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NCSU and NASA work to improve Friday pizza night


It’s no secret our family loves pizza. In addition to eating it out and having it delivered, we make homemade pizza often.

Freshly risen dough, homegrown tomatoes simmered down into a thick, rich sauce, a plethora of chopped and sliced toppings, and freshly grated cheeses make us happy. They fill the house with an intoxicating aroma. And they taste even better than they smell.

The process takes a little time and patience, but the results are worth the effort. Longtime readers already know my parents used to make pizza on Friday nights. Hubby, the boys and I adopted the ritual decades ago. I dream of a time when my children do the same. For the boys and their families, however, the process might be a bit less time consuming.

At least, it will be when 3D pizza printers become typical household appliances.

According to The Abstract, published by NC State University, researchers are working on developing a 3D printer that can print edible pizzas for NASA. The hope is that travelers to the moon, Mars and other extraterrestrial destinations will be able to enjoy pizza that can be conveniently printed on demand.

I’ve seen 3D printers create objects such as cups and toys. I understand the technology is also used for creating houses and cars. However, even I never dreamed it could be used to create Italian food. But then, by replacing ink jets with dough and marinara, I suppose the notion is easily feasible.

Future Friday pizza nights might go something like this:

“Grams, you want to ride with me to the store?” my future granddaughter will ask. “We need pepperoni cartridges for the printer.”

“Sure! We can take your dad’s hover car.” I will respond. Then I will make sure there is an ample supply of mushroom, pepper and sliced olive cartridges before we head out.

“Mother Bare,” my daughter-in-law will call out, “can you also pick up an extra sauce cartridge while you’re out? I’d hate to run out.”

Upon hearing that my daughter-in-law uses store-bought tomato cartridges rather than putting my homemade sauce in the refillable cartridges, I pause, smile graciously, and agree to pick up the preservative-filled fake sauce from the store.

As soon as my granddaughter and I are hovering a block away from the house, I mention that Gramps and I have plenty of real sauce at our house. My newly licensed granddaughter readily agrees to fly the extra few miles out of the way to pick up the good stuff, especially since it will save credits. Just like money never did, credits do not grow on trees.

Later that evening, my son, his family, his brothers and their families, Hubby, my mom and I all debate over which movie to stream once the pizzas are printed and ready. My children all have extremely lucrative jobs in the future, therefore their kitchens are equipped with top-of-the-line, super fast pizza printers. The movie selection debate is still raging as everyone makes their way into the home theater room with their freshly printed personal pizzas.

We finally decide to watch Star Wars XIV: The Realm of Beyond is Forgotten. That’s when the neighbors pop by to say hello. “We can smell your printer next door! Did Mother Bare bring her refillable sauce printer again? The aroma is heavenly.”

The neighbors join us for pizza and a movie. It takes only a few minutes to print out a few more pies. And the neighbors haven’t seen the latest Star Wars movie since it was originally released in Super-6D restaurants the summer before.

Pizza printers will only be the beginning of convenient 3D printing in the kitchen. Pizza was selected as the first printed food because of the layering aspect of its assembly. Other layered foods people will surely want to print in space, as well as here on Earth, might include lasagna, parfaits, salads, cakes, casseroles and every kind of sandwich imaginable.

As someone who loves to cook and prefers fresh ingredients, my printer would have to be fitted with refillable cartridges. I’m sure I’d also use the pre-packaged carts every now and again when pressed for time. Either way, imagine being able to punch a few buttons and have a tuna melt print out in less time than it would take to open a can of tuna.

If our future meals are programmed into a computer and then printed right on the granite counter next to the coffee machine, we could completely control nutrition. Pre-setting serving sizes, nutritional values, and calorie limits would become normal practice. Within a generation of the advent of the kitchen food printer, we might actually eradicate obesity and all other diet controlled diseases.

I feel great about the future now that I know NASA is focused on ensuring a high-tech, long, healthy future for Friday pizza nights. Building — or printing — pizzas together builds strong relationships, which are vital for strong communities, countries and planets.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.