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In the early days when my father was laying down footsteps for me to follow in, VM was a hard sell. Anything made in a lab was, and sometimes for good reason. Oversight was less consistent than it is today and a little too easy to sway if the right palms were greased. Vegan Meat never really fit in the much-feared frankenfood category, no matter what Moink looked like. The DNA of a piece is pure unaltered cow or chicken or whatever it is you're buying. Any blending is accomplished not by tinkering with the blueprint of life, but by growing two or more pieces of different tissue next to each other. But it's still close enough for some to distrust.

Twenty years of creeping-slow progress, of market growth measured in fractions of percentages, and suddenly-- boom. Sales double in a year, then double again the next year. Five years to pass the sales of animal-grown meat, which is mainly a boutique product now. No reason for the sudden change that anyone can agree on, though there are plenty of theories. I fall into the 'it was a teen fad that caught on' camp.

So R&D budgets explode along with the profits, and we can afford to tinker and play, to start coming up with things like beef tenderloins with a vein of pork fat cells down the middle to relieve the culinary monotony of lean that is the natural cut. We grow them with perfectly even dimensions, avoiding the difficulty of figuring out what to do with the skinny, oddly shaped ends of the muscle as it grows on a cow. We turn out Thanksgiving Turducken grown in neat three-layered sheets shaped to fold bonelessly around the traditional stuffing like a flesh burrito. Soft bone marrow in rectangular 100 gram sticks for half the price of butter. Billions of chicken wings without the complication of what to do with the rest of the bird, for which there is lower demand. Foie gras, made by the adjustment of a liquid nutrient mixture rather than a funnel jammed down a goose's gullet, regained its old appeal.

When I was starting out, just a few years before father retired, it was getting really interesting. I made my reputation in SCUBA gear scratching a dozen whales' backs-- for the skin cells we used to make a fortune in Japan. Whale sashimi without whaling. Chefs began to explore the possibilities of anything we could get a cell sample of. Rhino, eagle, sea turtle, manatee, cheetah, panda, mammoth. Sometime after the dozenth 'exciting new star of endangered cuisine' it gets boring.

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