Taylor Hokanson, a DIY engineer, CAD/CAM evangelist, and an Assistant Professor of Art at Columbia College in Chicago, has just the ticket to get you considering how hunger works.
Hokanson is thinking about ways the boundaries between conceptual art and the hard sciences can be breached and examined, and he frequently uses hacked electronics made from standard consumer gadgets to created something "alien and unfamiliar" from these everyday objects.
His project, Controlled Feeding Status, is a two-segment set of objects aimed at examining and lampooning how and why, and how much, we eat.
The first part of the set, some ingenious and satirical 3D printed flatware, is paired with a recipe for the horrible culinary reality that is "Nutraloaf." In case you're unfamiliar with the recipe, Nutraloaf is essentially food designed as punishment. The idea is that the "food" called Nutraloaf is used as a tool for behavior modification in some American prisons. Prison inmates have argued that feeding them Nutraloaf is in fact "cruel and unusual punishment," and they say it should be prohibited as such.
Sometimes called "prison loaf" or by its more 1984-esque designation, a "special management meal," Nutraloaf is sometimes served in United States prisons to unruly inmates as a disciplinary measure.
While it may seem to resemble meatloaf at first glance, it's a meatloaf from which all gustatory pleasure has been removed. Prison authorities say it provides enough nutrition to keep prisoners healthy, and that it can be eaten without utensils which might otherwise end up as weapons. Aside from being utterly tasteless, Nutraloaf has been the subject of a number of prisoner lawsuits in several states. The controversial Sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, actually won one such lawsuit coming away with a federal judgment in favor of the constitutionality of serving Nutraloaf to prisoners.
Jeff Ruby, the dining critic for Chicago Magazine and the publication's website, Chicagomag.com, tried a taste test of Nutraloaf, and he was less than impressed:
"The mushy, disturbingly uniform innards (of a Nutraloaf) recalled the thick, pulpy aftermath of something you dissected in biology class: so intrinsically disagreeable that my throat nearly closed up reflexively," Ruby wrote. "But the funny thing about Nutraloaf is the taste. It's not awful, nor is it especially good. I kept trying to detect any individual element – carrot? egg? – and failing. Nutraloaf tastes blank, as though someone physically removed all hints of flavor."
"Contemporary cuisine repositions food as mental, rather than tangible, sustenance," he wrote. "This inversion of function is so complete that many first-world consumers find their physical health threatened by an overabundance of things to eat. Controlled Feeding Status points to the dysfunction of consumption by interrupting the most basic tool with which we engage that system."
And now that you've heard of the power of Nutraloaf, you're sure to want to give it a trial run on the family dining table. Particularly if the kids have been acting up. Here's the recipe in case you're in the mood to drop some Cruel and Unusual at dinner time:
How to Make Your Family Pay For Their Disobedience at Mealtime, the Recipe for Nutraloaf
6 slices Whole Wheat Bread, finely chopped
4 ounces Non-dairy Cheese, finely grated
4 ounces Raw Carrots, finely grated
12 ounces Spinach, canned, drained
4 ounces Seedless Raisins
2 cups Great Northern Beans, cooked and drained
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
6 ounces Tomato Paste
8 ounces Milk, powdered, instant nonfat/skim
6 ounces Potato Flakes, dehydrated
Divide into 3 loaves to provide 1 loaf per Punishment Meal.
Mix ingredients together in a 12-quart mixing bowl. Make certain wet items are drained. Knead ingredients by hand or mix with a spoon. The result should be stiff – and just moist enough – to spread. Form loaves in glazed bread pans. Place the loaf pans in the oven on a sheet pan containing water to capture any undesirable flavor which might otherwise escape. This will also prevent the loaves from burning and might add a hint of flavor from caramelization.
Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 45 minutes until the internal temperature of each loaf reaches 155 degrees. When baking is complete – and if you've done your worst – serve to your now chastised family.
To really set off the full dining experience, you can contact Taylor Hokanson here for the files to print out your own Frustration Utensils.