It seems inevitable that I would wind up writing about food here, given that I do so regularly over on my blog. However, what sparked this train of thought was something a little lower than food… Fads. We know that foods have fallen in and out of favor as long as there has been some options to choose. You may not know, for instance, that the French Aristocracy invested heavily in potatoes, which the peasants wouldn’t eat, and in the course of the publicity campaign for potato eating, Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair. Cornflakes were originally health food. Butter fell from favor early in the 20th century, to be replaced by the cheaper but dubious health benefits of margarine.
So who can say in a hundred years, or more, what we will be eating? I’ve seen some, ah, interesting ideas expounded in science fiction. Vat meat springs immediately to mind (as does soylent green, but I digress. There are very good reasons NOT to eat people, above and beyond cultural taboos). Protein pastes? Bleah… recently because of my school schedule I’ve had one or two days a week where eating a proper lunch was impossible, and protein bars are not a substitute for real food. When men take to the stars, though, what will their equivalent to beans be? High-protein food that can be packed, reconstituted, and is cheap: what the gold rush carried along at first, and the reason restaurateurs in the San Francisco area sometimes got richer than the miners.
Food weighs, and spoils, and I can remember freeze-dried ice cream being pretty tasty, but what does a generation ship take along to keep the prospective colonists fit and happy? Hydroponics, aquaculture, polyculture, all those are interesting ideas, but as I helped my Dad set up various versions, I know how delicate they can be. Don’t rely on only one system, plan for viroids and fungus and… boredom. Plan for boredom. One of the fun things about John Ringo’s March series is the food, the descriptions of Kostas Matsugae cooking and making palatable food for the few who had little else in life to look forward to, besides a glorious death in battle. A more recent read, Drake’s Dinosaurs and a Dirigible collection, contains a vivid description of what dinosaur meat might taste like (I know from experience with alligator that it’s greasy and slightly fishy. Probably best with a tempura batter and deep fried).
But it’s hard to predict, because, well, people get funny ideas in their head about what is healthy and what isn’t. Like the guy who has decided that to ‘ redress a cultural wrong imposed, he thinks, by his Western lifestyle’ he had to adjust his gut microorganisms to match what humans were before the evils of Western culture: a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. “The pungent tale of an archaeology writer who inoculated his intestines with the feces of a member of the Tanzanian Hadza tribe, whose ancestral lifestyles and dietary habits (they are hunter-gatherers) were perceived to support a more pristine and “healthier” microbiome. Let us pause here to get a visual: a turkey baster was used to deliver the tribal feces a posteriori (as it were). Such procedure goes well beyond the reasonably justified fecal transplants that have been successfully used to treat highly recalcitrant Clostridium difficile infections.”
You think that’s radical? well… how about government sponsored campaigns for healthy eating that may actually be damaging health? (for those who have academic access) So it’s not a stretch to imagine a colony sent out with, say, a vegan diet, and the horrible long-term deficiencies that could lead to, especially for developing children.
Food… it’s what’s for dinner. Or, as I said yesterday when we were discussing controversy: come to the dark side. We have cookies, and logic. And, evidently, really flamboyant shirts.