Buck Trends in the 25th Century!
Buck Trends, a restaurant critic and social commentator with superhuman powers of trivial observation and a nice line in antagonistic rhetoric has been thawed out from the state of cryogenic suspension in which he’d been placed by an irate restaurateur who had received one too many sneering reviews. Many centuries have passed…
London had changed beyond recognition. It wasn’t just that mini-jet-cab drivers were plying their illegal trade around the skyscraper rooftops. The entire restaurant geography of the capital had been reconfigured with The Eat Zone, The Drink Zone and The Homeric Donut Zone all existing within a giant glass dome tastefully bedecked with pigeon guano. Product placement was ubiquitous with flashing lurid neon-lit signs proclaiming corporate sponsorship of everything from buildings to park benches. So no change there. The pedestrian precinct was however sponsored by Walker’s Crisps, the garbage cans by EminCorp and the traffic lights by a laxative company. All traces of ethnicity had been cleansed. The former area of Chinatown (relocated to Surbiton) so my shuffling hunch-backed cicerone, Whispering Gill, The Ancient Ancient Mariner of Restaurant Criticism (he closeth one in three), informed me, was now known as Coffee Ground Zero with such outlets as Cafe Come Home, Burnt Aroma, Cuppacino, Jumping Beans and Mean Caffeine Machine, all owned by the single Giant Bean mega-corporation. A byzantine complex called Toxbars (We Look After Your Needs From Colonic To Moronic) was situated on the south side of the plaza incorporating a Detox Bar, a Retox Bar and a Terminally Toxic bar wherein waiters in long white cowls (called Fluid Druids) would serve you. Cheek by wobbly jowl with this citadel of pleasure stood the towering restaurant-pyramid Gordon Rameses III with a massive obelisk before the entrance and banks of cameras trained on the passers-by and inside Nubian slave-waiters garlanded in laurels of Michelin stars carried potions of the finest nectars gathered from the farthest reaches of the universe. And every day in this temple of gastronomy there would be two services for the hoi polloi to worship The Great Artificer himself. Vidscreens showing the Pharaoh chef’s greatest hits such as Duck! Here Comes Another Saucepan and Blade Slicer Or Do Android Chefs Dream Of Unlimited Michelin Stars played on continuous loop.
Whispering informed me that the other member of gastronomic royalty, the Emperor Marco Polo White, First Duke of Littlechef, had also become an associate director of a chain of eateries called Fargunkel’s wherein he had established a revolutionary new salad bar concept: Eat As Many Pigs’ Trotters Pierre Koffmann As You Like - All For £499!!! Speaking of offal, McGonads (You’re Never More Than 100 Yards From A McGonads!) were now serving Super Happy Foie Gras Meals (in a Real Sesame Seed Bun) with Onion Confit made from 100% genetically modified and approved onions, but I was pleased to see with a nostalgic tear, that due to popular demand, the famous Chicken McSlurry was still very much a feature of the menu.
Nevertheless some things had been preserved in an aspic time bubble for gawping posterity, most notably the Necropolis Steakless Houses. I recall we used to say in the 21st century that they can’t touch you if you’re on the outside looking in and they won’t notice you if you’re on the inside looking out. “It’s no longer a restaurant,” commented Whispering, not that it ever was. They serve a late “supper” of boiled sprouts and reconstituted fruit juice to American tourists at 5.00pm and the space subsequently reverts to a museum of mummified-Serbian-waiters-meets-portrait-gallery with sepia-tinted pictures of their greatest dishes, to wit: The Exceedingly Well-Done Mistake-Burger, Plastinated Cow, Juice Made From Real Concentrate and Potato Lumps A Notre Facon. Ah, the halcyon days. I learned that the first unmanned shuttle to be sent out of the galaxy was powered by reconstituted food simulacra served in the Necropolis establishments and that they stopped serving beef, if that is what they were serving, after the US government destroyed all our dairy herds with “intelligent” laser-guided missiles under the apprehension that the Al Qaeda had plans to use mad cow bombs powered by high methane farts to spread BSE across the countryside. We have made our reality a dream, said President George WWW Bush IX. No more will cows fly by night and threaten the principles that make America great: Cupidity, stupidity and duplicity. History will show we have built a new future in our past.
Back in my hotel, The Coca-Cola Ritz, I phoned the code for the restaurant and got through to a video of a symphony orchestra miming to a muzak version of Vivaldi’s The One Season (The Global Warming Variation) while I was put on hold. Please dial one of the following options: if you want to hold indefinitely press 1; if you are an A list celebrity key in your personal pin number now. If you wish to listen to a hundred other options press 2. If you like the sound of my voice press 3. Bored, I flicked to one of the two hundred cooking channels called AWTV 24/7 where a floating head sporting a ginger beard was holding forth: “I call this creation “Modern Martian”, although using as the main ingredient the nine-eyed Venusian soft-shelled crab which lives in the exploding underground volcanoes I suppose you could technically describe it Solar Fusion (with a touch of fission). And now I must sugar my hair and dance the lobster quadrille.” I hurriedly switched to the Food Porn channel.
At the restaurant....
This place is the latest, said Whispering enthusiastically. As with all top restaurants in the 25th century you have to be nominated by three members of the committee to gain entry. I learned that in the great food shake-up of the 23rd century all restaurants had to become clubs to remain open in the ruthlessly competitive climate, since customers were only interested in going to places that were exclusive and that the more they were refused the more they wanted to get in. Eventually, restaurants did not advertise at all, removing their telephone numbers and addresses from circulation and only the initiated, like masons, knew of their existence and whereabouts.
“Surf and Turf While You Work” flashed a neon sign. “Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup”, advised another. We walked past the killerbot bouncers through the holographic receptionist and ordered drinks from the dispense guru before being spooned into a glass booth ergonomically designed to fit as many people into as snug a space as possible. The booth was affixed to a carousel, which not only rotated to give you different perspectives of the room, but also moved on a track from one room and into another and then another and so forth, each course introducing you to a new and magnificent architectural vanity. And as soon as you vacated a room a team of paratrooper designers would descend upon it to give it an instant makeover for trends were so ephemeral they lasted no more than the course of a meal.
A small palm-sized computer was on the table. I slotted my smart-card into the E (Eat)-Drive which was scanned for details of my tax rating, life assurance policy, average blood pressure and statutory waiver of responsibility. A list of options was instantly e-mailed back to me with calorie quotient, portion control parameters, and market indices of each and every ingredient. “Wait a minute”, counselled my food-broker in my hidden earpiece. “Buy sirloin at 1750 units, then you can afford to trade up your mange-tout for asparagus.” I mailed the kitchen with my options and received the automated response: Thank you for your order. We value your business. We are currently busy at the moment. Please try again later and feel free order a drink from your Beverage Bot sponsored by Red Bull.
“Christ, I need a cigarette,” I exclaimed.
“Don’t even say that word,” said Whispering.
“What word? Christ? Is swearing illegal now?”
“No, no, no. Cigarette.”
“So, what do you think?” asked Whispering.
“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”.
To be continued
Next time Buck, accompanied by his cute new sidekick robot Freebie, meets The Knights of St John, a group of food terrorists who keep alive the sacred philosophy of freak-out cooking, has a close encounter with one of the notorious death burger vans and hears about Emperor Mung Bean The Merciful from the Planet Vegan.
A gastro-cube within the gastrodome