Did you see the article about the mammoth meatball? I don’t mean it was huge, though it was — about the size of a soccer ball. It was made of mammoth meat. By mammoth I mean a wooly mammoth. If you’re a wooly mammoth, your mama was an elephant, and your daddy was a 1970s rust-colored shag carpet. You may recall finding photographs of mammoths in the encyclopedia when you were eleven. Except I guess they were drawings, not photographs, because photography didn’t get popular until a few decades after wooly mammoths died out.
How, pray tell, did scientists find a meatball made of mammoth meat? They didn’t find it. They made it in a lab. Here’s the recipe.
1.Take one cup of genetic information from a mammoth.
This genetic information is publicly available, according to the article I read. That must mean Walmart and Target carry it. I guess it’s with canned meat, like Star-Kist tuna. (Is that still around? The mascot was Charlie the Tuna in the ‘70s. “Sorry, Charlie.” Some of you remember the commercials. It bothers me that the ‘70s keep coming up. That can’t be healthy.)
2. If you don’t have one whole cup of genetic mammoth information, fill in the gaps from an African elephant, the mammoth’s closest living relative.
I did not make this up. The scientists were missing some genetic info, so they substituted elephant DNA. Available at Aldi in 8 and 16 oz. cans. My cookbook has an “emergency substitutions” list. It includes substitutions for cake flour (one cup minus two tablespoons all-purpose flour) and buttermilk (one tablespoon of vinegar plus enough whole milk to make one cup). If you have such a page in your cookbook, you should scribble, “ok to substitute canned elephant for mammoth” in the margin. This will mess with archaeologists’ heads when they find your cookbook in a dig site 500 years from now.
3. Stir in one can cream of mushroom soup.
Ok, the article didn’t really say anything about soup, but you can’t make meatballs without cream of mushroom soup, right? Well, you certainly cannot make a mammoth casserole without soup. Cream of mushroom, cream of chicken – it’s food glue. It’s just there to hold the other ingredients together and to coat your arteries.
4. Insert mixture into a sheep cell.
I didn’t make that up either. The scientists squeezed the mammoth genes into a sheep cell. I’m not surprised a sheep is involved. A sheep received the first uterus transplant in 2007. Scientists took the sheep’s uterus out, looked at it, and put it back into the same sheep. Just to see if they could do it. It’s an addendum to the Hippocratic Oath: Practice on sheep before you practice on humans.
5. Roll the mammoth/sheep mixture into balls and let the cells multiply in a lab.
The article didn’t say how long to let them multiply. I’m guessing 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
6. Serve the mammoth meat balls over hot spaghetti. Add parmesan cheese as desired. A salad made with prehistoric fern fronds goes nicely with this. I don’t know if ferns have fronds, but I like the alliteration, so I’m going with it.
The creators of the mammoth meatball have not tasted it.
Lab assistant: Okay, y’all, it’s done. Who’s going to taste it?
Creator 1: I’m not tasting it. YOU taste it.
Creator 2: Heck, no, YOU taste it.
Creator 1: Why don’t we just go get a steak to celebrate?
Creator 2: Wouldn’t consuming steak defeat the point of creating meat in a lab?
Creator 1: Well, I’m not eating fake meat to celebrate this milestone. We just invented lab-grown mammoth meat! I want a medium-rare ribeye. Let’s go, I’m hungry.
Creator 2: I’ll drive.
If you decide to make Mammoth Meatballs, invite me over. I’ll bring steaks to throw on the grill in case we decide not to eat the mammoth. After we enjoy the steak, we can take the meatballs to the zoo and feed them to an elephant. Ooohhh, never mind, I guess that’s elephant cannibalism. I like elephants. They are gray and wrinkled and large. Just like all of us who were alive in the 1970s.