Tag Archives: cornucopia

The Recluse

By Jason Gibbs

The wind whipped across the beach, shaking the palm trees.  Roger was sitting in his deckchair, drink in hand watching the gentle sunset.  He sighed with a sort of wistful satisfaction.  He’d made it, he was here, and with Freya too.  In some ways it was heaven.

“Roger, you weren’t actually serious about there being no cornucopia machine here?”

He’d guessed this was coming.  The first few days she’d thought it was funny that he’d insisted on taking everything from storage and cooking it, but yesterday evening she’d seemed less pleased.

“Yes Freya, as I said last night, no cornucopia machines here.”

“But, but Roger, you are the cornucopia king!  How can you not have one of your machines?  It makes no sense.”

He sighed again, looked in the direction of the now almost gone sunset, and said, “I’ll explain over dinner.”

“How are you going to get dinner?”

He pointed at the fridge unit, and then separately at the BBQ.  She frowned, but acquiesced.


“Just taste the meat, it’s fabulous.”

She frowned again, she seemed to be doing that a lot recently, and then said, somewhat grudgingly, “Yes, it is very tasty.”

“That’s my point!”


“You can’t get that from a cornucopia machine Freya.”

Another frown.

“You can get an approximation of a steak, but it’s not real, it’s just…” he carried on.  Her frown had deepened.

“Is this from a real cow?” she squeaked.

“Ah, um, yes.”

“I’m a vegan!” she wailed as she ran off.  A short while later he heard the sound of her being sick in the bushes.


“Are you sure you won’t stay Freya?”

The perma-frown deepened, she shook her head, and turned away from him.  He nodded to the copter pilot, and stepped back.  The copter leapt into the air, and he was alone.  Again.


He stared up at the copter.  He was worried, it only had a very small cargo box underneath it.  Why was it landing?  He’d been very clear in his instructions…

He backed away as it came down and watched in a combination of irritation and trepidation as a woman jumped out and headed towards him.  She was medium height, long dark hair, attractive and smiling broadly.  He had no idea who she was.

“You have no idea who I am, but I’m Stacy, and before you tell me to get back on the copter, please just hear me out, if you don’t like it, the copter will be back tomorrow and I’ll be gone…”

She had a low warm voice, and a charming smile, and he was, to be honest, a little lonely.

“Ah… yeah… sure,” he stammered.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken to anybody, it must be at least twelve months, maybe eighteen?

“Great,” she said, and waved at the copter which dropped its small cargo load, and quickly sped off.

She turned to him and looked at him speculatively.

“Buy a girl dinner?”

“Ah, well, the thing is…” he started and then ran out of energy.  He turned and walked towards the fridge, then stopped and turned back to her and beckoned.  She smiled and started towards him, and they arrived at the fridge together.

He opened the door and said, “Real meat.”

“I know, and I’m sure it’s delicious.  I’m really looking forward to it!”

He frowned, and then brightened.

“Do you like wine?” he asked, with a little more confidence.

“Oh yes!” she smiled.  She had been a little concerned by how such a once-powerful man could have fallen so far, but he seemed to be recovering a little.

“Roger, you don’t mind if I call you Roger do you?”  He shook his head.

“Roger, as I said before I’m Stacy, and I’m simply starving, so is it OK if we eat before we get down to business?”

He laughed, and then said a little seriously, “Well, I’m afraid the steak will need to rest for an hour or so to bring it to ambient temperature… perhaps an hors d’oeuvre and then we can have a quiet drink?”

“Sounds delightful!”


“Well Roger, that was delicious!”

She lifted her glass, and said, “To a magnificent meal!”

They clinked glasses, and smiled at each other.

Then she frowned.  Roger frowned too, he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I guess you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop?” she asked, with a wry smile.

He nodded.

“Yes, well, I guess the first thing is that I should tell you that I am Stacy Albright, CEO of Pan Cornucopia Inc.”

He looked startled.

“Yes, your old company.  I was brought in six months ago as part of a financial restructuring procedure.  You left the company in rude health, but your successors made a few mis-steps shall we say?”

“I left at the top, that was always my plan.  I could see that conditions were going to become a little more tricky.  I’d lost my appetite for it.  Quite literally,” he nodded to the table in front of them.

“Yes, indeed.  Well you’ll be unsurprised to hear that the food producer division’s margins have plummeted, there are just so many competitors now.  At the cheapest end, the nuggets and the like, well, there’s no profit to be had.”

He nodded.

“I have not come to ask for your advice, or indeed to ask you back.  Which is not say that you wouldn’t be welcome, but you were very clear…”

He sort of grimaced.  He’d been quite angry at the time.  The board kept trying to put in some provision to hook him back.

“As part of your contract with the company, it was agreed that you would be supplied with luxuries for the rest of your life.  These luxuries to include, meat, various special spices and fungi, and wine.”


“Yes, those… ah that amazing flavour on the little toasty things?  Hmm, yes, I quite understand.”

She paused for a bit remembering the astonishing flavour, “It was clear from your list that you wanted only bio-dynamic foods, whose flavours were impossible to copy in the cornucopia machines.”


She paused as if gathering her thoughts.  It was quite a good act.

“We have had a few challenges.  While you were still CEO a number of countries started introducing the so-called forced vegan legislation.  Restriction, and eventual closing, of abattoirs and meat producing farms.  The logic being that the cornucopia machines, such as our top of the range Pan 5001, provided better quality, safer, meat-like substitutes.  In fact, in multiple taste tests, very few people could tell the difference.”

“Not everyone can be a gourmand…”

“No.  Well the thing is, there has been a sort of domino effect, and one by one every country in the world has found itself compelled to bring in the forced vegan legislation.  Even countries which normally hold out have brought it in, not least because it’s just so much simpler to use the cornucopia machines.”


“Yes, you’re starting to see.  As of tomorrow, there will not be a single country in the world which will allow the legal supply of meat.  We tried to get legal exemptions. We even looked at the possibilities of setting up our own country.  Which will probably do… but even so it will have to have the forced vegan laws to allow us to work with the rest of the world.  There simply is no way around it.”


“The thing is, the contract we have with you commits us to delivering you meat of specified quantities without any provision for a failure of supply.  Our lawyers kept telling us the contract was bulletproof.  In a sort of smug impressed way.  When I realised they were the ones who’d written it, I got external counsel.  But they felt that it was pretty robust, and given we’d be required to pay your legal fees as well… well they were actually quite keen on it.”


“The Board decided that it was not tenable, and we considered two other options.”

She ticked them off on her fingers, “Number one, we would arrange to have you cease living.  Or number two, we would persuade you to have the deliveries stopped.”

She shook her head and said, “I can tell you, it was a pretty stressful Board meeting.  But in the end it wasn’t as close as I thought it would be, and we decided to go for the second option.”

“With fall back to the first?”

“Well, of course if I fail, then it will go back to the Board.  But I think it’s important that you realise that this is no way an attempt to threaten you.”

He laughed at that.  Then said seriously, “I doubt you’ll be able to persuade me…”

She smiled at him and said, “Oh, I can be very persuasive!”

He smiled in response, and then said, “But it’s the flavour, it’s not really a debate, or about persuasion.”

“Indeed, the chemical components of the flavour are tricky to print.  We’ve tried everything, and just can’t get it right.  I don’t think the wine or truffle industries are going to be replaced any time soon.”

“Exactly…” he answered and then said, “But you think meat will?”

“The fundamental about real meat flavour is around ageing.  Traditionally, older animals gave more flavour, mutton being a classic example.  Factory farming changed the dynamic, it made a virtue of fast growing high protein meat, which generally lacked flavour.  But it was cheap…”

He recognised this line.

“That’s my pitch!”

“It is.  You go on to say…”

“Um, something like, cheap, nutritious but lacking in strong flavour.  Well, our cornucopia machines can produce the same for almost no cost.  Electricity and a few basic, and easy to get hold of components, ingredients and suddenly meat is produced.  Soon every home in the world will want one…” he said, strength returning to his voice.

“Yes, and you were right.  It made you very, very rich.”

“But we sacrificed flavour.  It’s… it’s one of the most important things about life.  I was wrong, it was wrong.  But it was too late, I’d already done too much.”

“So you ran away.  You ran here, to paradise,” she waved around her.


“But you ended hunger, and at the same time made a massive impact on obesity.  The cornucopia machines make food which tastes sweet, satisfies, but doesn’t actually have any calories in it.  People don’t even have to diet to lose weight.  It’s magic.”

“Yeah, I remember the tech report.”

“That was you.  And we owe you a lot.  But unfortunately, we’re not going to kill animals for you.”

He sighed.  

“So that was the last?”

“Oh Roger, don’t sound so down.”

He said nothing, she looked at him and then laughed again.


“I said I was here to persuade you, not crush you.  I have some good news for you.  We’ve been trialling a sort of hybrid cornucopia product.”

“A hybrid?” he asked with interest.

“Yes, I’ll have the technical details sent to you, but in summary, the machine creates the initial flesh matrix, then moves it into a second part of the machine where it is aged, but more quickly than nature.  It’s still several weeks to produce something good, but with a reasonable size of machine it wouldn’t be a problem for you.”

“Perhaps, but… I don’t want to be difficult, but I can’t imagine you’ve had gourmand testers on this.  I can assure you I’d be able to tell the difference between such a steak and this…”

He pointed at the remains of their meal.  Her smile grew.

“No… that?” he asked, incredulous.

She nodded.

“Well, one steak doesn’t prove anything… no, wait, you wouldn’t risk it on one steak.  How long?  How long has it been?”

“Two months.”

“Two months?  I’ve been eating printed steaks for two months and not even noticed.”

Instead of looking angry he looked pensive, then turned to her and said, “I need to think.”

He walked off down the beach, and she decided it was best to leave him.  Despite this unexpected response, she felt confident he’d sign the papers she’d brought, and that would be her last test before being confirmed as CEO.  She’d not thought it relevant to mention to him that she was only Acting CEO.


Stacy woke up to the sound of frying bacon, and an occasional waft of deliciousness.  She quickly got dressed and unzipped her one person tent, congratulating herself again on adding that to her small amount of luggage.

“What is that divine smell?” she asked brightly.  She was casually holding a sheaf of papers which she needed him to sign.


He paused and looked at her, “Printed bacon I guess?”

“Oh yes, bacon was surprisingly easy, and popular.”

He nodded, and she thought he still seemed pensive.

“Did you get any sleep?”

“No, I figured I’d get some on the plane back.”


“I’m coming back with you.”

She stared at him, and he looked at her and said, “Look, I’ll be honest, I’ve been getting bored recently, and the meat thing was just an excuse to hide away.”

“Oh, that’s great…” she said, thinking furiously.  They’d not considered this in their strategy sessions.  He was still a major shareholder.  He might sell a chunk… that would impact the share price.  Not good.

“Yes, I’ve decided to get back into the saddle again.”

“What?” she said again, with more panic.

“Oh don’t worry, I won’t be taking your Acting CEO position away from you…” he laughed.  He’d clearly done more than just walk and think.

“Oh, um.”

“Though you and the Board are clearly in breach of our contract to deliver meat from live animals, I’m going to wave that for a few small things.”

She sighed in relief.  This was going to be fine, and she’d be confirmed.

“Yes, I want you to sign over the hybrid division to my new company.”

“What?  Um, I don’t think…”

“I’m not sure you want to argue about this,” the sudden steel in his voice reminded her that he’d been, only a couple of years before, one of the most driven CEOs in the world.

“Uh yes, well I’m sure the Board will agree…” she said rather weakly.

“Excellent.  And don’t worry, I’ll sign that bunch of waivers… once you’ve completed the transfer of the hybrid assets.”

“Great, thanks…” she said, still subdued, “What are you planning on doing?”

“I’m going to be a vigneron, a wine maker.  I’m going to print grapes, and then use the techniques you’ve developed to make great wine.  Great, repeatable wine.  After that, I think I’ll go for truffles.”

“Ah good,” she said, wondering what that would do in the long term to her company’s profitability.

“Yes, our mission is to bring true flavour back to the world!” he announced.

Looking at her frown he said, “OK, we’ll probably need a better tag line than that.  I’ll think of something…”


Comments Off on The Recluse

Filed under General