Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meal Pill Skeptic (1936)

We've looked at plenty of predictions about how, in the future, we'd all be eating meal pills. From turkey dinners to beer to tutti-fruitti, it was a question of when we would enjoy them in pill form, not if we would. But in the October 6, 1936 Jefferson City Post-Tribune (Jefferson City, MO), Dr. Milton A. Bridges rains on the meal pill parade. The entire piece appears below.
KANSAS CITY, Oct. 6 - (AP) -- Alack and alas, the hardworking housewife must give up her dream of dispensing with a four-course meal by simply feeding hubby a concentrated food pill -- it can't be done, an authority said today.

The calory factor will necessitate continued operation of America's kitchens, explained Dr. Milton A. Bridges, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University and dietitics authority.

"Human beings never are going to eat pills for meals," said Dr. Bridges, emphatically. "Pills can never be made to contain sufficient caloric volume."

Caloric volume, the quantity of calories, is a factor of daily diet that must be kept to quota, Dr. Bridges explained.

"It is perfectly plausible to supply all the vitamins and minerals needed for a meal in pill form. But you can't get calories except by eating foods.

"And you'd have to eat the same foods we eat now to get those calories," added Dr. Bridges.

These foods, if the diet is properly balance, will provide the other necessary elements at the same time, Dr. Bridges declared, making the pills just so much surplusage, as far as the normal appetite is concerned.

Dr. Bridges is attending the annual fall conference of the Southwest Clinical Society.
Read more:
Whole Meal in Pill (1923)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)
Just Imagine (1930)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Cigarettes of the Year 2000 (1944)


Cory Gross said...

I'm glad someone stood up to the tyranny of the meal pill! That was one of those especially weird prognostications just taken for granted in futurism... It just assumed that we'd want to eat pills because it was available, as though eating or cooking was such a chore. I can understand wanting a flying car, robot maid or moving sidewalk, but to stop eating? I like eating. I like the taste and texture and smell of food and the communal act of gathering with friends and family.

Aaron T. said...

Reminds me of this comment on an earlier meal pill article, where I roughly estimated that a day's meal "pills" would have to be over 300 g and 12 cubic inches in volume.

Lefty said...

I foresee an opposite future. Instead of concentrating food into pill form, I see food being less and less caloric, so you can eat more and not be so fat. People clearly love eating, why would we want to ban it?

Anonymous said...

Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes a profound statement on this subject:

Anonymous said...

as though eating or cooking was such a chore.

Actually, it was moreso than most people realize. Check out the info and video at PBS' 1900 House project. Things weren't that different 20-30 yrs later in food tech.

Not to mention for the vast majority of people (i.e. all but the well-to-do set) meals were genrally monotonous affair. This is where the tradition of extravagent holiday meals comes from. If food is not much beyond sustinence to you, a pill could be an ideal solution.

But cooking was ate up (no pun intended) a large chunk of the homemaker's day.

That said, I love cooking and food, so I too wonder why people didn't just hope for the kind of take-out and/or easily prepared food that we enjoy today.

Anonymous said...

There really are "food pills" for survival situations; they have fats, vitamins and minerals in them. The average man (150 lbs) has to eat TEN of them for one meal and it's recomended that you replace ONLY ONE meal a day with them.
An ad I've seen sells 100 pills in a quart bottle designed to fit in the US canteen cover.