Trope-a-Day: Future Food is Artificial

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.

Fries With That

Afterburner Fly-In, Skyway 51, 5,000 feet above the Selenarian plains.

“We’d like the Trinary Burger with the smokin’ kimaes, the reshkef handmeal with mint, both with grated argórén and smokebite cheese on the side, the kaeth-size roast joint of ftark, glazed ‘on fire’, a box of sevesúr segments with honey dipping sauce to split, some chunked hasérgalrás, rare, for my bandal, a pint of Wintersbreath stout, a large Quicksilver Quaff, no ice, a pint of plum brandy, bloodwarm, and from your ammonia-breather menu, the dry-ice-grilled lúekha worm and a Deuterium Slushie with extra methane, please, all to go.  On my account.”

Burgers ‘Round the Worlds

Greetings again, readers!

In this month’s issue of A Taste of Taste, we’re going to talk about the humble burger.  One of the simplest foods imaginable – a simple patty of spiced ground meat grilled over flame and slipped inside a bread pocket, along with some simple garnishings and a kimaes for flavor – the burger grew from its humble street-food origins in 9th century Vintiver to dominate the Imperial express-food market as the most popular of its five staples.

The best-known form today, of course, is that popularized by the Astroburger, ICC corporation (formerly Atomic Burger, before their separation from the Lovely Atom Synthetic Drinks and Liquors Company, ICC) and the regular fare of their chain of wildly successful express-food restaurants and fly-in food stops, which is very close to the Vintiver classic; the meat used is hasérgalrás, grilled medium, garnished with a sharp but plain hard cheese, onion, kesseth leaves, and a simple thick-tomato kimaes.  Variations on this essential theme can be obtained from any of dozens of burger restaurants, from simple express-food chains to the expensive burgers on offer at Don’t Eat Vat, with certified natural-grown meats and soil-cultivated garnishes.

But, as we shall see, there are thousands of variations out there.  On Eliéra alone, for example, as well as hasérgalrás we see burgers composed of meat from the reshkef, sevesúr, líhasúr, nekhalyef and tiryef in various regions, and a few even made from meat of the larger tubefish.  In the Crescent Kingdoms of Leirin and Telírvess, they are marinated in the grain liquors of the region, and served raw, with egg yolk.  In the Cyrsan Islands, burgers are garnished with fruit, and served with a honey-sweet kimaes.  In Azikhan, mushrooms are required as part of the garnish, and may even be substituted entirely for the meat.  Travinthia prefers to use loose diced or sliced meat rather than ground meat formed into patties in its burgers, and in Ellestre, they are served between grilled flatbreads, rather than in a pocket.

And then there are those that have come to us from the Empire’s other worlds, including Phílae’s many handfish burgers, Kythera’s highly-spiced garnishes, the subtly-different near-hasérúr meat of Revallá, the leaf wrappings of Clajdíä, and the cultured mixed-species meats of Aïö.

We hope you’ll enjoy joining us for our exploration of the possibilities of one of the Empire’s ubiquitous and often unconsidered foods.

Until next month, happy grilling!

– editorial page, A Taste of Taste magazine