Skip

Hook Up Your Slurry Tube And Chow Down
May 7, 2012 5:28 PM   Subscribe


 
real food tastes good.

bachelor chow does not.
posted by percor at 5:31 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


but in the FUTURE we'll all be be far too productive to concern ourselves with idle pleasure. Besides, pleasure is deeply suspect, how are you going to fit into your shiny jumpsuit without nutrition pills?
posted by The Whelk at 5:32 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


When the DEA started raiding people for having 18,000 dinner pills and leaving them in a cell for days with no drugs!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:34 PM on May 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


"Molecular gastronomy."

(Sorry)
posted by polymodus at 5:35 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


oh, for nutritionally complete simplicity?

1 part brown rice
1 part black beans OR lentils
.5 part diced grilled chicken breast
salsa
smidge of cheese &/or sour cream
all the veggies you can eat

rise, repeat.
posted by percor at 5:35 PM on May 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


This reminds me of my favorite frequently Asked question, especially when phrased in the context of dog food (1, 2, 3)
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:35 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yet, the vitamin craze is a booming, billion-dollar industry. Protein bars, energy shakes and mineral supplements -- not to mention other nutritional supplements like fish oil, glucosamine, etc. -- are pretty much ubiquitous. Heck, on many work mornings, I drink a bottle of Glucerna instead of preparing a conventional breakfast.

Maybe with so many real-life examples of "nutrients in a pill or vial" swarming around us today, the idea has lost its charm as a futuristic motif.
posted by darkstar at 5:36 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


In 1973, and because Solyent Green is people (!!!!!!!1)
posted by TropicalWalrus at 5:45 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


As the article notes, and we saw when we began our tour of Doctor Who, the TARDIS has a food machine that produces small nutritional cubes with whatever flavor you desire, that features in like three episodes over the entire show, all of them in the William Hartnell era.

(Presumably Doctor Whooves has modified this machine to produce bales of hay.)
posted by JHarris at 5:46 PM on May 7, 2012


This reminds me of my favorite frequently Asked question, especially when phrased in the context of dog food (1, 2, 3)

Based only on AskMe questions, there is a definite market for MonkeyChow marketed for humans. At the risk of stereotyping, I'd probably start my advertising campaign in magazines and websites targeting gamers, electrical engineers, and fervent Ayn Rand supporters; $10 says there would be no sales on Etsy.
posted by Forktine at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I vaguely remember, as a kid, seeing a science fiction movie with saucer-shaped flying saucers, aliens that looked just like humans but with pristine white clothes (but they spoke telepathically, via voiceover), and meal-pills. It seemed like it wasn't too long after that that Star Wars came out, with dirty, messy spaceships, alien-looking aliens, and (of course) ground-breaking special effects. But I've always felt that what was really ground-breaking about Star Wars was not the special effects but the dirt, and the messiness.
I hope I'm not derailing the post here -- my point is that I remember dinner-in-a-pill from as late as the mid-70s (later than Soylent Green).
posted by uosuaq at 5:51 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Texture and fullness matters as much as taste.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:56 PM on May 7, 2012


Is it possible to get, say, 200 fairly nutritious calories into an easily swallowable pill?
posted by shothotbot at 5:57 PM on May 7, 2012


I thought we'd learned our lesson with Violet Beauregarde.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:57 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fats are the densest food value there is, at 9 calories per gram. 200 calories would be minimum 22 grams, which is a damn big pill at about 0.9g/cm2 = 20cc = about the size of your thumb. And that's not nutritionally complete.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:00 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the future we'll smoke all our meals through single meal cigarettes, cigars if you're really hungry.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:03 PM on May 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ensure
posted by briank at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2012


Is it possible to get, say, 200 fairly nutritious calories into an easily swallowable pill?

Yes, and in the future, it is called "beer".
posted by jpolchlopek at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm allergic to a lot of stuff so my diet is pretty bland. Sometimes I do mix up a kind of sci-fi paste sort of food thing made up of soy nut butter, sugar, honey and soy oil mixed together in an about 2:1:1:1 ratio. It sounds gross but is pretty tasty on rice cakes. And if I want to put it in a vacuum sealed pouch and cut the corner off it and squeeze it out into my mouth and pretend I am a rocket man, I can do that.

Anyway, making and eating food is a huge component of the human social experience, so of course food pills are never really going to happen in mainstream culture. How the hell are you going to go on a date over food pills? Seal a business deal? Get the kids out of the house for an afternoon picnic? Keep your mother-in-law from wrecking Thanksgiving? Really there's no upside to food pills. At all.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it will be more like the tv series Lexx, where the crew are inside a living spaceship. I can't find a clip of it, but there are several scenes where someone pulls a lever and a disgusting appendage spews out some "nutrients". Suck it, people who thought space travel would be like Wall-E only forever!

I came here to say that food pills were a dumb idea that's been done to death, but Darkstar has taught me otherwise
posted by sneebler at 6:06 PM on May 7, 2012


The food (and booze) pill scene from Just Imagine.
posted by octothorpe at 6:07 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: If I want to put it in a vacuum sealed pouch and cut the corner off it and squeeze it out into my mouth and pretend I am a rocket man, I can do that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:07 PM on May 7, 2012


Yeah, the enthusiasm for food pills and the enthusiasm for processed foods both peaked mid-century, and enthusiasm for both dwindled off as the later stopped being something special and became mundane - after all, you don't see many stories about A COMPUTER THAT CAN DO SUMS!!! these days, do you?
posted by Artw at 6:10 PM on May 7, 2012


I always felt like the dinnertime scene on Tatooine was one of the most humanizing* parts of the whole Star Wars trilogy. The only other time they address food is on Endor, when Princess Leia offers Wicket a piece of some awful-looking but apparently crunchy food cube, or something.

*It's totally fitting for the beginning of a hero's journey, but also weirdly out of place with the tone of the rest of the three films.
posted by gauche at 6:11 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm allergic to a lot of stuff so my diet is pretty bland. Sometimes I do mix up a kind of sci-fi paste sort of food thing made up of soy nut butter, sugar, honey and soy oil mixed together in an about 2:1:1:1 ratio. It sounds gross but is pretty tasty on rice cakes. And if I want to put it in a vacuum sealed pouch and cut the corner off it and squeeze it out into my mouth and pretend I am a rocket man, I can do that.


Sounds kind of like a soy based Plumpynut, which seems to be peanut based. I wonder if there are allergy issues with the people intended to be fed with the stuff?
posted by 2N2222 at 6:11 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


They do make a meal-pill: it's called a burrito.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:16 PM on May 7, 2012 [32 favorites]


I rather liked the way Samuel R Delany skated round the issue in his middle-future Nova by giving a scary non-description of how most of the characters got their food:
The way we handle these processes would be totally beyond the comprehension of someone from seven hundred years ago, even though he understood intravenous feeding and nutrition concentrates. Still he would have nowhere near the informational equipment to understand how everyone in this society, except the very, very rich, or the very, very poor take their daily nourishment. Half the process would seem completely incomprehensible; the other half, disgusting. Odd that drinking has remained the same.
posted by raygirvan at 6:18 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]



Yeah, the enthusiasm for food pills and the enthusiasm for processed foods both peaked mid-century, and enthusiasm for both dwindled off as the later stopped being something special and became mundane - after all, you don't see many stories about A COMPUTER THAT CAN DO SUMS!!! these days, do you?


I associate the food pill trope with either pre-atomic age utopian fiction, or post-atomic age dystopian fiction.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:18 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this food pill safe to eat?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:19 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's still FUTUREFOOD OF THE FUTURE, but in more recent SF it's genetically engineered stuff, or vat-grown meat, or nanofactured/replicated food.

Then there's Rudy Rucker's Wendymeat, vat-grown human meat. Terrifically popular and advertised by the person whose meat it is, kinda like a Dish of the Day that doesn't itself get consumed. Sort of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:24 PM on May 7, 2012


[Fry is presented with an egg-sized pill.]
Fry: Are you crazy? I can't swallow that.
Professor Farnsworth: Well, then good news! It's a suppository.
posted by modernserf at 6:25 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I kind of remember liking Space Food Sticks as a kid. But my Mom hated them as they were kind of pricey, and I could eat a whole box at once, since they were basically extruded chocolatey goo, not unlike a soft Tootsie roll, probably about the same caloric density. Plus, they were astronaut food!
posted by 2N2222 at 6:27 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]




Fats are the densest food value there is, at 9 calories per gram.

Not technically true. It is possible to make an edible sugar solution that is more calorie dense than even pure fat, though not by a whole lot before the solution would have to be uncomfortably hot.
posted by jedicus at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring Legolas says one bite of lembas "is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man" (while Tolkien says that one whole cake is sufficient for "a full day's march"). Pippin eats four - a reference to the large appetites of hobbits.
posted by XMLicious at 6:38 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah isn't Luke eating a Twix in that scene?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2012


When they realized that beer in a pill sucks.
posted by eriko at 6:42 PM on May 7, 2012


My wife and I make a mixture of quinoa and vegetables that we call food pill. It's strictly utility food, but we can make it taste pretty freaking good. And it's disgustingly healthy. And by disgustingly, I mean awesomely.
posted by vibrotronica at 6:43 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think as time has gone on, people have gone from seeing activities like eating (and sex) as a chore, to a hobby in and of itself. Cooking programs used to be the domain of morning television aimed at housewives; now is prime-time viewing for a wide audience. As mankind makes advances in technology to free up more time, why not invest that time in increasing enjoyment of an activity required to keep you alive? A nutrition bar does not sound as enjoyable as a well cooked meal to most people.
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:51 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


and by wide audience, you mean… oh never mind.
posted by readyfreddy at 6:52 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Battlestar Galactica had algae noodles.

Lots and lots of algae noodles.

Though I suppose that was of necessity and not advances in the science of food.
posted by tzikeh at 6:53 PM on May 7, 2012


If we ate all our food in pill form, what would be the point . . . of anything?

Hey, I've got another idea for a time-saver: just lie down in a ditch and die.
posted by General Tonic at 6:56 PM on May 7, 2012 [29 favorites]


Hey, I've got another idea for a time-saver: just lie down in a ditch and die.

Sigh, do I have to find my own ditch? I pay my taxes, can't science fix this?
posted by ian1977 at 7:07 PM on May 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


My wife and I make a mixture of quinoa and vegetables that we call food pill. It's strictly utility food, but we can make it taste pretty freaking good. And it's disgustingly healthy. And by disgustingly, I mean awesomely.

Oh man, quinoa and stir-fry veggies is one of my favoritest!
posted by darkstar at 7:13 PM on May 7, 2012


The only other time they address food is on Endor

Have you forgotten when Yoda gets into Luke's dinner when he first crashes on Dagobah? That...hot dog...thing always looked supremely unappetizing even before Yoda nibbled on it and Luke decided to throw it away.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:24 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always wanted to be a fly on the wall during the meal on Bespin's Cloud City, when Vader and the just-betrayed rebels are sitting down to a distinctly awkward nosh.
posted by darkstar at 7:28 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Food pills is just as stupid of an idea as mainlining alcohol. Yes, it's more efficient, but also misses the whole point.
posted by c13 at 7:28 PM on May 7, 2012


Is it possible to get, say, 200 fairly nutritious calories into an easily swallowable pill?

Sure, if you bioengineer the human gut to digest gasoline.

Or better yet, plutonium.

Breaking wind in the future is somewhat more hazardous than it is today.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:31 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 2055 you can buy plutonium in any corner drug store.
posted by XMLicious at 7:33 PM on May 7, 2012


I always wanted to be a fly on the wall during the meal on Bespin's Cloud City, when Vader and the just-betrayed rebels are sitting down to a distinctly awkward nosh.

My Dinner With Vader.
posted by zamboni at 7:33 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dinner-in-a-pill served as a plot point in a Rip Van Winkle-themed vignette in an episode of Garfield & Friends. Given the context, it was of course played as evidence of dystopia.
posted by The Confessor at 7:42 PM on May 7, 2012




Is this something I'd have to have a nutrient ingestion process to understand?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:51 PM on May 7, 2012


In 1965, 24 men volunteered to eat nothing but synthetic food for 19 weeks. Only fifteen made (the other just gave up).

Wow, I didn't know synthetic food made you super constipated too!
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:51 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to get, say, 200 fairly nutritious calories into an easily swallowable pill?

Sure, if you bioengineer the human gut to digest gasoline.


Surprisingly (to me at least), the calorific value of gasoline and vegetable oil are pretty much the same on a mass basis... and vegetable oil has higher mass density so vegetable oil actually makes a better food pill even if you can digest them both.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 7:56 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been eating only Dippin' Dots since I was six, am I doing it wrong or something?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:25 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think The Fifth Element had the best take on food pills.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd kill for nutritionally complete People Chow. I love food, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood for it. It takes effort, for god's sake. Just give me a box of kibble to fill in the gaps, and then I might actually enjoy cooking as a hobby instead of a chore.
posted by gjc at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


My wife and I make a mixture of quinoa and vegetables that we call food pill. It's strictly utility food, but we can make it taste pretty freaking good. And it's disgustingly healthy. And by disgustingly, I mean awesomely.

Hmmm. Recipe?
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:13 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what the many nutrition bars are? It seems like the sci-fi dream came true, it's just that people wanted their single-unit meal to be organic-looking and in a bar rather than artificial-looking and in a paste.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:22 PM on May 7, 2012


So I think the issue is that in the 60's and 70's preparing food was still a lot of work. "TV dinners" were pretty gross. In the intervening years, pre-packaged food has come a long way. Frozen meals can be a lot better than anything a mediocre cook can produce while also retaining most of their nutrition in flash-frozen vegetables. This is a combination of techniques and a much better quality frozen-food supply chain that can keep vast quantities of food at -30 degrees indefinitely. packaged cooked meat has also come a long way with fairly decent cooked roasts, pulled pork, chicken breasts and bacon that can simply be unwrapped and eaten. And, oddly enough, many times these pre-cooked foods are even safer than food you cook yourself because quality testing at the factory ensures they're cooked to the right point to kill any potential bacterial contamination, more than can be said of the average cook dealing with raw chicken or pork.

In short, like the article points out, it's not really physically possible to make a food pill due to density limits and fibre requirements. But it turns out that in every other way we've actually achieved the food pill dream - I can grab a Clif bar that's reasonably palatable and indefinitely shelf stable which replaces nearly an entire meal. I can open up a MRE or some commercial equivalent and with very little effort get the same meal that would have taken some poor bachelor in the 50's an hour to prepare. And, if I want to get really fancy, I get a bag of frozen tempura chicken with sauce, a bag of frozen edamame and even frozen prepared rice from Trader Joe's and again, I have a pretty good meal that I frankly can't even make from scratch by myself.

The food pill isn't interesting any more because the food pill is already here.
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd kill for nutritionally complete People Chow. I love food, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood for it. It takes effort, for god's sake. Just give me a box of kibble to fill in the gaps, and then I might actually enjoy cooking as a hobby instead of a chore.

Is this why Trader Joes exists?
posted by aspo at 9:45 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, on Soylent Green, I recently read the original novel, "Make Room! Make Room!" and the whole soylent-green-is-people thing isn't there at all. Soylent green is just a variant of soy-lentil paste in cracker form. The story focuses on hyper-growth in population while the ecosystem collapses which frankly is a lotmore depressing than the sanitized cannibalism in the film. it's totally odd how they added the it's-people angle to the movie script.
posted by GuyZero at 10:04 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd probably start my advertising campaign in magazines and websites targeting gamers, electrical engineers, and fervent Ayn Rand supporters

Too late: http://www.gamergrub.com/
posted by GuyZero at 10:06 PM on May 7, 2012


The idea of Food Pills must have been big in the public consciousness of the 1960s, because they show up repeatedly in popular culture.

In the Incredible String Band song "I Was A Young Man Way Back In The 1960s" (1967) the singer goes on and on about how, back in his day, they used to eat real food out of cans instead of pills. He reveals at the end that he actually bought a can of beans at the "antique food store" which he's offering to his grandchildren. (Bleah, botulism bay-bee.)

Pink Floyd's "Point Me At The Sky" (1968) asks us to imagine "if you survive / til 2005". In that future overpopulated world:
People pushing on my sides
is something that I hate, and so is
sitting down to eat
with only little capsules on my plate
It seems like British psychedelic rock bands, at least, were sure we were heading for a Food Pill Future!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:08 PM on May 7, 2012


The AskMe FAQ list currently has eleven instances of the bachelor chow question. Are there any others?
posted by zamboni at 10:18 PM on May 7, 2012


I think it rally just boils down to variety & community. The sheer variety of food offers such a variety of taste and texture I can't imagine going without. Secondly, eating is a social activity, best shared with family & friends. I don't know how we, as social beings, could abandon that.
posted by djseafood at 12:18 AM on May 8, 2012


I stuck percor's suggestion into a calculator and made the portion sizes large enough that it equates to a total of 2000 kcal. Looks like it would be short on calcium (43% of daily requirements), quite short on B vitamins (67% of B2 and 23% of B12), and very carb-heavy (300g of carbs a day, which might be too much for some people). But otherwise it's pretty good, and has a ton of fibre (63g), low fat, and high protein.

(I put in 5 cups of "tossed salad" for the "as much vegetables as you like.")

I think the biggest problem would be the cost. According to my local supermarket website, that would be approx:
300g chicken @ $9 per kilogram = $2.70
600g black beans (not sold at my supermarket, but available at health food shop) @ $6
600g rice @ $1.60 per kilo = $0.93
5 cups of misc vegetables (lettuce = $2 each; carrots $2 per kilo; cucumber $1 each - and that would probably do several days worth) = $2
1 Tb sour cream @ $1.50 for 300ml = $0.15
1 Tb salsa @ $2.14 for 300g = $0.21
TOTAL = $11.99 per person per day

That would mean a two person couple spends $168 a week on groceries. Which is not TERRIBLE, but it is more than we currently spend, and I'm pretty sure I eat more deliciously (though perhaps not more nutritiously) than this. The killer is the black beans, though, so if you live somewhere where they are cheap, it could work, or if I could substitute with kidney beans or something else more widely available in Australia.

[Just in case anyone like me was curious]
posted by lollusc at 12:27 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, no, I forgot to increase the portion sizes of sour cream and salsa from "per meal" to "per day" for my cost calculation. So add an extra 60 c or so on to the per day per person cost.
posted by lollusc at 12:29 AM on May 8, 2012


aspo: "Is this why Trader Joes exists?"

Remember that Trader Joe's was set up by Joe Coulombe in South Pasadena with the specific aim of targeting CalTech grad students. Or, check this description in the article in Fortune not long ago (2010) about TJ's:

"Kevin Kelley, whose consulting firm Shook Kelley has researched Trader Joe's for its competitors, jokes that the typical shopper is the "Volvo-driving professor who could be CEO of a Fortune 100 company if he could get over his capitalist angst.""

Which is to say, a CalTech grad about 20 years out... or the exact same person Coulombe was aiming for in the first place.

So, to answer your question: Yes.
posted by aurelian at 1:07 AM on May 8, 2012


Being a nerdy roleplayer type fellow (amongst other winning characteristics) I once found myself involved in a very in-depth discussion about how compact and light you could go in terms of food rations that would still allow consistent high performance. If I remember right we had on one side "Team Pemmican" and on the other side "Team Extreme Running". It was getting very heated when I made my excuses and ducked out. There are some scarily well informed people on RPG boards whose knowledge of foodstuffs carried during Arctic explorations borders on disturbing.
posted by longbaugh at 2:11 AM on May 8, 2012


Sounds kind of like a soy based Plumpynut, which seems to be peanut based. I wonder if there are allergy issues with the people intended to be fed with the stuff?

My first thought was not as much as you might think. But then I realized I was working under the assumption that Plumpy'Nut doesn't roast the peanuts. The peanuts in at least one competing product are roasted, but Nutriset's patent on Plumpy'Nut does not mention roasting at all...then again, neither does it focus on preparation of the peanut paste.

So, *possibly* not as much as you might think.
posted by solotoro at 3:00 AM on May 8, 2012


Answer: When Linus Pauling died. Now I will RTA.
posted by Goofyy at 3:08 AM on May 8, 2012


Because at this point it is absolutely clear that the way to make money is not a meals worth of calories in a pill but a pill's worth of calories in a meal?
posted by jaduncan at 3:54 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I can grab a Clif bar that's reasonably palatable and indefinitely shelf stable

FYI, not technically true. They go stale after a year or two. Hard as doorstops and utterly flavorless. (Learned from experience: last year's Burning Man leftovers are never worth keeping!)
posted by otherthings_ at 3:57 AM on May 8, 2012


Wait. You can't get space food sticks in America? Truly, the empire is in decline (you can get Aussie ones imported here at ruinous expense).
Not that you are missing much, they are a tar like consistency, but my kids liked them the time I bought a pack
posted by bystander at 5:01 AM on May 8, 2012


lollusc, you're paying too much for black beans. Try Portuguese or Spanish stores, at least in Melbourne or Sydney.

I was a big fan of black beans until I heard they contain a lot of phytoestrogens, which can apparently screw up your endocrine system.
posted by Joe Chip at 5:06 AM on May 8, 2012


Yes, if I were in Melbourne or Sydney, I imagine my options would be less limited. Here in Canberra, there are no Portuguese or Spanish stores that I know of.
posted by lollusc at 5:10 AM on May 8, 2012


2N2222: "I kind of remember liking Space Food Sticks as a kid. But my Mom hated them as they were kind of pricey, and I could eat a whole box at once, since they were basically extruded chocolatey goo, not unlike a soft Tootsie roll, probably about the same caloric density. Plus, they were astronaut food!"

I was the same way. Mom had to hide the boxes. But I hated the peanut butter flavored ones.
posted by Splunge at 5:31 AM on May 8, 2012


Too late: http://www.gamergrub.com/

Those jerks stole my idea! I'd have given it a better name, though; just because your core market is dudes in the basement doesn't mean you want to ignore the gazillions of women who play games and/or hate cooking. There are a lot more potential customers for this concept than you will find with "grub" in the name.
posted by Forktine at 5:32 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Velveeta was a special cheese that middle class people served as an appetizer to their dinner guests.

Back then food was less pleasant than a pill.
posted by srboisvert at 5:35 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then there's Rudy Rucker's Wendymeat, vat-grown human meat.

Nicked from an Arthur C. Clarke short story that ended with "first I have to explain to you what cannibalism was".

Pohl and Cornbluth has Chicken Little in their Space Merchants satire, a huge mass of vat grown chicken substitute.

The true foodpill though, with the possible exception of Ralph 124C41 (+, can't forget the +) was always more of a media than a written science fiction trope.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:42 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I blame Iron Chef for the decline of the meal-in-a-pill fantasy. After being exposed to food porn, you'll never fantasize about avoiding food again.
posted by Theta States at 7:21 AM on May 8, 2012


I'm pretty sure dinner-in-a-pill jumped the shark in the 60s with that Dick Van Dyke movie where a WWII fighter pilot crash-lands on a Pacific island, and hilariously solves the mystery of their Tiki god.

Jesus. People are weird.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had to look it up - "Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N." (5.3 on IMDB) Not available on Netflix apparently (but they list it if you log out and Browse, what's up with that?)
posted by achrise at 8:38 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Remember that Trader Joe's was set up by Joe Coulombe in South Pasadena with the specific aim of targeting CalTech grad students.

That's got to be an urban myth. That's less than 1000 customers. Plus the South Pasadena TJs isn't that close to Caltech, and "Caltech grad student" is one of the few life styles that can exist in L.A. without a car.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2012


I subsisted (well, actually, thrived) on this for 2 weeks when I was required to do so. That's the simplest possible nutritionally complete diet, weighing about 600g of powder and needing to be dissolved in 3 litres of water.
posted by ambrosen at 12:37 PM on May 8, 2012


"That's got to be an urban myth. That's less than 1000 customers."

As a literal string, yes. As a demographic with recognizable contours, not so much.

From an interview with Coulombe in the LA Times, just last year:

"I had opened a chain called Pronto markets." (which was the place in South Pasadena, and a few other LA suburbs) "I got financing from Adohr Milk Farms, but in late 1965, Adohr was bought by 7-Eleven, which meant the 800-pound gorilla of convenience stores was not only coming to town but now owned my source of capital. So I had to do something different. Scientific American had a story that of all people qualified to go to college, 60% were going. I felt this newly educated -- not smarter but better-educated -- class of people would want something different, and that was the genesis of Trader Joe's.

All Trader Joe's were located near centers of learning. Pasadena, where I opened the first one,"
(which is the Arroyo Parkway location) "was because Pasadena is the epitome of a well-educated town. I reframed this: Trader Joe's is for overeducated and underpaid people, for all the classical musicians, museum curators, journalists -- that's why we've always had good press, frankly!"

So, no, in that quote he doesn't specifically say CalTech. I would say he's nudging and winking in that general direction, though, and I can say from experience many Techers of the 1980s and 1990s felt it was pretty much aimed right at them.
posted by aurelian at 9:31 PM on May 8, 2012


""Caltech grad student" is one of the few life styles that can exist in L.A. without a car."

Oh, and as a resident of LA from 6th grade to my late 30s, who didn't get a driver's license until he was 23... well, if you're going to posit "urban myths," the idea that one can't live in LA without a car qualifies. Ridership for transit in LA is at 1.5 million/day, or 750k roundtrips/day. That's the good news. The bad news, of course, is that metro LA has (depending on who one asks) a population of about 18 million. Still, for all its faults, LACMTA is one of only two bus systems in the US with daily ridership above 1 million.
posted by aurelian at 9:44 PM on May 8, 2012


Velveeta was a special cheese that middle class people served as an appetizer to their dinner guests.

What do you mean by "was?" I assure you it still exists.
posted by JHarris at 4:21 AM on May 9, 2012


What do you mean by "was?" I assure you it still exists.

Sure, but the point was how its social signifiers have changed. I started to write that highly processed vat foods are no longer positive signifiers (as in, one no longer serves Velveeta as a fancy appetizer) but then I thought of all the sous vide stuff; perhaps the current fashion is for artisanal vat foods instead.
posted by Forktine at 5:07 AM on May 9, 2012


A little more thought: perhaps the falling out of fashion of the food pill (and the greater association with dystopian fiction in the post atomic age) may have to do with living in this age of abundance coinciding with this post atomic age. The food pill might have sounded like a fantastic futuristic idea in an age when being underfed was a common feature in everyday life. A time when large parts of the population even in the richest countries spent a great deal of effort in the task of simply obtaining nutrition. The food pill was a solution to the common man toiling to put substandard food on the table. The more utopian selling point might have been that outsourcing food preparation to factories/robots/etc in return for the easy, cheap, universal food pill would free up our lives for higher, more noble endeavors.

Two world wars resulting in an atomic bomb and cold war made utopian fancy look absurdly naive. The increasing prosperity in the West, and revelations that collectivist implementations turned out to have gone terribly wrong, made the very concept of the food pill repugnant. The concept survived in more appropriate sci fi scenarios, such as astronaut food. But in these times of abundant food options, the food pill for large scale consumption looks like the result of widespread devastation, failure, and enslavement rather than enlightenment, progress and liberation.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course in 1964's Charlie and the Chocolate factory (and 1971 film version) there was all kinds of food-pill type action from meal-gum to lickable wallpaper - and it remains a popular ideam the spirit of techno-optimism still living on in children's fiction.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2012


Probably why I could eat a whole box of Space Food Sticks: 44 calories per stick.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:47 AM on May 12, 2012


Thanks, mefi. Now I know the name of that cheeseball film. And thinking of it has transported me back in time to that Saturday afternoon back in the mid-70s, watching this film at the Gillam community centre.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:12 PM on May 12, 2012


« Older $250,000   |   When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post