MAD DOG: The End of Eating as We Know It

If scientists at the Defense Department have their way we'll soon be slapping a patch on our arm in lieu of downing a Big Mac, fries, and large Coke. This means one day you'll be able to walk into a drugstore and say "Supersize it!" and they will, unlike now when they laugh because you're standing in front of the condom counter when you say it.The research is being conducted by the Combat Feeding Program, the modern day version of those fine people who developed C-rations, tried to convince us that creamed chipped beef is actually a food-like substance, and made Spam a household word. Okay, so maybe it was Monty Python that did the last one.Anyway, it struck these scientists that it's not always easy for soldiers to eat three square meals a day when they have their hands full in combat. So why not develop a patch -- much like the nicotine patch -- that a soldier could wear on his or her arm? It would not only help build strong bodies twelve ways, but would do it without their having to take their finger off the trigger. Think of it as a self-feeding Power Bar only better -- after all, you don't have to taste a patch.Like many other military discoveries -- such as gunpowder, the hydrogen bomb, and the buzz cut -- this one will undoubtedly filter down until we all get to use it, resulting in lasting peace at the dinner table. And it will be about time. According to a recent survey conducted for Kraft Kitchens, many of us have deeply entrenched mealtime rituals. Seventy-nine percent sit at a certain place at the dinner table, 44 percent have assigned chores to do before or after the meal, and 17 percent said something the pollsters couldn't understand because no one taught them not to talk with their mouth full.Once the Transdermal Nutrient Delivery System is available through TV infomercials featuring a Brit in a bow tie we won't be having dinner anymore, therefore we won't have any dinnertime fights over who sits where, whose turn it is to do the dishes, or who talks with their mouth open. Domestic bliss will reign. Well, at least until we start fighting over who gets the last Tuna Helper patch.Kids will love the food patch since it will mean an end to school lunches. While they might miss their pizza, hamburgers, and whatever-that-stuff-was-they-served-last-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-and-I-think-Friday, they won't miss the new-fangled lunches the government is trying to foist on them. These meals are a lot like new math, new proficiency testing, and New Jersey. They stink. In the case of the lunches it's because they include such yummy dishes as prune burgers and tofu ravioli. In the case of New Jersey it's because of Newark.The prune burgers are being pushed by the California Prune Board, a trade organization that exists to promote a product no one wants. If they have their way, adding prune puree to hamburgers would become a regular thing. And they'd make it mandatory that every column I write has at least one good laxative joke. Amazingly, prune burgers are being served in schools around the country and they're getting away with it. Well, as long as they don't tell the kids what it is they're eating and they keep the bun closed tight so no one can see the wrinkles.The tofu, on the other hand, is being promoted by the Agriculture Department, which being a part of the federal government makes it a close relative of the Defense Department. It's easy to tell the difference between the two because one is dedicated to nurturing life while the other ends it. Since the Agriculture Department thinks it's a good idea to lower the amount of fat children eat, they've proposed that schools be allowed to increase the soy they add to meals.In spite of the possibility of being served tofu pizza and soy hash, this is actually a good idea. After all, the Worldwatch Institute recently announced that for the first time in history there are as many overweight people in the world as there are underfed ones, and since it would be too much to ask that every overweight person give half of each meal to someone who needs it, maybe adding prunes to unsuspecting kids' diet will help tip the scales in the other direction.If the food patch works on humans we could start using it on cows too. A company called Global Livestock Group is producing a feed supplement for cattle in Uganda which will reduce their methane emission. You know, what we call burping and farting. Scientists say methane emission contributes to global warming, much like burning oil, driving cars, and listening to the presidential candidates. They hope that by spraying the feed they'll reduce methane gas by the equivalent of 30 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is ... well, a lot. I think.Why don't they abandon this goofy idea and put their energies where it might do some good, like the Combat Feeding Program? Then they could develop a food patch in Country Fresh Hay Flavor and the problem would be solved. After all, it's hard to burp and fart when you don't actually put anything in your stomach. Even for a cow.Scientists say Nutri-Patch! Brand Food Replacements won't be ready until 2025, which sounds rather optimistic for a government project. But that's just as well, since it means we have plenty of time to enjoy our prune burgers while sitting in our customary chair at the dinner table. But please, watch those methane emissions, will you?

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