Hydroponics: the wave of the future! That’s what scientists have been trying to tell us since I was a kid, anyway. Are we finally getting on that yet?
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food.
…and, in a bit of a bold departure for our State Fair, this time it’s not all about Hoosier crops and recipes. In collaboration with Manhattan’s own American Museum of Natural History, this year our fair presents a special exhibit called “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture” — an in-depth look at how other countries and cultures, past and present, view and prepare ingredients and meals from farm to table and all the unique processes in between. Because this year at the fair, there’s more than corn in Indiana.
(Slight in-joke for the locals out there.)
A number of kiosks, placards, and displays illustrate the foodie life elsewhere, such as this combination diorama/mural of an Aztec market of old.
Moroccan cookware puts much of our own kitchen to shame.
A cornucopia of cookbooks from across time and time zones.
For some peoples, food takes on significance beyond mealtime, as exemplified by this Mexican corn-loving dog intended for burial with a dearly departed.
One educational display showcases four meals for four very different individuals. Presented above without joking is a typical breakfast for Olympian Michael Phelps during intensive training seasons, when thousands of calories are put to much more use than the thousands I eat every week (or less).
Whenever someone you know holds up a one-pound baked potato and says, “Now that’s a tuber!” now you can point to this South American cassava and retort, “No, THAT’S a tuber.”
Sure, you could stick to the old American paradigm of raising watermelon shaped like blimps, or you could do like the Japanese and grow them inside cubic containers. This way they stack better, or you can build your own summertime watermelon forts.
Got a friend who acts macho every time he eats a whole jalapeno? Have fun shaming him with this scale of much more intense peppers enjoyed in other lands where they don’t puff up their chests over buffalo wing appetizers.
Visitors without smartphones can play with this interactive kiosk that turns random Instagram foodie pics into a Brownian kaleidoscope.
A few pieces toward the end of the exhibit hall examine topical issues such as wasted foods, world hunger, and potential farming futures . Among the latter is the vertical farming setup in our lead photo; another is this agricultural Dyson sphere that theorizes the farmlands of tomorrow may need to be built upward rather than outward.
Fans of TV’s Chopped may recognize the term “molecular gastronomy”, the science of making strange-looking foods with vaguely familiar tastes out of weird substances, usually found only at the priciest big-city restaurants. Exhibit A: melon caviar, made from cantaloupe but not really resembling it.
Take a spoonful of mousse, dunk it in liquid nitrogen for twenty seconds, and presto: nitro-poached green tea and lime mousse, the kind of dessert you won’t find at your local Dairy Barn. Will these catch on with future generations, or will we be stuck on fried Oreos forever?
To be continued!