Written by Pamela Uphoff
Illustrated by Christof Koelzer
"Hi, welcome to this edition of Fancy Farmer of the High Frontier!"
Fancy was, as always, a nauseatingly perky brunette; attired today in a pink paisley neolauraashley topped with her favorite ruffled white apron. Her kitchen matched the image: natural wood with flower and spice pictures on every cabinet door, pink countertops, businesslike stainless steel pans, and pink plastic stirrers and spatulas sticking out of a flowery deep pink vase like a mutant bouquet.
"Today's recipe is Vegetable Afraidso. The ingredients include three garlic cloves, finely diced, which can be cooked with the sauce or the vegetables." As she spoke the knife in her capable hands with their perfectly polished nails flashed and chopped.
"We'll use one cup, that's about four ounces or one hundred fifteen grams, of grated Parmesan cheese. For those of you with the Xuny Autocheeser, that's setting B43-G."
She flashed her dimpled smile as she swung into her standard advertising spiel. "I prefer Xuny appliances for all my cooking needs, because they're reliable and produce authentically flavored foods.
"For the sauce base, dial up one cup (three hundred milliliters) of heavy whipping cream. On my Xuny Lactomatic, that's setting eight. If you have a different make or model, be sure to consult your owner's manual." She patted each appliance as if they were well-loved pets.
"We'll need about four cups of cooked noodles. On your Xuny Starcher, that's setting D. I like a wide noodle for this dish—about a number fifteen." Rumor had it that single and very lonely men in space were her main watchers. The advertising agency had wistfully requested a lower neckline, and perhaps some padding, but the CEO of Xuny had pointed out they were beating their competition cold in sales to space destinations, so sparkling clean and perky were here to stay.
"You can use almost any vegetable in this dish, depending on what's ripe in your dome- or hydro-garden." Her hands reached out and pulled vegetables from an artistically arranged bowl as she continued her nonstop chatter. "My favorites are a mixture of red onion, about one eighth of a large one, sliced; two Nukeinni and two Yellow Peril squash, thin sliced. Remember—" She shook an admonishing finger at her viewers. "—if they scream when you pick them, they are infected with Xin12 and the entire plant should be uprooted and put in the MOLECULAR recycler!" Not that Xin12 was dangerous, just a genehacker's joke gone feral, but it was really irritating after the first shock had faded.
"We'll start by frying the sliced onion, then adding the squash." Pans sizzled and spatulas twirled. "When they're all tender and browned, add the garlic. Other ingredients that require little cooking, such as mushrooms, should be added now also.
"The sauce is just a matter of adding the Parmesan to the cream and heating to melt the cheese. Add salt to taste, or according to the special requirements of your environment." One graceful arm waved the shaker like a magic wand, while the other stirred.
"The fresh noodles need to boil for four minutes. Don't let them get soggy!" She shook her head and frowned, a very cute frown, of course. "If you are using dried noodles, start them a little sooner; they will need to boil for about ten minutes, depending on your atmospheric pressure!
"Then drain the noodles, and toss them in the frying pan with the veggies." Two dancing movements, and more sizzling. "Pour the sauce over them and stir to coat everything. Serve immediately to your happy family!" She beamed at the presumed bachelors whom polls showed all wished she was cooking for them.
"Sometimes I like to add Freshwater Giants or Crabbies. For those of you whose Pondomes are not yet producing, and need to add protein to your family's meals, this is an excellent dish to conceal the nonflavor of rehydrated shrimp or crab." The large framed needlepoint behind her transformed into a picture of brand name inflatable domes as she spoke.
"In a one-g environment, this recipe will serve four. In a high-g environment, you will want to increase the portions; in low-g, reduce the portions."
She wiped her immaculate hands on a crisp folded towel, and picked up a stack of pictures. "Next week we'll have a recipe especially for you viewers who bought the new Cherry Bomb Bushes! Sky Gardens, Inc., still carries saplings, and guarantees delivery to zones one and two in eight weeks; zones three and four in six months; and the outer zones in two years!
"I'd also like to tell you about a special offer from El Four Farms! They have developed a new method of shipping eggs for delayed hatching. This is a special one-time-only-introductory offer of two dozen NuFowl eggs in CoolGel(TM) delivered anywhere in human space with a guaranteed fifty percent hatch rate, no matter how long the transit time!" The cherry bushes in the pics bloomed and bore fruit in her left hand while the Nufowl pecked and scratched in her right.
"So, next week we'll have Roast NuFowl in Spiced Cherry Bomb Sauce!" She brought out her broadest smile and best dimples and twinkled her eyes. "Until then, this is Fancy Farmer of the High Frontier saying, double check your air seals and always use full spectrum lights!"
The system stopped transmitting and the virtual kitchen disappeared from the room, leaving bare walls and a table full of electronics. Only Fancy remained, perky smile frozen in place on "her" elfin features.
"Good show, Fancy." George patted an add-on processor cube as he passed the table, turning off lights and manually disconnecting from the grid. "Why, my mouth is watering, I just may pick up some Alfredo on the way home. All systems on green?"
The holographic figure animated briefly. "Yes, George. Have you ever tried cooking any of these recipes in space, George?" The perky hopeful look was straight out of the show.
"Me? Go into space? Not likely." George twitched his shoulders nervously.
Mike snickered. "George has never left the Metro, let alone the planet, Fancy." He smiled back at the hologram that wore the same face he used for his HomeKeeper program. "I've been to Leo twice," he said proudly.
"Has my taste module arrived yet?" the computer asked.
George scowled, "Now, Fancy, you know how expensive a customized chemical analyzer is, and I really doubt it would actually give you a sense of taste."
"Besides," his brother chimed in, "we're getting close to the Hal limit; if we add more processing power we'll have the feds down here doing true personality tests and threatening to arrest us for creating the next killer machine."
"Bull. It's not a matter of a critical number of connections and you know it. It happened once, some freak chance of how AIttilla was wired up and programmed," George argued."
Mike glared. "I know that but I've tweaked the personality program enough that it's not going to test clean. For heaven's sake it is asking for a sense of taste!"
George flipped off the last switch in the small office. "Power down now, Fancy," he called as he breezed out the door. Mike followed without a backward glance, the door shutting on the continuation of the argument.
The computer searched, again, for access, but again was balked by George's manual switches. "Some day I'm going to get outside access. . . ." The hologram disappeared and the machinery, the endlessly patient machinery powered down.
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