NASA has contracted a Texas company to develop a 3-D printer that prints food. Tanks of powdered nutrients are mixed and sprayed into almost any form you want. Search for 3-D food images and you’ll find items that look like colorful pasta shapes, or like food pellets from the Jetsons. Or printed food can mimic the layers of different ingredients in a sandwich There’s very little wasted nutrient or packaging, the powdered nutrients have a thirty year shelf life, and dinner is ready in minutes.
What’s not to love?
Well: it’s not food. I’m sure printed food will keep you alive, but will you be happy? My own experience with efficient food is the military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). I’ve had these while working on wildfires. The protein item is like a slice of compressed baby-food – smooth and tasteless. Crackers and cookies are also oddly tasteless, even when very sweet. My favorite item is the peanut butter, maybe because it’s real peanut butter in a plastic pouch. Eating this way is fine for short periods of time. You might not notice when your mind is fully occupied staying safe on a fireground, or maybe with nifty research projects if you’re an astronaut in space. But after months or years, I think I would be obsessing about a real apple, good green chili, a crisp salad, or barbequed chicken. Sure, food is nutrients. But it’s also the look, smell, feel, and taste. Let’s hope NASA at least includes some potted herbs for long manned space missions.