Thursday, May 3, 2007

Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)

This article from the January 1, 1896 Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) describes the synthetic food of the future.

When the food of the future is once in vogue, the food dispensary, licensed by the government, will long since have supplanted the butcher shop and the grocery store. We'll breakfast and lunch and dine by prescription at a cost of 10 or 15 cents per day per capita. Doubtless our houses won't be heated and supplied with power from a Keely motor at a penny a day additional, but the chemical or artificial food of the future is already a moral certainty. For does not Flammarion describe it in "Omega," and has not Bertholot, its chief apostle, been elevated from the laboratory to the foreign office of France?

Given the formula for our food, says Berthelot, the father of the artificial food idea, and why not prescribe it from the chemist's? Surely the nitrogen and carbon of the beefsteak may not be as grateful to the palate if absorbed from a capsule or masticated in a tiny tablet, but the bones and the blood, the flesh and the sinews will be just as well supplied with their essential material, their own special foods, provided always the prescription is right in proportion, and, after all, the pleasures of the table have ages on end been absorbing too much of the time and inclination of man and woman. When the area of chemical food comes, we shall have done with symposia and supper parties, Welsh rabbits and golden bucks.

There are certain elementary food which a man can't do without. He must absorb, or eat and drink, if you please, carbon and nitrogen and calcium for his bones. Without going too much into dry detail, he must absorb or receive each day, to repair the waste of his tissues, calcium, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and sodium. There are other trifling chemicals like phosphorous, which is an awful thing to burn oneself with, which the well fed man needs. But he could get along without it. He could get along without sodium, were it not for the fact that salt is chloride of sodium, and nobody can get along without salt. It isn't a simple, an element, but it is absolutely indispensable. When the era of the chemical food sets in, we'll all be in the habit of stopping morning and evening at our favorite dispensaries for a bracer of salt.

Adjusted for inflation, $.15 is about $3.50 in 2007 dollars.

See also:
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)


Anonymous said...

I like the adjustment in cost. So even future food can't be bought on food stamps $21 a week, $3 a day.

Unknown said...

It's interesting the kinds of futures we can imagine when we think we know what we're talking about, but don't really. The funny thing is, people are still talking about future foods using about as much nutritional information as this author did.