Thursday, December 07, 2006

One way to feed a crowd.

Today, December 7th …

If you have ever been in charge of feeding a crowd in a public space, or been a hungry member of that crowd wishing you could find your way to the food stalls, then you have cause to be grateful for an invention patented on this day in 1999 in the U.S.A.

The patent was for “A Process for Propelling Foodstuffs Or the Like Into a Crowd”, and the brilliant inventor who managed to solve this stubborn catering problem was Thomas Gerard Ryan. Mr Ryan solved it inadvertently, as it happens. His real goal was marketing. What he was really seeking was “A method of promoting a product or product brand at a public event that is safe, fun, and very entertaining … ”.

His safe, fun, and very entertaining idea was:

“ … (a) wrapping a product-in a wrapper that is designed not to come apart when flying through the air, that is relatively soft and without any hard or sharp edges, and that is flexible, compressible and relatively airtight; (b) placing the product and its wrapper within a tube in a manner such that the compressible, relatively airtight package forms a seal with an inner wall of the tube; and (c) ejecting the product and its wrapper out of the tube and toward an audience by applying a pressurized gas within the tube, whereby the flexible, compressible and relatively airtight wrapper both helps seal the wrapper to the tube in order to make the ejection process efficient, and acts to keep the package together as it travels toward the audience.”

Imagine, if you can, “a hot dog, a napkin and at least one condiment” hurling across the sky and over the heads of the rest of the hungry crowd towards your reaching hands ….

Food and fun do go together in an ideal world of course, and throwing food is a time-honoured nursery game. Most of us grow out of food-throwing by the time we reach university, although Yale university students in times past continued to throw their food containers in between writing learned treatises. As a result we now have the Frisbee flying disc derived from the Frisbie Pie Company’s metal pie-tins.

Food was even more fun in times past when banquet hosts would have pies made to contain live birds or frogs to jump out and “make the Ladies to skip and shreek”. Animal rights activists would not allow it now of course, so for purely historic interest here is how it was done:

…. make these pieces of course paste filled with bran, and yellowed over with saffron or yolks of eggs, gild them over in spots, … being baked, make a hole in the bottom of your pieces, take out the bran, put in your Frogs and Birds, and close up the holes with the same course paste …. by this time you may suppose they will desire to see what is in the pieces; where lifting the first the lid off one pie, out skips some Frogs which makes the Ladies to skip and shreek; next after the other pie, whence comes out the Birds; who by a natural instinct flying at the light, will put out the candles: so that what with the flying Birds, and skipping Frogs, the one above, the other beneath, will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company.
[From Robert May’s Accomplish’t Cook, 1665]

Tomorrow’s Story …

In Memory of a Mistress.

A Previous Story for this Day …

The story for December 7th 2005 was “The story for December 7th 2005 was “Prayers in the Kitchen”.

Quotation for the Day …

Nothing spoils a good party like a genius. Elsa Maxwell (1883 – 1963)

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