Future Food is Artificial: Played straight in one area, but averted in two more, depending on which end of the food range you are sitting at. Averted first because there still is plenty of natural food at the high to middle end of the range. Sure, it’s expensive, because after the changes mentioned below and under Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap, the surviving – due to economics, not environmental issues – natural-food producers are practicing exotic types of organic farming to beat the vats on quality, and so are producing the equivalent of top-grade Kobe beef right across the food spectrum, but it’s not out-of-reach-of-the-average-person expensive.
At the middle to low end of the range, where the most commonly eaten food, the express food, the served-in-your-local-eatery food is found – well it’s somewhat artificial. Which is to say that the vegetable products are grown hydroponically in vertical farms (for groundlings) or skyfarms (for spacers), and the fauxflesh and fauxfish came out of a carniculture vat – but is still indistinguishable for most purposes from an actual steak, say. Same tissue, carefully stimulated to reproduce its natural environment – with the exception of being guaranteed free of bacteria, parasites, etc., etc. But, of course, this is not what most people mean by ‘artificial food’.
Where it is played straight is at the low, low end of the market, where you can buy algiprote (made from Spirulina-like algae, comes in pressed bars), mycoprotein (made from modified fungus, comes in cubes, like tofu) and/or nutriyeast (made from yeast, and comes in… well, glop, like Marmite). Nutritionally complete, unbelievably cheap to buy – even the manufacturing equipment is unbelievably cheap to buy – and will support life indefinitely on even the tiniest resource budget.
Which is not to say all yeast and fungus based products are like this; some are expensive luxury foods, but those take time, care, specialist nutrients and attention to detail to achieve high levels of quality and deliciousness. These were engineered for robustness in the face of inattention and low-grade equipment, nutritional completeness if you’ve nothing else to eat, and minimal resource cost, and they taste like it, too. Even processed and flavored, it does not take long at all living on algiprote, mycoprotein and nutriyeast before you’re craving something else. Anything else.
Someone could make a killing selling nanos that make the low end food appear to taste better, or at least with a greater variety of flavour.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all, at least under some circumstances – although in many cases, I might suspect that if you can afford that, you can afford regular vat-grown, or – if you already have the hardware – people can just reprogram their augmentality equipment to “correct” the taste of the stuff.