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Food-based nastiness on the WWW.

By Devin D. O'Leary

DECEMBER 22, 1997:  Apparently, years of surviving public school cafeteria food have given us all a very warped sense of nutrition. Everyone, it seems, harbors some secret desire to play with their food, to sculpt their mashed potatoes, to fling their uneaten peas. Who among us does not possess some secret fetish for such unmentionable food items as Moon Pies, Vienna Sausages or Clam Juice? The World Wide Web seems as good a place as any to come out of the closet and admit our gastrointestinal leanings. There are dozens of sites out in cyberland dedicated to the grossest, nastiest forms of nutrition on the planet. Witness ...

The Gallery of Regrettable Food (http://members.aol.com/lileks4/food/food.html)--James Lileks has fashioned this loving (well, maybe that's too strong a word) tribute to nasty foods of yesteryear. Advertisements, pictures and (gulp!) recipes from that era of gastrointestinal weirdness, the 1950s, have been gathered together in this beautifully constructed site. Check out the ads for Oscar Meyer's "Sack o' Sauce in a Can o' Meat." Gaze at the off-color photos of tuna casserole. Dig into the recipe file for "South of the Border Cheesy Meatloaf." This is some priceless stuff, and Lileks has wrapped it up in an attractive retro package. His prose doesn't hold anything back either. If an item is particularly puke-inducing, he'll tell ya so. Highly recommended!

Bunny Survival Test (www.pcola.gulf.net/~irving/bunnies)--Here's proof that playing with your food is a sign of creativity. The B.S.T. Home Page allows you to look up the results (complete with photographs) of several endurance tests performed on that perennial Easter favorite--marshmallow bunnies! The little sugar monsters are here subjected to laser beams, direct flame, cold, electrocution and the dreaded "hot tub." The photos are pretty funny, and the text is pure goofiness. After performing the "slow application of heat" test (frying bunnies up in a pan), the "scientists" declare that "Control bunnies were unaffected and, fortunately, unable to see over the pot to witness the demise of their loved ones." The "hot tub" test (which involves tossing bunnies into a pot of boiling water) ends in the following results: "After 60 seconds, subjects lost all molecular cohesion and only a large amount of froth remained visible." I'm not sure what good tossing bunnies into a pot of boiling water does, but it's sure better than eating them. Satisfyingly humorous.

Mold Cam (reality.sgi.com/dlai/mold.html)--This rather self-explanatory site was inspired by the infamous "SPAM Cam." Sad to say, SPAM Cam seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur, but you can get the basic idea here. Someone has trained a camera on assorted food items, snapped a picture a day and allowed nature to take its course. SPAM Cam had the extreme virtue of starting off with one of nature's most enigmatic food items. The "Earl of Hurl," who runs Mold Cam, is stuck with a pile of strawberries, some muffins and a bunch of broccoli. Still, page through the day-by-day photo journal, and you can see the magic that is mold do its magical thing. If you've got the stomach for it, you can actually download Quicktime or SGI movies that show the whole disgusting process in one rapid, grisly scene. Oddly fascinating.

Tortilla Art (www.students.uiuc.edu/~jwholmes/tortilla.html)--If there's one thing the Internet does is prove that people have way too much time on their hands. Here, a couple college students named Ben and Justin demonstrate the step-by-step process for turning your tortillas into lovely snowflakes, Halloween masks and other works of bread-based art. Curious, to say the least.

Cat Food: The Other White Meat (www.NeoSoft.com/stealth/catfood/)--"Big Bad John" has programmed this humorous site with loads of TLC (it's even Java-enabled). According to John, his wife's been trying to slip him kitty's dinner for so long, that he's actually gotten to like the stuff. Included is what amounts to a small picture book about cat food sandwiches and a recipe file. Among the recipes are such classics as Cat Food Pasta Primavera and Cat Food Meatloaf. Imagine--with a little creativity, you could whip up some South of the Border Cheesy Cat Food Meatloaf in no time! John attracted enough attention, apparently, to warrant an irate letter from the National Pork Council. Nasty, but compelling.

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