Food of the Future

Stories of travel-related food adventures coming up soon, but in the meantime…

K and I recently finished watching the TV series Firefly and the movie Serenity – about ten years later than everyone else. Like all Joss Whedon productions, it’s set in a world that we don’t recognise as the one we live in (supernatural, Hellmouth, superheroes, distant space future) but the drawcard is always the human relationships that form the basis of the stories. Joss Whedon is a genius and a great storyteller. But that’s not the point of this entry.

What I’ve been thinking about recently is the role that food plays in Firefly. On ship, the characters grudgingly eat meals that are made out of “protein” – e.g. even a birthday cake is made out of protein. It’s never specified precisely what this protein is, but I imagine it is not dissimilar to a solidified protein powder. It probably gives you the nutrients you need, without any taste or enjoyment.

Every time the characters get anything other than protein, they make a fuss about it. Talking longingly about the crisp apples they managed to get on board. Gorging themselves on a buffet of fresh food at an event they attended on a central planet. Almost wetting their pants when a new traveller on the ship make fresh ‘bao’ (Chinese buns) for a meal.

This is the food future Joss Whedon envisions in 2517. As someone who obviously loves food and food culture, to envision a world where tasteless protein is the norm and fresh food is a special treat is particularly horrifying. What’s more horrifying is how I can see our society moving towards that future. With our increasingly dependence on instant meals and processed foods, we start to lose our sense of taste for really fresh food. We become used to bland and uninspiring meals. I’m guilty of this as well.

The problem is that for the majority of working people, it’s not always possible to always cook fresh food. Processed food is easy and accessible to everyone. I know I often work long hours, and the last thing I want to do when I get home after twelve hours at work in front of a computer is to spend an hour cooking a meal. Instant noodles are my friend on those nights!

What do you think? Is our society moving towards one where eating tasteless protein is the norm? How can we counter this trend?

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