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]

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie

MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images
MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

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