Shades of Three-Mile Island & Chernobyl

While working on a recipe for St. Patrick’s Day, I couldn’t focus on food, because my mind was on the devastation and loss of life in Japan, both from the tsunami and now the threat of all three nuclear reactors melting down.  Then my friend Molly called and said that as she was watching the news, she recalled Three Mile Island accident on March 28th, 1979,  32 years ago this month, when I was pregnant with my youngest child. We lived about one hour from the towers near Harrisburg, PA.

I packed up  my kids and my pregnant self and went to my sister’s in North Jersey to await the results of the accident. Fortunately, there was not a total meltdown, although I am sure the government did not tell us the whole truth. (Wikipedia notes that: “Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation releases from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence  in residents near the plant, though these findings have been contested by one team of researchers.”)

Aerial view of Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, PA

About this time, the movie The China Syndrome was released. Here’s what Wikipedia says about that coincidence:

“Public reaction to the event was probably influenced by The China Syndrome a movie which had recently been released and which depicts an accident at a nuclear reactor Communications from officials during the initial phases of the accident were felt to be confusing. The accident crystallized anti-nuclear safety concerns among activists and the general public, resulted in new regulations for the nuclear industry, and has been cited as a contributor to the decline of new reactor construction that was already underway in the 1970s.”

During this time I was writing for a local newsletter called Kindred Spirits. My column was a food column, of course, called Kindred Kitchen. The year was 1986, soon after the April 26th nuclear accident at Chernobyl. I had recently attended a passionate talk by Helen Caldicott. Her book Missile Envy had just been published, I believe. Then, when I was living in State College, there was an article in the September 12th, 2002 New York Times about food vendors around Chernobyl who were selling contaminated food, which eerily echoed my tongue-in-cheek review below that I wrote in my Kindred Kitchen column several years before.

Keep in mind that this is not a real cookbook, but rather a tongue-in-cheek mock review to vent my own fears and concerns living so close to Three-Mile Island while pregnant.

Hot Dishes for Your Nuclear Family by Geiger Counter & Harris Burg.
Trinity Books, Alamogordo, NM, 1986.

In years to come, The Nuclear Cookbook will certainly be a collector’s item, assuming there are any of us left to collect cookbooks. Where else can you find recipes like Nagasaki Noodles, Hiroshima Hot Cakes, and Three-Mile Island Dressing?  Actually, this cookbook is divided into pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear recipes, with the ones noted above obviously in the pro-nuclear section.

The authors admit that the recipes in Part One were tested in their underground kitchen, for obvious security reasons. To whet your appetite even further, the authors have concocted even more deadly dishes such as: Cold War Cupcakes, Fallout Falafel, Tainted Tofu, Radioactive Rice Pudding, and Plutonium Pie.  For non-vegetarians, there is Chicken Kiev, Black Cloud Mushroom Soup with Pork Slivers, and First Strike Franks.

Part Two, which is significantly smaller, features the anti-nuclear dishes. Here we find Organic Carrot Cake, Nuclear Freeze Pie, No Nuke Noodle Casserole, Disarmament Dream Bars, and Anti-Nuclear Asparagus. In addition, there are a few dishes named after heroes/groups of the anti-nuclear movement.  Thus, we can try Green Peace Beans, Silkwood Soup, Peace Links Pudding, Caldicott Cauliflower Soup, and Rachel Carson Ratatouille. I prepared the beans, the two soups, and the carrot cake and found them quite tasty, although somewhat bland compared with the Tainted Tofu and Cold War Cupcakes. These definitely left a tingle on my tongue, so I ate only a smidgen, or technically I should say, a Rad.

The authors recommend purchasing hard-to-find ingredients for the recipes in Part One at markets in and around Three-Mile Island, or if you travel abroad, the kiosks near Kiev will do just fine. For Part Two, organic farms are suggested, although no names or addresses were available at press time.

My prediction is that this cookbook will be a big seller. To boost sales, the publishers are offering two premiums: the first 100 buyers will receive geiger counter centerpieces and the  second 100 buyers will receive a vase in the shape of a nuclear cooling tower.  So, as the ad says, “Hurry, Hurry, Hurry! Step right up and get your own copy of The Nuclear Cookbook while they are still  hot! And I might add, “If you want to develop a political palate, this book is a must!”

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