Delicious accidents = iconic foods
There’s the accidently fermented grain that led to beer and the accidently coagulated soymilk that led to tofu. And then, you have the Hamdog....
THE future is now. Virtual reality gaming, talk about commercial flights to the moon, access to practically all of human knowledge via the Internet – yes, innovation and invention are propelling us into a wonderfilled future. And the culinary world is not exempt from this innovation especially since the news that the Hamdog has arrived.
Aussie Mark Murray has patented the Hamdog – part hamburger, part hot dog, all fatteningly delicious. Basically, the Hamdog looks like a hamburger with a hotdog lodged in the centre. Imagine the innovation of shoving a hotdog through a beef patty. Ah yes, the technical wonders we’re witnessing. Apparently, the real technical challenge to the Hamdog is making a bun that fits; it seems the buns have to be handmade, to cover the girth of the burg- er and the length of the hot dog.
It seems a little strange to patent a food. I would think these days most “new” foods are created rather than patented, usually by chefs who are looking to innovate in their craft with delicious results. Take the mac and cheese burger that I so lovingly wrote about a few weeks back (“Love At First Bite”, Aug 28). Presumably, it was made by taking two delicious things and melding them so that the flavours complemented each other in one incredible final product. But as far as I know, the mac and cheese burger isn’t patented anywhere.
Actually, deliberate creation is not how some of our most popular food items were created. Nachos, for instance, is a pseudo accidental, born- of- necessity recipe. The story goes that they were created in 1943 when Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was faced with a group of hungry foreigners at his establishment. The chef had gone missing so Nacho ran into the kitchen and basically combined scraps of ingredients and served them over tortilla chips. Boom. Nachos were born. And poor Ignacio didn’t patent a thing.
Then there is the sandwich invented by John Montagu ( 17181792), the fourth Earl of ... wait for it ... Sandwich. Being an earl must be very busy work indeed because John decided he didn’t have time to eat with utensils and asked for his meat between two pieces of bread to keep the juices off his fingers. And so we now have the sandwich.
Some foods were invented com- pletely by accident. Like beer. The story goes that 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, the storage areas for grains would get damp and cause the grain to ferment. There is no actual account but, presumably, the fermentation resulted in amounts of liquid, probably on the floor, that somebody just randomly decided to taste – because tasting liquid from the floor is a great idea. But it’s a good thing that somebody made the questionable choice to do that, or we might not have beer today, and without beer, there could be no Oktobeerfest and frosh parties at university would be that much duller.
Tofu is another accidental discovery. Stories talk about a Chinese chef dropping a coagulant into a pot of soybean milk that curdled, and created tofu.
So some of the best foods were created by necessity and accident and not necessarily innovated like biotech in a lab. Is the Hamdog going to be one of these foods that we look back on and say, where were you when the Hamdog was patented?
Only time will tell if eating a hamburger at the exact same time that you eat a hot dog is something the general public wants. And if it is, that’s sort of scary. Because the one thing society doesn’t need is a way to cram more unhealthy meats into people’s mouths at an even faster pace, which is the only real innovation the Hamdog provides.