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Food for Thinkers: Sputnik Hotdogs

Space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman looks at the cultural history of food shaped like spacecraft.


Dr. Alice Gorman is a space archaeologist at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and the author of an excellent blog, Space Age Archaeology, where she posts about extra-terrestrial mining, abandoned Venusian probes, space beer, and more.

As part of Food For Thinkers, Gorman has turned her attention to the edible culture of the space age, with a post about "the influence space exploration has had on terrestrial food." In particular, she is interested in the history of food shaped like Sputnik: recipes and dishes that, she writes "can be regarded as a sort of performance, half way between tangible and intangible heritage, as they exist only in the moment of their manufacture and disappear in the act of consumption." She writes:


While the US military and government were grappling with the political implications of Sputnik 1, one of the ways in which ordinary people responded was to translate the body of the spacecraft into something familiar and edible. The humble olive, with the addition of three or four toothpicks to represent antenna, became a symbol of the satellite. This was an excellent garnish for a martini, sandwich, or the quintessential American food, the hamburger.

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Incredibly, the miniature hotdog in the advertisement above is "a reference to Laika the dog, who went into orbit in Sputnik 2 later in 1957," only to die from overheating after her fourth circuit of earth.

You'll have to visit Gorman's blog to read the rest of her post, in which she explores the different meanings Sputnik-shaped foods took on in the Cold War-divided West and East, examines the culinary legacy of Sputnik today, and shares a rather delicious-sounding recipe for Sputnik cocktails. It's a fascinating look at the different ways novelty foods can embody ideology, alleviate doomsday anxiety, and celebrate human achievement.

Food for Thinkers is a week-long, distributed, online conversation looking at food writing from as wide and unusual a variety of perspectives as possible. Between January 18 and January 23, 2011, more than forty food and non-food writers will respond to a question posed by GOOD's newly-launched Food hub: What does—or could, or even should—it mean to write about food today?

Follow the conversation all week here at GOOD, join in the comments, and use the Twitter hashtag #foodforthinkers to keep up to date as architects, human rights activists, design critics, and even food writers share their perspective on what makes food so interesting.

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