The Taste of Tomorrow
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  • January19th

    As many of you will soon find out, probably on April 12 or 13th, when your copy of The Taste of Tomorrow arrives via Fed Ex, UPS, or Express Mail,  or DHL (in the UK, Germany or Japan), much of the book is focused on the burning question:

    What will the hamburger of the future look and taste like?

    Will it be a 20th Century-style burger?  Or will it be goat, emu,  ostrich, or some other yet-to-be domesticated species?

    Not to totally blow the T of T’s narrative suspense here, but your protagonist becomes concerned about certain environmental issues related to burger-eating.   And after examining some of the options, he becomes fixated not just on mouthfeel and taste, but on finding tasty, healthy, environmentally-friendly burgers that could make this type of discussion over the nefarious impact of cow farts moot.

    In short,  The Taste of Tomorrow gets really excited about lab grown meat, aka cultured meat, sometimes called test tube meat, or in vitro meat. Here’s a recent article from Gourmet Live, in which the T of T’s author enthuses about a future in which we’ll be eating cow-less, kill-free burgers.

    Could this be Year One? 

    One of the major plot points on the way to this kill-free, methane-gas emission and ranch-land reduced  future is the successful completion and consumption of The Prototype.

    There’s been a lot of talk in the media (and in the book) that this could be Year 1.   Here’s are a few examples of such talk  “Lab Grown Meat Gets Closer”,  “Meat Shmeat,” “The Frankenburger: Why ‘Cultured Meat’ is Humanity’s Destiny.” 

    All of this hinges on a project underway in the Netherlands (which you’ll learn about extensively in The Taste of Tomorrow.)

    We’ll keep you apprised of the some of the progress – and setbacks – in in vitro meat research as they happen, both here and on the T of T’s new Facebook page. And we’ll also include updates on some other research towards environmentally-friendly meat alternatives, such as this mock chicken product.  But if you hunger for MORE in vitro meat/meat alternative news,  for nearly daily updates from the mock/cultured meat frontier, the best spot is the New Harvest site, which has assembled a massive collection of citations, by Jason Matheny.  

  • January12th

    The TofT's favorite spot for egusi stew.

     The range of West African food options in Chicago, USA is not great.  As we’ve lamented in earlier posts, if you’re a Cubs fan looking for Nigerian food – or Ghanaian or Senegalese – your best is probably to jump on a flight to NYC or DC or maybe  LA.

    Experiences with W. African in Chi-town have been mixed at best (the one notable exception is Yassa, a wonderful Senegalese place.) But Yassa is on the southside; it is an epic commute from the T of T’s Evanston (north suburb) headquarters.  One must pass through the gauntlet (aka the Loop) to get there. And the T of T’s author has a short attention for traffic jams, and is still struggling with his road rage problem.

    That’s why we are so pleased to announce that we have discovered an excellent Nigerian restaurant in Rogers Park, a northside neighborhood, roughly 15 minutes from T of T headquarters.

    The maker of the egusi, the Qaato Restaurant, is easy to miss – I’ve probably driven past it 20 times before noticing the  “Authentic Nigerian & West African restaurant” sign.  Qaato is on a strip of a north Clark that’s a blur of down-in-the-mouth  retail (taco joints, Chinese take-out, pawn shops, dollar stores)  And when you enter the dark, nearly barren restaurant, which reminded me of a friend’s basement during the disco years, you might have the some anxious thoughts. But resist these thoughts.  Savor the high-volume Afro pop, and make that order.

    What makes Qaato worthy of an eccentrically-long T of T post is their mind-expanding egusi – that’s the soup that is to Nigerians what bouillabaisse is to the French, or Tom Yum is to the Thai.

    Egusi done right is an insanely spicy broth (stew, really) of ground melon or mango seeds, shrimp (sometimes), spinach, peppers, and a protein (fish, oxtail, goat)

    Egusi soup? It's more stew-like.

    Qaato’s fish egusi, which was served in a shallow bowl, (it’s really more stew, than soup) is not for everyone.  It’s for the type who favors vindaloo over curry & only orders the “blazin” option at Buffalo Wild Wings.

    For the weak-stomached, korma-favoring reader: another way of coping with the hotness of egusi is to make smart use of your sides – jollof rice and garri. We’ve had our share of jollof rice at the T of T – often it tastes like nightmare-quality cheap Chinese restaurant fried rice (due to abuse of palm oil and salt. But Qaato’s jollof (rice, tomatoes, onions, light palm oil, spinach free) is wonderful In fact, if you throw some jollof rice in your egusi stew, you’ll mitigate the spice, and you’ll have thoughts of gumbo.

    A big blog of fermented cassava known as garri.

    The other side dish we tried is garri  which is a big blob of mashed fermented cassava.  It has the faint smell of wet socks,  and, unadorned, it doesn’t taste much better than wet socks. But the garri isn’t supposed to be eaten plain – it’s your dipping tool.   To eat like a Nigerian, pinch off the fermented cassava, roll it into a ball, and then dip it in your egusi.  It functions like pita bread or the Ethiopian injera, and is an excellent way of managing the heat.

    Qaato is so temptingly close to The Taste of Tomorrow headquarters that we’ll have a chance for regular egusi runs (next up: oxtail); we’re also hoping to persuade the friendly-proprietor (who is said to be open to customer suggestions) to make us some suya – that’s the barbecued meat kebab, coated with groundnuts and chili pepper and other spices that is served throughout Nigeria, but is no where to be found in Chi-town.  My idea for a spicy feast: egusi, suya, tempered with Star (a West African beer). Will keep you apprised.

    Meantime,  if you live in a Nigerian-restaurant deprived community, and are jonesing for egusi, check out this excellent how-to-egusi video from Yeti on the indispensable web site AfroFoodTv.Com. There’s also a good egusi recipe on this UK-based African foods site.