Tuesday 13 September 2016

More spoons are needed

Did anyone mention spoons? One of the themes / obsessions on The Blob, along with islands, microbes, women and flags is food engineering. I've used this most often to express a reluctant admiration for people who can create something that is unnecessarily complex, intrinsically disempowering, potentially harmful and beguilingly delicious. When a rissole or a sausage or a cake has 40 ingredients rather than a handful so that it can travel well and has a long shelf life, I worry about the interaction terms among the cocktail of chemicals and additives. Food engineers work hand-in-glove with food marketers to get the price low enough so that the poor will buy empty calories and seductive packing rather than a bag of spuds, 2 onions and 500g of hamburger that will feed the family for two or three days . . . finishing up with rissoles! But they original food engineering post was about me - it's ALL about me, of course - using iceberg lettuce as a cantilever to get more food in a bowl . . . structural engineering.

A structural engineering problem was what struck Narayana Peesapaty [L from a propaganda video] when he bought some street food and was given a throw-away plastic spoon to eat it with. He wondered how many spoons he used a year . . . how many spoons all India might use in a year and how many bamboo chop-sticks. The answer to the latter question is 120 billion! He wondered whether there might be a biodegradable option that would be kinder to the planet and then he thought there should be an edible utensil, that would biodegrade rather quickly in his tum and Bakeys were born. Not only are plastic spoons undegradable, they are also loaded with noxious chemicals.  Whatever might be the standards in Ireland, you'd be a little leery about quality control in an Indian plastic-spoon factory.

Bakeys are small spoons pressed from an edible paste made of sorghum, rice and wheat flour and sold in packets of 25 with a 18 month sell-by date. A virtue is made of using Sorghum spp. because they use far less water in their cultivation than rice. But I guess rice and wheat are essential to the engineering strength of the product. There is a fork option as well and the penny plain original has been diversified into:
  • Sweet Bakey with a little added sugar 
  • Savory Bakey with cumin, rock salt, carom Trachyspermum ammi and black pepper
  • Customised with carrot, beetroot, spinach for added colour
Actually there are a lot more options for flavours. The company's FAQ answers most to the questions that I had. Bakey's currently sell for 2 Rs = €0.02 each, which is nothing at all to us in the West but maybe a lot if you're living on $2/day.  The basic concept has spawned all sorts of knock-offs: passing a slice of white bread through a pasta machine or buying a gadget like a waffle iron to make 4 edible spoons at a time - pay back time 25 years: coming to an Aldi near you soon.

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