Whether you're a culinary adventurer or a concerned consumer, here are some samplings of funky (and frightening) food concepts and trends to amuse and amaze you on April Fools' Day and beyond. No kidding!
Running around like a chicken with its head cut off: Why did the chicken cross the road? To increase its tracked steps. Researchers from UC Riverside have invented a high-tech device strapped onto the bird's back that acts as a Fitbit for roaming chickens. This gadget not only monitors steps taken and distance walked, but also other behavioral traits, including preening, sun-bathing, and dust-rolling. Through sensors and algorithms the apparatus analyzes the chick's patterns, physical health, and peculiarities. After all, don't you want to know the spryness and mental health of your chicken before serving it to your guests on special occasions? If it's no spring chicken, you might just want to boil the old bird in a pot of soup. Cluck, cluck.
Coal cloves: Black is the new white when it comes to gourmet garlic. Black garlic is on the culinary radar of top chefs around the globe, pushing the pale sibling under the spice rack. This smoky beauty achieves its dark hue, complex sweet and savory flavor profile, and delicate dried fruit texture from a lengthy and labor-intense process under controlled temperature and humidity conditions that naturally caramelizes and ages the "stinky rose." Black garlic is better on many other levels, having twice the antioxidant oomph as raw garlic to boost the immune, circulatory, digestive and endocrine systems without the bad breath, acerbic bite, and pungent aroma.
It's not nice to fool Mother Nature: For centuries creative farmers have been experimenting with assorted fruits and vegetables to improve the varieties within the species. We have crunchier apples, sweeter cherries, and watermelons without annoying seeds. Bioscientists also started cross-breeding different species that have enhanced our lives with some remarkable hybrids, including broccolini (blending broccoli and Chinese kale), the pluot (cross-pollinating a plum and an apricot), and the zippy pineberry that combines the pineapple with a strawberry.
But since chemical giants like Monsanto and DuPont started interfering with Mother Nature and good Old MacDonald, we have journeyed into the realm that had only previously been approached by Dr. Frankenstein. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) have been created by cutting and pasting genes from one organism into the genome of another, along with manipulating gene sequences and changing command codes. When strange bedfellows mate some GMO monsters like bacteria and viruses become ensconced in our food supply.
Mad scientists tinker with "anti-freeze genes" from cold-water fish like Sea Flounder or Arctic Char to make peaches, tomatoes and strawberries frost-resistant, while genes from a scorpion's venomous sac have been inserted into the DNA of a cabbage so the crucifer can kick caterpillars and other pests to the curb. More and more sources are linking GMO's to allergies, asthma, cancer, and other ills. This is no joke.
Bakery bling: Edible luster dusts and metallic spray paints in shades of gold, silver, neon greens, electric blues, and shimmering opals can be blended with fondants, gum pastes, and pulled sugar to make cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods sparkle. Spray on fruits and vegetables like berries, tomatoes and apples for a striking presentation.
Put a bug in your ear (or mouth): Edible insects, arachnids, annelids, arthropods, and other assorted bugs have become the gluten-free rage that began in Indonesia, and creepy crawled (or flew) to Australia, Europe, South America, and even parts of this continent.
These inexpensive delicacies sourced from reputable farms add a fibrous crunch, along with protein and calcium load to the diet. These come in assorted pastas (brown jasmine rice with cricket powder), fats (silkworm pupae oil), condiments (spicy water bug chili paste), tea made from grain moth larvae feces, along with a variety of savory snacks and sweet treats, (yin-yang chocolate-covered scorpions or grasshoppers, honey-glazed hornet larvae, earthworm jerky, prized weaver ant eggs, oven-roasted zebra tarantulas, and barbecue Rhino beetle kebobs), washed down with a shot of armor-tail scorpion vodka.
Recipe: Ants on a Log
• Ingredients: 8 crisp celery stalks, trimmed, cut in thirds; 8 ounces peanut butter, almond butter (recipe below), or cream cheese; 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries.
• Handcrafted Almond Butter: 2 cups roasted or raw organic almonds; 2 teaspoons oil (almond, avocado or coconut); 1 tablespoon creamy, raw honey; pink salt to taste; few drops vanilla extract (optional). Add ingredients to blender or food processor. Blend to desired consistency. Chill in a mason jar until ready to enjoy.
• Method: Stuff stalks with fillings of choice. Dot with dried fruit. For a savory, more sophisticated version of this snack, fill celery with hummus and top with kalamata olives.