Sunday, April 5

#14 - food capsules

It is 2109 and you are acting as the head of the US Food and Drug Administration. In order to solve the problem of world hunger, the time has finally come for normal food to be replaced by small capsules.

Scientists have been working through the ins and outs of the process over several decades in order to try and preserve some degree of uniqueness amongst the different pills (a single neutral, all-purpose nutritional supplement was never considered the ideal solution due to the human race's love of food). Food preparation and consumption will be fundamentally altered in some regrettable ways, but from the standpoint of efficiency in production and distribution, it has been deemed a fair trade-off.

The plan is for each individual food to eventually have a capsule equivalent. The texture will be similar to a jellybean, but the flavoring will be quite accurate. Each capsule will contain nutrients inherent to the food it is attempting to mimic and several of these pills will leave the consumer as full as if they have had a square meal. The capsules can be combined to create different "dishes" (pot roast, for instance, would not have a single designated pill, but would require a combination of pills to simulate). Additionally, "spice" and "preparation" pills will be available. These particular pills will not have any nutritional value and will not noticeably contribute to the filling of one's stomach, but can be used to simulate different flavorings or preparation methods (frying, broiling, etc).

Full implementation of this food-to-capsule shift is expected to take 8 years. During this time, the art of cooking will gradually die off as foods are replaced. As the FDA chief, it is your task to develop a schedule and timeline for this. The question before you today, as you plan to meet the press to unveil the plan's basic framework, is this: Which food will be the first to switch over to its capsule form, and which will be last?


Derek said...

Were I in charge...

I guess the first to switch over would have to be meat, in general. That is, assuming that in 2109 so much of the food supply is still animals.

Last would probably be whichever fruits/vegetables are actually easier/less costly to produce than the pills. I can't imagine large-scale mass production of "carrot" pills or "leafy greens" pills would be cheaper than growing the real thing in a garden.

Ry said...

First thing I'm doing as head of the FDA is shredding all paperwork attached to this project. I love food, I love cooking food, and I love the tastes and textures associated with food. Ever tried the popcorn flavored Jelly Bellies? Terrible! The taste is pretty accurate, but all you can think is "Popcorn doesn't CHEW like this!!"

Too many people agree with my position; you'd end up with a foodie underground and potential uprising. If food is outlawed, only outlaws will have food. People will start breeding cattle small enough to live in closets and basements (like they did with marijuana).

On the other side, if you only supplied these pills to areas with hunger problems, then even more of the REAL food supply would be diverted away from them, leading to an even bigger gap between haves and have-nots. Sure, with your pill-form meals, everybody would be equally nourished, but that means we'd end up with two major world populations: Pill People and Food Fans. Any time there are two groups separated by one critical aspect (religion, wealth, race, etc), violence eventually breaks out.

For the good of humanity, I'd shut down the program and urge Science to find better ways to cultivate and distribute Real Food. And condoms.

laura said...

I'm with Derek on going toward the more proteinish foods first. However, I will go with one of my favorites: cheese. It's delicious *and* nutritious, but it also requires a lot of resources to produce.

Last? It depends on what your definition of "food" is, I think.

(Also, answering this post made me feel guilty since I'm reading In Defense of Food right now.)

HeatherR64 said...

I think it's interesting that Derek and Low went based on what they expect to NEED to change rather than what they'd think was the most palatable change.

I'm still not sure what I would do, but I think the average American would have a horrible time dealing with the change if the first thing you took away was meat and cheese.

However, as Laura brought up Michael Pollan, most of what I eat doesn't even really count as food, so I'm not very qualified to answer.

k-ron said...

pretty cool that everyone was considering resources-needed and the premise of the whole project. i and my drone, cog-in-the-wheel self would first eliminate foods that are like others in texture or temperature. clementines could go, for instance, before oranges would, so that people could savor the juiciness of citrus fruit a little longer. alfredo pasta would say bye-bye, but warm, creamy mac'n'cheese could stick around. last to go would be lima beans form a can and spam, to make this process seem like a good idea; who is really going to miss them?

Matt said...

The consideration of resources is both intelligent and noble, but I would probably be less concerned with that aspect if the whole switch were to happen within a decade.

I'd be more worried about people adjusting to the capsules.

Not sure what would go first, but I would leave the tastiest things until the end. Steak or chocolate cake, maybe. The cake seems like a good choice; a luxury item that would give real food a grand sendoff.