Glassamilk was a Cold War Era prototype for a "consumer dairylike". It was first synthesized in Nottingham, England in 1962 by the Project Xingency division of Tillinghast Food Laboratories.
Dairylikes are beverages which contain no actual milk products but are designed to approximate their flavour and nutritional value. Today, the most popular consumer dairylikes are infant formula and soy-based beverages marketed to those whose ethical or dietary restrictions preclude the consumption of dairy. Project Xingency was unique in the fact that its research into the production of dairylikes was designed to satisfy the needs of neither of these markets.
The objective of the Glassamilk project was this: create a milk-indistinguishable beverage with zero nutritional value whatsoever, then weaponize it.
Jay Hoffman and the Xingency Project Division
Project Xingency, the laboratory behind Glassamilk, was established as a "legacy project" in 1960 by eccentric Tillinghast board member Jay Hoffman. Hoffman obtained a twenty year lease on a disused laboratory facility located on the campus of the University of Nottingham, and contacted eleven high-profile Eastern European nutritional chemists with offers to sponsor them for immigration and citizenship if they agreed to join the Xingency team for a minimum of seven years. Seven accepted, and in March of 1960 they collaborated with Hoffman to draft the Xingency Project Charter, a statement of the division's mandate and research objectives. Due to Hoffman's use of offsite facilities and researchers who were unaffiliated with Tillinghast Food Laboratories, few at the Tillinghast Corporate Office knew the actual nature of the research being conducted at Xingency. Immanual Tillinghast, then the head of Tillinghast Food Laboratories, has stated that
Hoffman told [the other members of the board] that he was working on clinically assisted nutrition and hydration, IV therapy stuff. His daughter had been very ill, a bone disease, so none of us questioned this sudden commitment. Jay had been with us for decades, you have to remember, so all of us felt he was entitled to a bit of autonomy. And honestly, how could we have known? How could we have guessed?
Xingency's real goals are specified in the still extant Project Charter, which includes in its appendices a twenty year timeline of research and development benchmarks. Xingency was to develop ersatz
foodstuffs for several dietary staples
, including milk, bread, eggs, potatoes and rice. These analogues were to look and taste as much like their target products as possible, but contain almost none of their nutritional value.
Jay Hoffman hoped to eventually market his line of products to the American and British governments. His late father was a decorated combat veteran of the Second World War
, and Hoffman's wife has said that Hoffman viewed Xingency as "his own somewhat unconventional contribution to his family's history of service, and to the war effort in general". Pyotr Loris-Melikov was the only member of the Xingency research team to ever speak with the press about the project's purpose, going on record in a 1987 interview:
REPORTER: What can you tell us about the project?
LORIS-MELIKOV: It was... a kind of dietary warfare, or at least it was meant to be. At the time, we all thought Hoffman – and us by proxy – had been contracted by the Secret Intelligence Service. We found out later that this wasn't true, that he was hoping to attract their interest later once he had a finished prototype or two. He was funding it all at significant cost to himself, but of course his family was old money and he could afford it. He called the lab his "Cold War Kitchen", a name that stuck – I remember, whenever he came through Nottingham to check up on our results he'd telephone ahead to let us know to have "dinner on the table" by the time he arrived.
REPORTER: How did you think the products you created would be used?
LORIS-MELIKOV: You see, the Soviet Food Production, Processing and Distribution Sector was a mess. The picture was just too big for them! Food was being shipped from the outlands to Moscow by the most circuitous routes imaginable, then often rerouted elsewhere depending on which provincial chief was calling in favours that particular day. Frustrated workers and packaging plant managers, with even more frustrated bosses above them. The whole thing was tremendously vulnerable.
So Hoffman had this idea, this ingenious way to exploit that vulnerability. I'm not saying it wasn't wrong, on an ethical level, but it was ingenious. We'd bribe a few key people, swap their goods with our own 'substitutes'. Loaves of bread that filled your stomach, but sapped your strength. Starving you before you even knew it. We thought if we smuggled enough ersatz onto their shelves, there would be a real effect. We were going to target food retailers in key industrial neighbourhoods, bribing smugglers and distributors to completely saturate the market with our mock-ups. The result would be mass truancy from work, deaths, flummoxed doctors. We'd seed rumors that it was an inside job, a spectacular instance of state corruption, so that when they finally figured out what was going on there'd be people rioting in the streets. Actual political upheaval, if at a high cost. Or at least this is what Hoffman told us the plan was; in reality, the British Government didn't even know what we were developing.
REPORTER: I expect some of you had misgivings. Whatever the political end, deliberately endangering working class families with your products must have been controversial.
LORIS-MELIKOV: Less controversial than you'd think. Most of my colleagues and I were Ukrainians with histories of being a little too politically outspoken for the Soviet party chiefs, if you follow my meaning. Millions of our countrymen had died in the thirties to keep Muscovite bellies full with grain, and Hoffman was offering us an especially poetic form of vengeance. There were other incentives, too: every shipping container we swapped with ersatz goods was supposed to have the real stuff rerouted to black market dealers in Kiev. Amongst ourselves, we called it Project Robin Hood instead of Xingency – which should give you some idea of how keen we all were.
MLK258 Glassamilk, synthesized in 1962, was Xingency's first and only success. The culmination of a year and a half of research and development, the beverage consisted of an emulsion of synthetically engineered "blufferfat" globules in a water-based fluid, bearing physical and sensory properties that rendered it indistinguishable from actual milk. Glassamilk's name is not only a play on "glass of milk" but also a
reference to the fact that many of the earlier prototypes in the MLK
series were clear and colourless, the spectral reflectance index being
the last thing the scientists perfected. Projected production and processing costs for the final, appropriately opaque prototype were estimated at £20 per hundred litres, provided that an adequate factory facility were constructed with a one-time investment of £3 000 000.
The End of Project Xingency
The Xingency Project did not survive to produce any further food prototypes. After just two years of operation, research at the Xingency laboratory was interrupted following Hoffman's accidental death in an automobile accident in April 1962. The board of directors at Tillinghast Corporate Offices sent a representative to Nottingham to assess the facilities and determine whether Xingency's research could be salvaged and integrated into one of the company's other divisions.
REPORTER: Who did HQ send to Xingency after Hoffman died?
LORIS-MELIKOV: Some poor guy Mark Henley who was a part of their Disease-Specific Nutrition Program Division... they thought Hoffman had been working with us to develop intravenous supplements, of course. But we didn't know they thought that, and it took some time to clear up the confusion... And to make things worse, when Henley contacted the Secret Intelligence Services to ask what he ought to do with the project they didn't know what he was talking about either. It was a total fiasco. People at headquarters took to calling Henley "MI6" as a joke.
Management shut everything down, of course. They told us our mandate "conflicted with the goals of a family corporation". They were pretty nice, all things considered. We could take our pensions and leave, or we could apply to work elsewhere in Tillinghast Food Laboratories. Henley, who I struck up a friendship with, invited me to work with him developing enteral formulae in his division and I accepted.
Where can I get a tall Glassamilk?
Papers and equipment from the Project Xingency laboratory have made their way into several public and private collections of Cold War era artifacts, but no samples of Glassamilk are known to have survived to the present day. There are, however, unsubstantiated rumours that Tillinghast Corporate Offices has preserved some small amount of Glassamilk for posterity. Loris-Melikov has alluded to this in his book Tales from Nottingham's Cold War Kitchen:
I wanted to take some of it home as a sort of memento, but Henley told me it had already been shipped to Corporate. Years later, I heard they'd taken to making new board members drink it as an initiation, a private joke on themselves for somehow letting Hoffman get up to all that nonsense in the first place.