Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

IKEA's Test Kitchen Unveils Bug Meatballs and Algae Hot Dogs

Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

In 2015, IKEA released a series called "Tomorrow's Meatballs" visualizing what the Swedish chain's signature delicacy might look like 20 years in the future. The campaign wasn't meant to be taken too seriously, with concepts like "The 3D Printed Ball" and "The Lean Green Algae Ball." But now, one of the more out-there dishes from the series, a meatball made from bugs, has been reimagined into a real-life dish. As Grubstreet reports, mealworm meatballs and burgers are two of the items IKEA's Space10 test kitchen has developed for its menu of the not-too-distant future.

"To change people’s minds about food, to inspire them to try new ingredients, we can’t just appeal to the intellect — we have to titillate their taste buds," a Medium post from the lab reads. "Which is why we’ve been working with our chef-in-residence to come up with dishes that look good, taste good, and are good for people and planet."

"The Neatball" swaps out the traditional beef and pork for more sustainable ingredients. The first version features mealworms, which pack 20 percent of your daily protein in 100 grams. The second Neatball iteration, made from root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and beets, is completely vegetarian. And in case those recipes stray too far from your comfort zone, they're served with the same mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce that come with the classic meal.

Bug meatballs aren't the only futuristic foodstuff IKEA is cooking up in its R&D lab. Their experimental menu also includes "The Dogless Hotdog" with baby carrots, beet and berry ketchup, and mustard and turmeric cream on a micro-algae bun; "The Bug Burger" with a patty made from four-fifths root vegetable and one-fifth darkling beetle larva; and the "LOKAL Salad" featuring greens grown hydroponically in the lab's basement. And because no meal would be complete without dessert, they've also concocted a nutrient-dense ice cream made from herbs and microgreens.

Sadly for adventurous eaters, these items won't be appearing on menus in IKEA stores any time soon. They're strictly conceptual dishes meant to demonstrate what a modern, sustainable diet could look like. But that doesn't mean that IKEA isn't serious about branching out beyond meatballs—last year, the company hinted at the possibility of opening stand-alone cafes.

IKEA's vegan hot dog.
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

IKEA burger made from bugs.
Kasper Kristoffersen, SPACE10

[h/t Grubstreet]

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This Just In
The Honey Smacks In Your Pantry May Be Contaminated With Salmonella
Doc_Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped.
Doc_Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped.

Salmonella, a bacterial food-borne illness often associated with raw eggs and undercooked chicken, has been linked recently to a popular children's cereal. According to Snopes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging consumers to avoid Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, citing the brand as the likely cause of the Salmonella outbreak spreading across the U.S.

Since early March, 73 people in 31 states have contracted the virus. Salmonella clears up in most people on its own, but in some cases it can lead to hospitalization or even death. Twenty-four victims have been admitted to hospitals so far, with no reported deaths. Of the 39 patients who were questioned, 30 of them remembered eating cold cereal and 14 of them specifically cited Honey Smacks.

In response to the outbreak, the Kellogg Company has recalled its 15.3-ounce and 23-ounce boxes of Honey Smacks printed with any "best if used by" date between June 14, 2018 and June 14, 2019 (recalled boxes are labeled on the bottom with the UPC codes 3800039103 or 3800014810). The CDC recommends that you take even greater precautions by throwing out or returning any Honey Smacks you have at home, regardless of package size, "best by" date, or whether your family has eaten from the box previously without getting sick.

Symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, fever, headache, and abdominal pain, and usually appear 12 hours to three days after the contaminated food is ingested. If you or someone in your household is showing signs of the infection, ask a doctor about how to best treat it.

[h/t Snopes]

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Big Questions
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell Funny?
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iStock

The asparagus has a long and storied history. It was mentioned in the myths and the scholarly writings of ancient Greece, and its cultivation was the subject of a detailed lesson in Cato the Elder's treatise, On Agriculture. But it wasn't until the turn of the 18th century that discussion of the link between asparagus and odorous urine emerged. In 1731, John Arbuthnot, physician to Queen Anne, noted in a book about food that asparagus "affects the urine with a foetid smell ... and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys." Benjamin Franklin also noticed that eating asparagus "shall give our urine a disagreeable odor."

Since then, there has been debate over what is responsible for the stinky pee phenomenon. Polish chemist and doctor Marceli Nencki identified a compound called methanethiol as the cause in 1891, after a study that involved four men eating about three and a half pounds of asparagus apiece. In 1975, Robert H. White, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego, used gas chromatography to pin down several compounds known as S-methyl thioesters as the culprits. Other researchers have blamed various "sulfur-containing compounds" and, simply, "metabolites."

More recently, a study demonstrated that asparagusic acid taken orally by subjects known to produce stinky asparagus pee produced odorous urine, which contained the same volatile compounds found in their asparagus-induced odorous urine. Other subjects, who normally didn't experience asparagus-induced odorous urine, likewise were spared stinky pee after taking asparagusic acid.

The researchers concluded that asparagusic acid and its derivatives are the precursors of urinary odor (compared, in different scientific papers, to the smell of "rotten cabbage," "boiling cabbage" and "vegetable soup"). The various compounds that contribute to the distinct smell—and were sometimes blamed as the sole cause in the past—are metabolized from asparagusic acid.

Exactly how these compounds are produced as we digest asparagus remains unclear, so let's turn to an equally compelling, but more answerable question:

WHY DOESN'T ASPARAGUS MAKE YOUR PEE SMELL FUNNY?

Remember when I said that some people don't produce stinky asparagus pee? Several studies have shown that only some of us experience stinky pee (ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the subjects taking part in the study, depending on which paper you read), while the majority have never had the pleasure.

For a while, the world was divided into those whose pee stank after eating asparagus and those whose didn't. Then in 1980, a study complicated matters: Subjects whose pee stank sniffed the urine of subjects whose pee didn't. Guess what? The pee stank. It turns out we're not only divided by the ability to produce odorous asparagus pee, but the ability to smell it.

An anosmia—an inability to perceive a smell—keeps certain people from smelling the compounds that make up even the most offensive asparagus pee, and like the stinky pee non-producers, they're in the majority.

Producing and perceiving asparagus pee don't go hand-in-hand, either. The 1980 study found that some people who don't produce stinky pee could detect the rotten cabbage smell in another person's urine. On the flip side, some stink producers aren't able to pick up the scent in their own urine or the urine of others.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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