MAD DOG: Gardening in the 21st century -- Hold the Veggies

It's spring, and all over the country people are digging up the back yard so they can plant a garden. They're sowing zucchini seeds, dropping spindly tomato plants in little holes, and feeling good because they can finally justify having paid way too much for those overalls at The Gap. You know, the ones they won't wear in the garden because, hey, they might get dirty.

But really, growing vegetables? How passé. This is what homo sapiens have been planting since the Neolithic age when some 10,000 BC pre-Einstein realized he could be a gatherer without having to leave the comfort of his own caveyard, leaving the hunting to those Neanderthals who moved into the Oog's old cave. That will teach them to drag down the property values.

Now here we are, 12,000 years later, still growing the same old things they did back then. Sure we now have varieties that are disease resistant, drought resistant, and taste resistant, but that's hardly befitting this, the 21st century. Remember, we waited years for this century to kick in. We held huge welcoming parties. We shot off lots of fireworks. We invested massive amounts of time, money, and neurotic energy worrying about a computer glitch that never happened. And probably most trying of all, we had to put up with more "End of the Century", "The Century's Top-100", and "Best and Worst of the Century" articles than anyone should ever have to see in four dharmic lifetimes. And what do we have to show for it? Sure it's brought us such modern wonders as disposable floor wipes, the Millennium Wheel, and "Survivor," but it's time for something truly revolutionary. Like growing fish at home instead of vegetables.

I'm not talking about raising them in ponds in the back yard. No, I'm talking about growing them in the kitchen. Or better yet, in the laboratory if you happen to have one of those hanging around the house. Yes, 21st century home gardening will involve taking fish filets and turning them into whole fish.

Thanks to NASA, the same wonderful people who brought us Tang, pens that write upside down, and space-age polymers that fuel never-ending infomercials, this might soon be possible. They've been sponsoring research which has resulted in a scientist at Tuoro College in Bay Shore, NY successfully taking strips of goldfish filet, soaking them in a solution made from extract of cow's blood, and losing his appetite for two weeks. In the process the filets grew by 14 percent.

Once they get the technique perfected you'll be able to buy a box of Mrs. Paul's fish sticks, soak them in Miracle Fish-Gro™ for a week, and end up with a fish large enough to feed the family for a week. All they'll need to do then is work out a way to do the same thing with the packet of Create-A-Sauce that comes with it and you'll never have to learn how to use the microwave to cook anything else.

Since the market for goldfish filets is, well, nonexistent, and NASA probably doesn't want to launch a marketing campaign to convince people to start eating them ("Goldfish. The Other White Fish."), they're planning on shifting their efforts into growing something more useful. Like macaroni and cheese. Just kidding. Actually the next step is to try to grow chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. Imagine being able to soak a cocktail wiener for a few days and ending up with a foot-long hot dog. Or buying some chicken nuggets and growing them into, well, bigger nuggets. This is the stuff science fiction springs from. Well, unless it's a new Star Wars movie and then it springs from the same old tired story as the last one.

While turning sardines into swordfish would be a neat trick, especially for the sushi industry, this isn't the first time it's been done. Almost 2,000 years ago a Jewish carpenter from Bethlehem supposedly took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed 5,000 people with it. And had twelve baskets of leftovers which his disciples took home in doggie bags. That is, after they spent an hour arguing about how to split the check and how much of a tip they should leave Jesus.

In between then and now, others have thought about ways to accomplish this feat. Like me, for example. They tell me when I was very young my father asked what I wanted to plant in the garden and I said a hot dog tree. At least that's the story my parents made up one night when they were bored and trying to come up with funny anecdotes which would amuse their friends while embarrassing my brothers and I for the rest of our lives. They did a damned good job. Of course I got straightened out when my father explained that hot dogs don't grow on trees. Hey, how was I to know they grow underground like potatoes, peanuts, and moles?

But soon I'll have the last laugh. And when I do, don't even think about begging at my door because I have petri dishes sitting around the kitchen filled with petite filets which are growing into T-bone steaks and slices of bacon becoming racks of spare ribs. Not unless you have a bag full of tomatoes and zucchinis from your old fashioned garden. Hey, I might be willing to make a little trade.

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