Engineered Food


The Polish science-fiction writer Stanislav Lem once set a story in a world in which the energy of children running about and playing was harnessed for power production.

As I walk round in Rome in Summer, I think about that whenever I am  knocked off the pavement by blasts of hot air issuing from air-conditioned buildings. I suppose that super-heating pedestrians is good for the economy since it stimulates cold drink consumption, but it also seems obvious that there must be something more useful we can do with this hot air than pumping it out into the streets. Couldn’t we set up little welding shops or or have mini pineapple plantations there ?  And think of all the heat jet engines produce, we should at the very least be able to make use of that to iron everybody’s clothes before they land and dispel that jaded transcontinental look which makes baggage carousels so depressing even when you do get your baggage.

Nobody seems to have come up with an idea of what to do with the exhaust gas from car engines yet, but someone has written a whole book on something we can do to make use of the heat generated by car engines.

The authors are Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller and the book is called Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine. It was originally published in 1989 and two editions have run out of print. Copies are being offered online at over forty dollars, but a third edition is apparently on its way very soon.

Manifold Destiny contains over 35 recipes which you can cook on your car engine. Food is wrapped in multiple layers of foil and placed in various parts of the engine depending on how much heat they need. Instead of times, mileages are given.  Here are three sample recipes:

Cruise-control Pork Tenderloin

Distance: 250 miles

This is about as fancy as you dare get in the down-home Midwest, but it’s okay if the pork tenderloin is from a native Iowa
hog. The long cooking time will let you put a lot of prairie miles behind you. Just set the cruise control, line up your hood ornament with a distant landmark like the Nebraska state capitol, and set a timer to wake you up when dinner is ready.

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup red
    onion, minced

  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, crushed

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 pork tenderloin, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds,

At home or on the road, blend the mustard, wine, onion, and seasonings. Spread the split surface of the tenderloin with the
mixture and press lightly together, then wrap with foil.

Find a medium-hot spot on the engine and turn once during cooking. Total cooking time should be about 4 1/2 hours.

Hyundai Halibut With Fennel

New England fishermen used to call big halibut ”doormats.” For this recipe, get your steaks cut from one that looks more like a floor mat.

Distance: 55-85 miles 4 halibut steaks 1 teaspoon oregano Grated rind of 2 lemons 1 clove garlic, minced 2 bulbs fresh fennel, thinly sliced Dry vermouth or white wine

At home or on the road, lay halibut steaks on 4 pieces of buttered foil. Sprinkle each with oregano, lemon rind, and minced
garlic. Add a generous layer of fennel slices and sprinkle with wine or vermouth. Wrap tightly. Cook 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on thickness and cooking location.

Blackened Roadfish

What’s important about this dish is driving along thinking: ”I’m cooking blackened fish and you’re not.” It’s the same idea as
having a car that can go 150 m.p.h. even if you never get it over 65.

Distance: 50 miles 1 pound firm white fish fillets, cut thin
Your choice of premixed ”Cajun” spices

At home or on the road, cover fish on both sides with a heavy layer of spices, pressing them in with your hands. Place on foil,
spread with butter and wrap tightly.

Cook about 25 minutes per side.

Note: Take a cue from Cajun chefs, who heat their cast-iron skillets practically to the melting point, and go for an engine that
has a maximum amount of exposed hot metal.

Further recipes are Safe-at-any-Speed Stuffed Eggplant, Pat’s Provolone Porsche Potatoes, Poached Fish Pontiac,
Any-city Chicken Wings
and Good & simple Cajun Shrimp/Crayfish (only 35 miles).

Basic things to learn in this kind of cooking are to make sure the engine isn’t running while positioning your ingredients, wrapping well to avoid spills and not placing anything in the way of any moving part which may be vital for your future well-being. The major problem however seems to be making sure that your production doesn’t drop off and force you to revisit the whole of highway 61 to find it again. For the expert who no longer has to worry about that, I think the authors should also consider road surfaces. I’m sure there are be some dishes which would much benefit from a slow drive over cobblestone roads and others for which a mountain road with hairpin bends would be essential. And if you go round the block turning in the same direction for a few hours you might even be able to make
something resembling mayonnaise.

Maynard and Scheller have also written another cookery book  It is called The Bad for You Cookbook. Many of its recipes, the authors say, “have the mean density of plutonium.” I am sure that anybody reading this will be able to think of at least one person for whom this would be an ideal present.

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