Getting at Nature's Edible Gifts

The commentator notes that despite modern advances in opening and packaging food, some obstacles remain: the pomegranate, for example, is as difficult to eat as styrofoam peanuts.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The art of fine dining has been on the mind of commentator Baxter Black. He does not care which came first, the chicken or the egg, but he does want to know who first decided that these things might taste good.

BAXTER BLACK:

The greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm not a cook, so it's difficult for me to imagine the mechanics of how someone managed to slice bread in the first place, especially a loaf as thin crusted and weak-knead--I believe that's K-N-E-A-D--as Wonder Bread. Did it involve machetes, table saws, piano wire or laser beams? Can you imagine two bakers and a candlestick maker trying to mash a wad of dough through a harp or the grill of a '53 Buick or a window at Alcatraz?

Unwrapping nature's goodies has always tested the ingenuity of man, be it coconuts, spuds or watermelons, but there are still several seemingly simple tasks that require considerably more effort than their benefit seems to warrant--dentistry, for instance, or peeling the shrink wrap off of CDs, maybe sharpening a paring knife or house training a rabbit.

The Simplot Co., along with others, learned how to peel potatoes with lye and scrubbers. The Gallo brothers no longer have barefooted cloggers dancing in a vat of grapes. Citrus scientists gave the orange a navel, which made hand peeling much easier. Freestone peaches, seedless grapes, spineless prickly pear, poll cattle and chicken nuggets are the result of a deliberate genetic selection to improve the convenience of our food preparation, assuming that the nuggets are made from free-range boneless chickens, of course.

But there are still some monumental obstacles to be conquered in our quest to make life easier. The pomegranate, for instance, a delicious fruit that is as difficult to eat as Styrofoam peanuts. Maybe the answer lies in breeding a pomegranate with juicy seeds hanging on the outside and a large stem that could act as a handle. It would be like eating a lumpy tapioca Popsicle.

And how about eating crabs? If the purebred livestock people could be put in charge of the crab industry, in a short time we'd have a two-legged crustacean with claws as big as a ham. The shell would come off as easy as a Hershey wrapper, and all the rest of the crab, as well as the old gummer crabs(ph) and corriente crabs(ph), would be ground into crab cakes. Think of it as efficient crabs.

And maybe someday we'll breed a CD or DVD wrapper with a navel. Might be a job for the Orange County Choppers.

INSKEEP: Those comments could only come from cowboy, poet, philosopher, former large animal veterinarian and culinary critic Baxter Black.

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