Futurists Go Fishing


November 07, 1990|By ROB KASPER

Someday fish packages could have a microchip embedded in their wrapping. When the fish is correctly cooked in a microwave oven, the chip would turn the oven off. This, futurists predict, will insure perfectly cooked fish.

Moreover, it could, I predict, give an entirely new meaning to the phrase "fish and chips."

The prospect of having your fish boss around your oven was one of the predictions I came across while reading a white paper on the seafood in the next century. The paper was the distillation of opinions and seafood-in-the-sky prophesies that came out of a gathering of food experts. The white paper was commissioned by the Norwegian Salmon Marketing Council, and presented by the International Food Futurists at a seafood luncheon in New York.

I missed the lunch, but read the white paper anyway. I thought reading the study without feasting on any salmon was a noble act, somewhat like eating your vegetables even though you know there is no dessert coming later.

This look at seafood in the 21st century contained some predictions that were interesting and some I had a hard time swallowing.

Here are a few:

*Fish in the vending machine. The white paper predicted by the next century that "commuters will purchase fully prepared seafood dishes," at machines in subway stations or park-and-ride lots. These fish machines would resemble the money machines that now give us cash.

I have mixed feelings about this idea. At the end of a long day, I would like to be able to punch up some salmon for the ride home. But only if this fish was made by somebody other than the guy making the tuna salad sandwiches that show up in cafeteria vending machines.

*Fish-on-the-fly. Vending machines and microwave units will, the paper predicted, one day be installed in buses and rail cars to allow riders to eat seafood as they commute. As for automobile owners, their 21st-century-mobile will come equipped with a microwave. Meaning, I guess, that the car cultists could have their fish and heat it, too.

*Fish-in-the-minibar. In the hotel of the future, the paper said, packaged fish dishes will be stocked in each room's minibar ready to heat in the room's microwave oven.

I think this idea might work, but only if the hotels allowed guests to pick their rooms. I wouldn't want to stay in a room where someone had been cooking kippers, so when I checked into a hotel I would request a "fish-free" room.

*Fish-and faux-fish-as-good medicine. The study predicted that fish will be genetically tailored to be all-in-one sources of essential nutrition. In other words, the fish of tomorrow could, on request, be loaded up with extra vitamin E, or extra Omega-3 fatty acids.

Already the Norwegian fish farmers have figured out ways to increase the levels of Omega-3 acids in the salmon they raise. Having fish with a high Omega-3 level is regarded as a good thing, because Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood cholesterol levels in humans.

The new salmon farming process works like this. First the fish farmers use salmon that naturally carry higher level of Omega-3 as breeding stock. Then they raise the offspring in frigid waters. And they feed the fish a brave new kind of fish meal. Lastly, before the salmon are harvested, the fish don't eat for 10 days. The result, the farmers say, is a salmon that has an Omega-3 level that is as much as two or three times higher than the level of the average Atlantic salmon.

I'm in favor of unclogging arteries. But this technology worries me. If it got into the wrong hands, those of my doctor for instance, he might have me swimming in frigid waters and fasting for 10 days.

For the most part, when the white paper described the seafood consumer of the 21st century, I didn't think they were talking about me.

For example, when the paper announced that the microwave oven will be "the cooking medium of choice for seafood," I shook my head in disbelief. I haven't met one of those beeping ovens yet that can out-cook a barbecue grill.

But then again, I am, in the words of the white paper, a "food-for-pleasure" person. I like slow food that takes a while to prepare, yet smells good and tastes great.

This distinguishes me from a "food-for-fuel" person who wants to eat fast and hurry on to the next accomplishment.

There is another difference between me and the "food-for-fuel" person. I regard sitting down to a piece of perfectly grilled salmon as a triumph. Something to be savored, in this or any other century.

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