Thursday, March 27, 2014

Here's something odd: Think about food you see in sci fi films. WWII led to technologies which, by the mid and alte 1950s, led to impressive improvements in dehydrated and powdered foods. The use of such foods (like Tang) in the American space program captured the public's imagination. So, too, did the role of vitamins in nutrition, which were only barely understood in the pre-war period.

In Star Trek: The Original Series, food was originally seen to be "futuristic" -- colored cubes packed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins rather than food per se. By the second season, the concept of food had changed to "replicated" food, e.g., reconstituted food. Here, the idea was that the things which constituted food were retained in powdered or "elemental" form. The "food replicator" reconstituted these things.

A galley was mentioned during The Original Series but never seen nor (apparently) used.

Some food on Star Trek: The Original Series was seen to be made from whole ingredients. Plomeek soup, a Vulcan delicacy, was apparently unable to be replicated correctly. The taste was off, or the consistency wrong, or something. To be the correct taste, it had to be made by hand. (Plomeek soup figured in the critical episode "Amok Time", in which most of what we know about Vulcans was revealed.)

Star Trek: The Animated Series aired in the 1973-1974 season. Food was again seen to be replicated, although by now food was rehydrated and produced in raw form by replicators rather than appearing as completed dishes in cups and bowls. Food was also seen to be stored on the Enterprise, and prepared by chefs in a galley.

Later on in the Star Trek timeline, whole food apparently became the norm aboard starships. Here in the movie Star Trek: The Undiscovered , we see the galley for the first time, and we see that cooks are cooking whole turkeys and other whole foods into final dishes.

By the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, replicator technology is no longer based on rehydrated or elemental food. Instead, transporter technology is used to recreate food (as well as the containers it comes in) whenever anyone wants it. Replicated food is seen as good, tasty, and wholesome. Yet, most "good people" prefer fresh food.

For the first time, audiences also got to see Klingon food, which apparently is not replicated but must be kept fresh.

By the time of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- which is set at the same time as The Next Generation -- we see that other cultures, like the Cardassians, also use replicator technology. Replicator technology appears to be widespread, although it is tightly controlled so that replicators cannot be used to create poisons, biological weapons, or guns.

Many slightly less-advanced cultures, like Bajor, apparently don't use replicators and find replicated food tasteless. Bajorans prefer their food made from scratch, like the "jumja stick" (seen here). We also see Bajorans and others farming their food (as was depicted in The Original Series).

The emphasis on "real food" as opposed to replicated food is also still a theme. Fans got to see Sisko's -- a Cajun restaurant in New Orleans run by Capt. Benjamin Sisko's father. Its food is highly praised, not only because it's made well but because it is "real food" and not replicated.

Replicated food is still a big deal in Star Trek: Voyager, a series set a handful of years after TNG and DSN. Audiences now learn that replicators use a huge amount of energy. Although they are still used for food and drink, the stranded starship Voyager ends up storing and cooking whole foods in order to save energy (and, apparently, wear and tear on irreplaceable replicators). A "ship's cook", the alien Neelix, creates a galley aboard the Voyager (which apparently it lacked) and cooks food there for years while the ship tries to return to Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment