- Foreword: Writing Rochester's Futures
- "Interesting Times"
- "Culinary Capital, 2034"
- "Night Bells"
- "Hollow Lives"
- "The Naked Girl"
- "Time Enough for Love"
- "Day of the Bicentennial"
- "One City at a Time"
- "Want Not"
- "The Costs of Survival"
- "Getting Wet"
- "Top 10 Headlines, Rochester, NY, 2034"
- "North Star Pipeline"
- "The 2034 Lilac Festival"
- "Scotch and Sizzlenuts on the Resolute Bay"
- "Fads (or Why Jerry Loathes the Aliens)" [FULL TEXT, AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY]
"Culinary Capital, 2034"
“Thirty seconds left, here at the national semi-finals, ladies and gentlemen!”
Brandon Altman, voice of Culinary Capital, called from his announcer’s platform above the competing kitchens. “Chef Piecroft and the Rochester Hungry Hippos are now plating! The Chicago Chophouse Culinarians are nearly done!”
Piecroft Doubleday poured lobster bisque into a soup tureen. His sous-chef Ronnie Talone banged the counter furiously as she tried to knock a chocolate-hazelnut molten cake from its ramekin. The crowd at the Blue-Cross Arena roared with frenzied anticipation.
“Tang! Cut that cake out for Ronnie!” Piecroft shouted at his other sous-chef.
Tang Tsai tapped Ronnie on one of her massive arms.
“Ten, nine, eight!” Altman’s voice rang over the PA system.
Piecroft moved the plate of escargot closer to the kitchen’s olfactory amplifier, to give the crowd a better whiff of its bouquet of garlic butter and thyme.
“Seven, six, five!”
He garnished the lobster bisque with a fennel leaf.
“Four, three, two!”
Ronnie shouted, “Boss! Catch!”
Piecroft whirled. The molten cake arced toward him in an end-overend tumble, like an air-born hockey puck. He snatched it from the air and laid it onto the final empty plate in one motion, swooped a spoon through the waiting bowl of crème fraîche with the other hand, and—
Plopped a dollop on the cake.
“And that’s it! A remarkable display of last minute plating by the Rochester Hippos!” cried Brandon Altman. The audience stood and roared with appreciation.
Piecroft turned toward his kitchen’s mic: “That’s the Rochester Hungry Hippos, Brandon!” Piecroft patted his stomach, which extended two feet in front of him, and the audience laughed. No one trusted a skinny chef. But at six feet tall, 300 pounds, and with dirty blond hair controlled by a yellow, smiley-faced bandanna, what Foodie didn’t trust him?
“Thank you, Chef Piecroft, I stand corrected.” Altman whirled to face one of the cameras on his announcer’s platform. “And you’d better be hungry, too, America! Put on your hedometers, if you’re not already wearing them! Get those food-cons fired up! You’re going to tell us: Who will move one step closer to earning the title of Culinary Capital, and the National Cuisine Corporation’s one billion dollar food-community development package, for their city in 2034? Chef Piecroft’s Rochester, New York, Hungry Hippos, or Chef Marciano’s Chicago, Illinois, Chophouse Culinarians? You tell us!”
“Sorry about that molten cake, boss.” Ronnie shook her head. “I forgot and used non-fat cooking spray, and then didn’t use enough. I just tuned out for a second.”
Piecroft patted her beefy arm. “It’s all right, Ronnie. But remember, this isn’t your home kitchen—so use butter, and lots of it. If we win, maybe we’ll have time to take a look at your health food recipes and see if they can be adapted for our customers.”
Ronnie nodded dejectedly. She was one of the rare people who claimed allegiance to both the Foodie and the Fit lifestyles, and habits from the latter occasionally intruded on the former, even during competition. She stood as tall as Piecroft at six feet, but wore her thick blonde hair coiled in a beehive that augmented her stature by another half foot. The Fitness life had taken its toll on her—years of steroid use, excessive aerobic exercise, and unnecessary tanning.
“I’m sorry.” Piecroft glanced at the hedometer lurking behind her ear like a hearing aid. He couldn’t see its wrist-watch unit display screen, but he didn’t need to. He’d touched a nerve. “You’re a great cook. You followed the standard recipe for the cake?”
“Yeah. I even added an extra cup of sugar.”
“You do right thing,” Tang said. “Sugar have unusually high hedonic exchange rate for Americans. You maximize hedonic units of cake. At least 100 hedons.”
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