Meals from a climate-changed future: GhostFood

 STEAMworkPHILLY's Dan Schimmel wearing the GhostFood device. (Zack Seward/WHYY)

STEAMworkPHILLY's Dan Schimmel wearing the GhostFood device. (Zack Seward/WHYY)

Imagine a future where cod, peanuts and, yes, chocolate are scarce. A future where climate change has pushed these foods to the brink of extinction.

In a small, white trailer that future exists. It’s called GhostFood.

“GhostFood is serving samples of the future, or at least of one future,” said Miriam Simun, one of two Brooklyn-based artists behind the project.

It all starts with a contraption, kind of like glasses, with a pod that sits just under your nose. In that pod, sits a cotton wick soaked in food perfume — and a bland something on the table below you.

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“You need to come up with an edible substance and a smell that will work together to sort of fool the brain a little bit, to make you feel like you’re eating the real thing,” said Miriam Songster, the other artist behind GhostFood.

The project made its debut this week, at a launch party for DesignPhiladelphia. The menu featured fried cod, peanut butter and chocolate milk.

“Is this just plain milk?” said Dan Schimmel, slurping up a sample cup. “It tastes sweet and chocolaty.”

Schimmel was trying the “chocolate milk” for the first time. His consultancy, STEAMworkPHILLY, helped connect the team behind GhostFood with the 3-D printers at NextFab Studio and scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, which studies scent.

He says GhostFood sits at a provocative intersection of art, science and technology.

“It’s two artists who are creating a piece that’s part performance, part research, part looking into the future, considering important issues,” Schimmel said. “And turning it into a flavor experience that you can have from a food cart? I mean, it’s pretty wild.”

The small trailer has packed up and hit the road. GhostFood will be serving up its unique dining experience at events in New York City and Newark, N.J., in the next few days.

“I’m really interested in what people do with it,” Simun said. “If they get excited, or if they get scared, or if they get thoughtful — or if they just get really hungry.”

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