Vegan Meat

Posted: February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

Something silly I cooked up for WPaD’s #ShortStorySunday challenge.

It’s based on an idiotic rant I saw on the internet in which someone (probably in jest) claimed pigs were a hybrid of muskrat, bobcat, and hyena. Ah, the internet… such a source of horsefuckery and inspiration.

Vegan Meat 

~*~

“The cow and pig are not even natural animals. Tell me, where in nature can you find a cow? A farm is man-made and cows and pigs are hybridized animals. A pig is cross bred between a muskrat, bobcat and hyena! So you’re eating muskrat… just let that sink in!”

bacon

The man on the TV screen continued to rant, struggling against the police officers, who cuffed him and wrestled him into the back of the cruiser.

Sinead sipped her lukewarm coffee, too engrossed in the newscast to pour a fresh one.

 

Sinead knew the crazy man. She also knew he wasn’t as crazy as he looked.

* * *

Scott Parke was a former co-worker of Sinead’s, back in the early days of their careers. Fresh out of university and bursting with optimism, Sinead eagerly accepted a job offer from a large corporation. It all sounded so environmental, so save- the- planet perfect in her idealistic young mind. Even the name sounded environmentally friendly: Evergreen Research. She didn’t learn until later that Evergreen was owned and funded by Monsanto.

 

Those early days in the laboratories were filled with excitement and discovery, and it was there that she met Scott, also fresh out of university. Sinead truly believed she was making a difference, developing things that would change the world for the better. It wasn’t until reports of the negative effects of their work began to surface, that Sinead realized perhaps her employers weren’t the saints she thought they were.

 

 

When Sinead made the decision to part company with Evergreen, they demanded she sign a document bearing the Monsanto logo. It was a gag order, which prohibited her from divulging any information about the work conducted in their laboratories or using knowledge obtained therein to profit herself or others. She had no interest in what went on in those laboratories. She signed the document and moved on, eventually finding employment in genetic research for disease prevention.

Scott stayed on with Evergreen for a while after Sinead left, but she heard through a mutual friend that he had been fired for “ethical differences”, whatever that meant.

* * *

Five Years Later:

Sinead’s contract expired, and the company opted to not renew it. She decided to take some time off and enjoy a much-deserved holiday in Mexico.

One tequila-soaked night in Puerto Vallarta, Sinead spied a familiar face in the nightclub: Scott. He whooped when he saw her, and pulled her into an off-balance bear hug that nearly landed both of them on the floor. He slung an arm over her shoulder and sprayed her cheek with saliva as he shouted into her ear over the music.

“You gotta come see what I’m doing! I made a breakthrough like you never seen before. Makes those ashhats at Monshanto look like kinnergarten! This shit’ll revolutionize the food innustry. It’s gonna be huge! As shoon as the patents go through, I gonna be a billionaire, and I ain’t talkin’ peshos!”

Sinead wiped her cheek and adjusted her balance to counteract Scott’s drunken sway.

“Sounds interesting, but I’m on vacation. Taking kind of a hiatus from work.”

“Thass even better! I’m gonna need a partner when this shit breaks. I’m gonna be so busy. I’m sherious. You’d be perfect for the job. I’ll let ya in on the ground floor.”

“I admit I’m curious. Give me your number and I’ll look you up when I get back home.”

“No, you don’t unnerstand. It’s here. My lab. I live here now. Can’t do this in the U.S. Too many regulations. It would take years to get where I am now.”

“Your lab is here, in Mexico?”

“You betcher sweet ass, baby!”

“Then how can I say no? For old times’ sake.”

Scott raised his glass. “For old times’ sake!”

* * *

Scott’s “lab” was the second bedroom of a two-bedroom rented condo. It didn’t look much out of the ordinary, save for the occasional bug-hunting gecko. A row of mismatched refrigerators lined one wall of the room.

“I can’t wait to hear what you’re working on here,” Sinead said, peering into the room. She nodded toward the fridges. “I can’t imagine what those could be for.”

The effects of the previous night’s drinks; lingered in the dull throb behind her eyes and parched throat. Scott looked worse than she felt.

“I’m dying of thirst. Got anything to drink?” she asked.

“I got orange juice. He pointed at the kitchen. In the fridge.”

Sinead wandered into the kitchen, where she found a package of Solo cups on the counter next to a bottle each of tequila and gin. She poured a cup of orange juice and then added some tequila. What the hell, I’m on vacation, she thought.

Scott followed her into the kitchen and poured himself a similar drink, with both tequila and gin. Instead of returning to the lab, he went into the living room, where he plopped onto the couch with a weary sigh.

Sinead followed and took a seat at the opposite end and sipped her drink, waiting for him to talk.

“I don’t know how much you might have heard, but I left Monsanto due to some irreconcilable differences,” he began.

“I heard you were fired.”

“Same thing. Potato, potawto. Best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot working there, but of course you know we’re not allowed to talk about that.” He gave her a knowing wink.

“We’re also not allowed to apply any of their research in other projects.”

“I believe the gag order specifies that we’re forbidden to use knowledge gained while in their employ to further the exploits of other corporations… or some shit like that. Basically, it means we can’t divulge their trade secrets to their competitors.”

“But what does it say about becoming a competitor yourself?”

“Well, you can’t do that either, per se. Meaning that you can’t start a company and employ their knowledge in research and development of products similar to theirs. And of course, with all the regulations in the U.S. and FDA approval and all that shit, there’s no way you could do anything without the big M finding out.”

“But you aren’t in the U.S.”

“Bingo! I’m also not a competing corporation. I’m just a guy doing science projects in his back bedroom.”

“But what happens when you try to bring… whatever this is back into the U.S? You can’t get a patent based on someone else’s research.”

“I’m not. This is all mine. Yeah, I learned a lot working in those laboratories, but they can’t regulate what’s inside my head. I developed this all on my own, and none of it resembles anything those assholes are doing.”

“Somehow I think they’d find a way to claim it if they wanted it.” Sinead drained her cup. “Enough with the suspense. Let’s get to the part where you tell me exactly what you developed.”

“To put it simply, it’s food. I have developed a line of revolutionary new food products. Trendy stuff. Vegan, gluten-free, all that shit. Not processed, but grown. The granola crowd will go nuts for it, pun intended.”

“Like what?”

“Bacon seeds, for one.”

“Fuck off.”

“Seriously. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

Scott led the way to the lab-bedroom, where he opened a fridge at the far end of the row. Shelves with rows of fluorescent lighting filled the interior of the appliance. Sinead realized that it wasn’t being used for refrigeration, but as a sort of green house. Trays of small seedlings covered the first two shelves, and larger plants were housed on the lower racks. On closer inspection, Sinead recognized the leaves.

“Corn? You’re growing corn in a refrigerator.”

“Not just corn.” Scott closed the door and opened another, a couple of fridges down the row. Inside were cobs covered with a substance Sinead couldn’t identify. She looked at Scott for clarification. He grinned.

“I give you…” he tapped his fingers on the door, simulating a drum roll. “Bacon on the cob!”

“Bullshit.”

“I shit you not.” He removed one of the cobs from the shelf and held it up to the light. “It grows just like this. All you have to do is cook it.”

Tiny pale rolled-up buds covered the cob. He took one in his fingers and unrolled it, revealing to Sinead what appeared to be an ordinary slice of bacon. The grain of the meat, the fat, the color – all nearly perfect. It was perhaps a bit too uniform, like the vegan fake-bacon sold in stores, but it looked close enough to pass for the real thing. Sinead slid her fingers over it and gasped at the greasy texture.

“It feels real!” she whispered.

“It is real. Pretty cool, huh?”

“It’s edible?”

“Hell yeah! Just like the real deal. It’s delicious, low in calories, high in protein. Gluten-free, too. It’s grown, not raised. Nothing gets slaughtered.” He chuckled. “Except for the plant, of course.”

“So it’s vegan, too.”

“As vegan as a corn cob. Sure, I had to make a few modifications, and maybe there is some pig DNA in there, but that’s science. Ever wonder why vegans always seem so angry? I know I’d be pretty miserable in a life without bacon. They taste this, maybe they won’t be so angry, huh?”

“Wow. This is amazing. If it’s as good as you say, and it gets approval… you could be sitting on a gold mine here. But what if the FDA doesn’t approve it?”

“They will eventually. I’ll start growing it here. Americans will get wind of it after a few thousand tourists get a sample. Get the right billionaire to back it and badda-bing! Suddenly the FDA won’t have a problem with us bringing it into the U.S. And of course they will want it produced there, to corner the market.”

Scott moved to another fridge. “The Bacorn is just the start of it. I also have KFG, but still working the bugs out of it.”

“KFG?”

“Working title. Stands for Kentucky Fried Garbanzos. Modified chick-pea with eleven herbs and spices bred in. But it’s a magnet for fruit flies. Like I said, still working the bugs out.”

Sinead peered into the fridge. Pod-shaped crispy golden brown clumps hung from scrawny vines. A cloud of small black flies rose toward her face and as she waved them away her nostrils caught a delicious savory aroma.

“It smells like…it’s already cooked!”

“Yeah, I think this one is going to be a winner, but it’s not ready yet. We also have the Hamkins, which will require a bit more growing space than I have here, on account of the vines.”

Sinead concluded her tour of Scott’s refrigerators with a promise to consider his offer. She accepted his business card, which simply read: Scott Parke – Innovations in Eating, and an email address.

As much as she hated to admit, his offer was tempting. She’d spent all her professional life working for others, following instructions. This stimulated both her scientific and creative sides. Breaking new ground by designing never-before-seen products… it was why she had become a scientist.

This had endless potential. It could end world hunger, if the plants were hardy enough. If she took Scott’s offer, she could make him see the big picture. If plant-based meats could be engineered to grow on barren land, entire countries could be saved. Appeasing angry vegans was merely a bonus.

* * *

In the end, Sinead dodged a bullet. Her decision not to join Scott’s research “team” turned out to be a wise one. Scott did not get FDA approval for his products. It turned out people had an aversion to eating genetically engineered meat, even if it was grown organically. Supposedly “health-conscious” people preferred to eat substances processed in factories from unknown ingredients than something they could grow in their own gardens.

Stymied by legal channels, Scott brought his products into the U.S. illegally and grew them in secret. The problem was, he couldn’t mass-market any of it without giving up the secret of their origin. He marketed the stuff as manufactured corn-based products and sold them at hippie festivals and farm markets, but eventually the FDA caught up with him. When they raided his greenhouses, the scandal broke internationally.

What they found… Sinead wasn’t surprised, given Scott’s mental state at the time of his arrest.

There were the Hamkins he’d mentioned, growing on vines like pumpkins. They looked like a whole pig, minus the innards. The torso was solid, smoky meat.

The KFG had evolved from fried chicken pods into whole pre-seasoned chickens, which solved the pest problem by feeding on the bugs. The disturbing part was the “chicken” had the head of a gecko.

There were other things, the media declined to mention all of them, but Sinead heard through a source in the scientific community that beef and lamb had been involved as well.

The public was outraged, and of courts the ethical argument made headlines: Were they plant or animal? Did they have consciousness? More importantly, was this food truly vegan? Scott argued that it was, since it was plant-based.

Sinead was shocked when they announced the charges, which weren’t what she had expected.

Scott was charged with two offences:

The first was violation of FDA regulations by creating and selling unapproved food substances. For that, he received a fine and probation.

The second was more serious, and it involved a lawsuit levied by their previous employer, Evergreen Research. Scott was charged with theft of intellectual property and breach of the gag order he had signed upon his departure.

Evergreen accused him of stealing the formulas for his products from their company. Their lawyers stated they were prepared to provide proof in a court of law that those products had been created in their laboratories several years earlier.

 

~*~

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

 

 

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