Dining in the 24th Century
A fictitious tale by Franz Scheurer
Walking thorough the doors of ‘Baghdad Lost’, the latest trendy fine-diner on Latham Street in the affluent suburb of Redfern, we immediately notice that lime green is obviously the new black. We are guided to our table, sink into the BauArt-design ergo-chairs, have our headsets fitted and adjusted and strap the neural-response pad to our wrists. So far nothing unusual.
As we scroll through our virtual dishes we notice in the ticker-news headlines that the Hemmes Empire has bought yet another lot of abandoned waterfront properties in Point Piper, the troubled and violent housing commission suburb, which is still under curfew every night from 6.00pm to 6.00am. No doubt a smart move, though, as those in the know are tipping it to be the next area to be ‘gentrified’ and become fashionable.
The obligatory ‘house’ cocktail arrives and just looking at it makes me yawn. The live worm in a mix of Mescal and Buffalo milk with Aperol syrup is really overdone. Yes, it’s pretty to watch the self-stirring cocktail but it’s really a bit ‘old hat’ by now.
The menu is heavily biased towards soy products and you can chose from about fifty well-known GE Brands to make sure that the colour, hue and saturation of the food matches your outfit perfectly. Seafood and meat essences are classified by fat content, residual salt and preservatives used, and powdered Vitamin C is available separately as a tenderiser should you be old-fashioned enough to want real meat. Fresh seafood, of course is no longer on offer anywhere, except in Far North Queensland.
What makes this restaurant different, however, is its ‘historical fare’ section of the menu. Here you can order dishes that used to be eaten a few hundred years ago. Apparently they uncovered an early 20th Century cookbook (printed on paper, would you believe it?) listing dishes from famous Australian chefs (Australia is what the island was called before the Indonesian take-over in 2089) using unrefined products like white rice, fresh vegetables and wild-caught fish. Imagine eating a fish out of the harbour! Unthinkable! But alas, this is why I’m here. My editor has made it quite clear that someone had to review this new fad and it wasn’t going to be him. It’s always rewarding being lower down in the vitamin chain!
Bravely we order. My companion (not so brave) orders a ‘Number 87 Soy Salad’ in, you guessed it, lime green (she doesn’t work for my boss, she can order whatever she wants) with a Protein chaser and a ‘Timbale of Wagyu Essence’, which, according to the menu is imported from the Chinese province of Nagasaki. I settle on ‘Almond Rice with deep-fried Flathead pieces seasoned with Prickly Ash’. Flathead, apparently is a fish. What an ugly name… but it sounded better than most of the others. Our waitress, a 7of9 clone, suggests that I should also try one of the wines from that era instead of one of the current crop of Berringer-Bloodwood offerings. They only recently discovered an old buried tunnel in Artarmon choc-a-bloc full of wines from the early 2000s. As prices are quite reasonable (no one is really interested in these old, unrefined wines) I agree and order a bottle of Penfolds Grange 2006. As soon as we finish ordering the music changes to food-appropriate tunes of the late 21st Century and my head gets blasted by harsh, voice-heavy, percussion-driven sounds that are so unfamiliar I have to ask for an anti-head-ache injection and an aural dulling spray. Changing the music apparently is not an option for the ‘full experience’ of historic dining. (Damn my boss!)
My companion complains to the waitress that she has now already waited three minutes for her food, only to be told that, according to ancient tradition, everyone at the table would have to be served at the same time and to blame me for ordering something that actually required manual labour and wasting of real energy. I get ‘that look’ and realise I’ll be sleeping with a different visor for a month. Ah well, it is my job. Being a restaurant reviewer for ‘Skewed’, the highly acclaimed lifestyle magazine owned by the Tacker Dynasty, has its rewards, though: a condominium in the quiet garden suburb of Liverpool, my own hovercraft and unlimited use of the company’s holosuite.
Alice’s food materialises in front of her and the 7of9 clone arrives with a steaming white plate full of foreign looking objects. At the same time a human, clad in a lime green shot-fabric suit, clamps this strange looking device to the table in front of me. It is small, shiny and consists of an intake, a rotary blade with a handle for turning and an exit spout. When I ask him what this is he informs me that it is an instrument invented by Andrew Liew in 2024, an almond slicer. “Why?” is the first thing that comes to mind, and I’m informed that chefs from that era did not believe that almond rice would be up to standard unless the almonds were slivered at the table. He then proceeded to position my plate under the exit spout and, inserting almonds from the top, slivered them perfectly by rotating the blade. Amazing theatre. Maybe there was something to dining in the early 2000s after all?
The human then shows me the bottle of wine and after my nodded approval removes this strange contraption from his back pocket. It looks a little like a metal spiral with a leg and a silver head (not unlike the heads of the species living in the Omega System), then proceeds to remove a hidden blade from this thing and circumcises the bottle’s neck. Why doesn’t he just twist the cap off? What’s happening here? He has my undivided attention as he slowly screws the metal spiral into the neck of the bottle, and using the leg as a kind of counter-lever, removes a strange looking, musty smelling object from the bottle’s neck. “What the @#$% is that?” I ask and I am told that it’s called a ‘cork’, and is made from the bark of a useless tree, cultivated somewhere in the very south of Germany. This, apparently, used to be the only way to seal a bottle for many centuries. Fascinated I look at the unhygienic, squishy and unfamiliar closure and am thankful that things have changed so much for the better.
With mixed feelings we ask for the bill and as the amount, including compulsory service charge for after 5.00pm transactions, is deducted from my ID Tag we muse that this was not cheap, but I suppose someone must pay for the research…
Score: 176346.390 A (see appendix 2456-2 for protein break-down, HCCP assessment and OHS approval codes)