When I was a child, I saw something horrible one night on a movie newsreel — turkey pills.
For younger readers, a newsreel was a reel of film at theaters that showed news reports similar to the stories on the evening television news today. It was distributed to theaters throughout the country by truck and train. By the time it arrived in town, we had already heard and read that news several days before on radio and — in God’s gift to humanity — newspapers.
Much of a newsreel was devoted to sports and feature stories — Joe DiMaggio hitting another homer, movie star marriages and, unfortunately, stories about turkey pills.
The turkey pill story showed a twisted scientist displaying the outline of a turkey laid out on a platter in the form of pills — or, more precisely, capsules. And each capsule represented a condensed part of the turkey.
The announcer said this was our future. We would not have to waste time gnawing and slurping on a drumstick. Instead, we could just pop a turkey pill (or even a mashed potato pill) and stop wasting so much of our lives on nourishment. Talk about fast food.
Turkey pills and the very term “fast food” betray our modern willingness to follow the uncivilized lead of other animals. Dogs and teenagers, for instance, gulp down their dinner in less than a minute.
Normal humans, by contrast, used to sit down to a long winter’s meal, especially at Thanksgiving with its mandatory turkey.
I suppose the editor of that old newsreel about turkey pills might explain that they ran that turkey film merely to poke fun at, rather than to encourage, the turkey pill maker. And it’s true that I haven’t seen a turkey pill since.
But I have seen similar things — ways to eat without getting huge, ways to eat without wasting time, ways to eat without losing your teeth. For instance, I use artificial sweeteners as a crutch for my lack of willpower when it comes to sugary coffee drinks.
And some of my fellow dieters drink protein shakes for lunch, drinks that fake a full meal but which contain kind of a thick slurry about the consistency of chicken gravy, but without many calories. Of course, it is often flavored with a gram or two of artificial chocolate. Are we having fun yet?
Now comes artificial meat. Vegetarians and cows will be pleased to hear that a way has been found to produce what is essentially a piece of beef — without killing a cow. A few stem cells from a cow can be grown into virtual beef servings, and the cows can live. (But what will cowboys do?)
Let’s all admit that cows are more civilized to the extent that they don’t rush their meals. They gradually graze. They spend their waking hours biting off grass and slowly chewing it.
Meanwhile, we have puny foods that act like full foods but without making us chunky. I refer to nonfat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. I refer to frozen nonfat yogurt ice cream with few calories and tolerable flavors.
I do not refer to turkey pills. Brave new food can go much too far.
Now we need the impossible, a calorie-free fettuccine alfredo, that lethally rich pasta dish covered with butter, cream and cheese — one of the greatest dishes in human history, but drenched in fatty calories.
It’s a sad story. If I don’t eat it, I cry a lot. If I do eat it, my cardiologist cries a lot.
(Somebody pass me the fettuccine alfredo pills.)Contact columnist Bill Hall at email@example.com or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.