GREENPOINT, Bklyn, Oct. 3…A convoy of gleaming limousines was parked outside New York’s hottest restaurant last night.
Inside, Henry Kissinger, 86 regaled the Dalai Lama, 74, at one table, while Rupert Murdoch, 79, hosted Queen Elizabeth, 82 and Nelson Mandela, 92, at another.
George H. W. Bush, 83 and Saudi King Abdullah, 84 waited impatiently at the door for Pope Benedict, 81, to finish his spumoni.
“Don’t dawdle, Your Holiness,” Bush said to an approving grunt from his dinner companion. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
No, it wasn’t Per Se, Mamofuku, The Waverly Inn or Del Posto. This line of luminaries was waiting to get into a cramped, five-tabled, converted candy store on Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint called “Durg’s Elixir”. Dinner at Durg’s averages about $1000 a person, excluding wine. But owner Efraim Durg’s customers think it’s more than worth it.
Because the speciality of the house is a tiny aquatic, four-legged animal called a tardigrade.
And the tardigrade just might hold the secret to eternal life.
“It sure saved my life,” says Durg with a smile of relief.
Only two months ago, Durg’s health food bistro was going belly up.
“People were losing faith in vitamins and organics,” he says. “They were getting fat and flatulent, and weren’t feeling any better.”
Then he came across a small item in an obscure science journal.
“It said that only one living organism on earth could survive in outer space without protection,” he says. “The tardigrade.”
After exhaustive research, Durg realized he had stumbled upon something new. “I had discovered the philosopher’s stone of nutrition,” he says.
The tardigrade, an invertebrate animal that varies from .05 to 1.5 millimeters in length, is considered by scientists to be the hardiest living creature on earth. Members of its more than 1000 known species have been found in the freezing Himalayan peaks 18,000 feet above sea level and 12,000 feet below on the ocean floor. According to Wikipedia, tardigrades “can survive in extreme environments that would kill any other animal…Some can survive temperatures close to absolute zero or as high as 303 degrees Fahrenheit. Others have gone nearly a decade without water in the vacuum conditions of outer space.”
Tardigrades can enter a “cryobiotic state” in which their organism shows no visible sign of life and all metabolic activity ceases. They can stay that way for decades and can be revived to full life and reproductive power with one drop of water.
“There is no way of estimating the age of the typical tardigrade ,” Durg said. “They could be as old as the earth itself.”
In September ’07, the Economist, reports, researchers from Sweden’s Kristianstad University aboard the European Space Agency’s Foton spacecraft, released representatives of each of the tardigrade’s 1000 species into deep space.
“It would have been tough to put them all in little nano space suits,” Durg says.
Luckily, that wasn’t necessary. The tardigrades went into a state of suspended animation and survived the temperatures, the vacuum conditions and the high doses of UVB and UVB radiation. When they returned to earth they resumed their normal lives of crawling along mosses and lichens, stopping occasionally to clutch each other in libidinal frenzy.
But life for the slow-moving invertebrates would never be the same.
“Tardigrades produce a sugar called trehalose just before they go into a state of suspended animation,” Durg says. “Trehalose protects them against conditions of heat and dehydration, plus invasion by foreign bacteria and viruses. They also generate a large protein which rebuilds their cell structures.” He stops with an astonished look. “On the molecular level they are invulnerable!”
What if the tardigrade’s protective powers could be transferred to human beings? Durg thought.
“What if tardiigrades were the greatest health food ever invented?”
He began experimenting. “I got a few wet branches in Prospect Park and made my first harvest,” he says. “Imagine my delight when, the tardigrades turned out to be pleasantly chewy like calamari.”
Moistened with egg yolk and sprinkled with panko the tardigrades made a light, pleasant cutlet. Durg adapted other recipes, producing Tardigrada Parmigiana, Spicy Tarigrada Roll, Spaghetii and Tarigrada Balls…
He reopened with a hard sell slogan: “Eat at Durg’s, Live Forever…”
Response was immediate. Diners came away reporting new vigor.
“I feel so good I might start bothering Barb again,” George H.W. Bush said.
With a six month waiting list, Durg has to be brutal. The other night John McCain exploded when told he couldn’t have a table.
“It’s your duty as an American to seat me,” he screamed at Durg. “Do you want Sarah Palin to be president?”
At that, the entire restaurant arose in unison.
William Shatner, 78, was the first to the door. “Come back, Senator,” he pleaded. “You can have my table.”