Friday, July 26, 2013

207: AF Ice Cream

ENTRY 207: AF Ice Cream

Humans are often at their most creative not when they have an infinite number of choices and tools at their disposal, but when they are faced with sharply limited constraints. Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to cooking after the Fall. Limited availability of many ingredients has forced transhumans to broaden their horizons both as to what is edible and what is acceptable to the palate, and spurred a wave of creative food preparation that has yet to diminish.

Ice cream, for example, was a relatively simple dish to prepare on earth before the Fall—ice and sugar, the two main ingredients in most forms of ice cream, were relatively abundant. After the Fall however, both are scarce, and true ice cream correspondingly rarer. Traditional ice cream is only really available on Mars and to a lesser extant Luna, where the number of transbovines and sugar crops are produced in sufficient quantities to make artisanal batches of homemade ice cream a viable commodity—and even frozen yogurt and custard, though the demand for these products is generally less. Most Martian and Lunar ice cream is consumed locally, with the remainder dehydrated and shipped to other habitats, especially Titan where it is often served with chocolate and coffee-flavored liqueurs—eating dehydrated ice cream plain is uncommon, and locally is the basis for several anecdotes about good fortune going with bad.

Most large habitats manage a near-ice cream product derived from dehydrated transbovine milk powder, crushed water ice, and the local sweetjuice or sugarin; the resultant product is vaguely similar to gelato, or if the milk powder left out and grain alcohol applied it becomes a kind of sorbet. Smaller and more isolated habitats make do with what they can; many scum barges in particular prefer a high-energy foodstuff based on akutaq and made from crumbled protein biscuit, sugarin, and congealed food-grade oil, blended together into a smooth paste. Several hypercorps around Luna and Venus are currently working on cheaper recipes of ice cream that can be produced in bulk, but so far have only produced a wide variety of artificial flavors and “extender” processes where air and filler materials are added to increase the “bulk” of ice cream products.

Makers have been working diligently on produce ice cream substitutes for years, but so far all they’ve managed is a flavorless low-grade foam similar in consistency and appearance to toothpaste. Some of them claim that it tastes just the same once you mix in the sweetjuice, but few of them can say that with a straight face.

Using AF Ice Cream

Eclipse Phase is mostly a post-scarcity economy; for any well-run habitat, running out of air, potable water, power, and for a stable population is unlikely. However, while you can survive off scummy recycled water and moldy break bread for quite a while, few transhumans hold it as a preference. Ice cream, because of the scarcity of its main components sugar (see Entry 179: Sweetjuice) and milk (see Entry 63: Transbovine), a fairly rare substance highly dependent on the availability of local foodstuff producers. On Mars for example, the cheaper ice cream alternatives are Trivial in cost and the really good handmade batches are Moderate; on Titan handmade ice cream is Expensive, and on the Outer Rim it isn’t available unless you have the resources to make it yourself. For most of the solar system, the hypercorp-produced filler-laden “ice cream” has a Low cost and is always available. Because of the scarcity of traditional ice cream and the tremendous local variations, there is a steady demand for it throughout the solar system, to the point where it is considered a luxury trade item in most habitats—while the PCs may balk at receiving a 5-gallon jug of homemade ice cream as payment for a job, that could potentially buy a decent used morph out on the Outer Rim. Dehydrated ice cream (astronaut’s ice cream) and milk powder are compact trade good favored by smugglers because they are non-perishable and can be hidden between the inner and outer hull. A fun but silly adventure might have the PCs running around a habitat trying to beg, borrow, steal, and otherwise scrape together the ingredients for a batch of ice cream for a client, all while fending off the jackals that want the ice cream for themselves!

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