the possibilities are endless, so I’ll just give you my favorite recipe. (If you want more just send me $250 and I’ll send you 25 more recipes–hey, that’s only $10 per recipe and you can impress your friends and become the envy of your gastropod, er, gastronomes,–whatever.)
Now, remember we are still using the broth from the FRESHWATER Gammarus. There are some marine species, but they’re not as succulent as the freshwater ones. Or–horror of the kitchen–you might even be tempted to substitute the broth of large marine shrimp and think what that could lead to–crab broth!–lobster broth!! Ah, what a corrupt world we live in, but I have faith in the integrity and honest of microscopists, so freshwater Gammarus broth it is.
Now, we wander down to the mudflats with shovel and pail in hand to dig for Nereids.
In mythology, the Nereids were the 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris. Those Greek divinities just had no self-control! Nereids are called “clam worms” or “rag worms” by fishermen. You have to be able to dig quickly when you find a likely spot. Nereids fairly commonly get up to 8" to 10", so when you get them into your kitchen, you’re either going to have to do some chopping or pop them into your Cuisinart and let it slice them for you. Add these to the broth and let it simmer, then pour it into a large dish and put it into the refrigerator to cool to ocean temperature. Now, if you want to be the host and hostess of the year, you will have prepared for the ultimate dazzling touch. You will have been culturing large quantities of that fascinating little, disk-shaped dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans.
This is a bioluminescent organism that glimmers when disturbed by the wake of a ship and the result is that it makes the water glow. So, just before you serve the sumptuous Gammarus/Nereis chilled broth, you turn out the light in you 30 foot dining room and then ladle Noctiluca into each dish of broth sitting before your guest and wait for the “Oohs” and “Aahs”.
Then there is the issue of beverages. We all know that micro-organisms are crucial in the production of beer, ales, wines, and spirits. We also all know that the Japanese use rice to make wine, so why not kelp wine–full bodied and rich in iodine for your thyroid. Also Spirogyra should ferment nicely and for you Brussels Sprout lovers produce a nice sulfury aftertaste.
Well, it’s probably time to stop, before you think that I’ve completely lost my marbles. But, in concluding, I just want to observe that it is absolutely astounding what sorts of things human beings actually do eat and in a later, more serious essay, I want to examine some of the ghastly aquatic gastronomic concoctions that are actually ingested. As for the items mentioned in this essay, let me assure you that all of these recipes have been tested at the Roswell Extraterrestrial Research Center and more than half of the aliens survived them.
All comments to the author Richard Howey are welcomed.
Editor's note: Visit Richard Howey's new website at http://rhowey.googlepages.com/home where he plans to share aspects of his wide interests.
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