A funny thing happens to us moviegoers whenever we see Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, or [insert your favorite action movie star here] in peril: Our bodies actually believe there's a possibility they may get hurt.
While we know for a fact that what we're seeing is going to end well -- we're sophisticated enough viewers at this point to know how most filmmakers pull off their most intricate special effect sequences -- we allow our bodies to be tricked by our eyes. Our hearts pump, our faces flush, our pulses race out of control. These reactions are based on the fact that, when we watch a movie, we're actually turning off a part of our brain. The whole act actually has a name: "Willful suspension of disbelief." If we didn't do this, it would be nearly impossible to enjoy a movie.
Thing is, a lot of us do the exact same thing when we eat.
You can see the disconnect just by examining the terminology we use for our foods. We don't tell the waiter that we'd like "ground-up pieces of cow." We eat burgers. We don't order "slices of pig's butt." We buy some ham. This kind of euphemistic language allows us to ignore the reality of the situation and move on. If we didn't turn off that section in our brain that gets grossed out by the concept of eating dead animals, we'd be spending an inordinate amount of time trying to psych ourselves up just to eat a turkey sandwich.
But there's one product out there that's nearly impossible to separate from its own inherent grossness: Eggs.
In case you don't get it yet: Eggs gross me out. I love eating them -- I tend to have somewhere between four and eight a week -- and understand their role as a near-perfect wonder food. But the only way I'm able to get through the act of cracking those unfertilized rotund objects and frying up the membranes and yolks and sinewy snot-like material is by giving my brain a few minutes off. Which is why news of this San Francisco-based tech start-up doing their best to find a suitable replacement for chicken eggs has me all sorts of excited.
The company, Hampton Street Foods, has been putting their scientists to work, looking towards plants as a possible way to finally say goodbye to the egg:
In its food lab, biochemists grind up beans and peer through microscopes to study their molecular structure, looking for plants that can fulfill the culinary functions of eggs. So far, the company has analyzed some 1,500 types of plants from more than 60 countries. The research has resulted in 11 "hits," said Josh Tetrick, the company's CEO.
The benefits of finding a plant-based alternative to eggs are predictable and wide-ranging: Environmentally, the production of eggs will no longer necessitate wide swaths of land and water. Health-wise, outbreaks of diseases that are spread through chickens (Hampton Street Foods points towards avian flu, specifically) will be minimized. So if the group is able to find an alternative that tastes like eggs, it will be win-win all around?
Well, obviously not. Those in the egg industry who are quoted in the piece are not so excited about the future:
"Our customers have said they're not interested in egg substitutes. They want real, natural eggs with their familiar ingredients," Mitch Kanter, executive director of the board-funded Egg Nutrition Center, said in a statement.
But that kind of Luddite-esque thinking is to be expected from those with a horse in the race. The question that remains is really for the rest of us. Presuming that the biologists find something that tastes like the original, will the market be interested in giving faux eggs a whirl. For me, the answer is a definitive yes. But what about everyone else?
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