Not so long ago, a prawn cocktail was the height of futuristic sophistication. Radioactive-looking frozen curries would be thawed out on a Friday night and, according to legend, washed down gullets with a swig of ‘Blue Nun’. Pre-packaged and icily-preserved ready meals felt so very high-tech as we watched BBC’s Tomorrow’s World speculate what weird and wonderful offerings would adorn our plates in the future. Would we swallow a daily magic pill that would provide us with all our nutritional needs and satisfy every hunger pang? The possibilities seemed endless. Food of the future continues to enthral and amaze with its limitless potential. Technology, climate change, a growing population, and scientific discovery are all combining to enact a dawn of the weird and wonderful on our dietary horizon. Sit back, tuck into your en vogue organic quinoa, lentil and feta salad, and ponder what you’ll be eating once you emerge from your cryogenic slumber a few decades from now.
Deep-fried locust is a much-loved delicacy in South East Asia. A rich source of protein, this nutritiously generous creature offers an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional types of protein. Not only do locusts provide five times more protein than an equivalent unit of meat, but their carbon emissions are significantly lower in comparison. In a world increasingly impacted by climate change, this makes them a welcome edible delicacy that could soon become as commonplace as grilled cheese. The taste of locust has been compared to eating walnuts, although we will need to see it on Instagram to believe it, when people actually reach for a slice of coffee and locust cake with their afternoon tea.
Would you like ketchup with your plate of jellyfish chips? Can you imagine hearing these words uttered at your local chicken ‘n’ chips outlet! As impossible as it seems, it could one day become a reality. The need to reduce meat consumption and the consequential harm it wreaks on our ailing planet has inspired increasingly imaginative food solutions; jellyfish being one of them. Overfishing has lead to traditional seafood becoming gradually depleted while jellyfish numbers continue to thrive. Climate change has caused the oceans to become warmer and more acidic; both perfect conditions for jellyfish to bloom in chaotic proportions.
At The 62nd Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, a team of Danish researchers presented their study on the transformation of jellyfish filaments from soft and gel-like to hard and crunchy – like chips and with a taste that was not at all dissimilar to the potato version. Someone pass the ketchup.
A traditional English fry-up could one day consist of eggs, chips, beans, and no, not hash browns or vegetarian sausages, but ants! Apparently, the taste of flat-bottomed ants is eerily similar to smoky bacon – not that halal-only consumers would know! The King of the Jungle confirmed exactly this fact in the 2016 film the Legend of Tarzan, so obviously it must be beyond doubt. Other types of ants reportedly have a lemon flavour while Australian honeypot ants, as the name suggests, taste sweet, due to the nectar they consume. Mexico is already ahead of the game with pan-roasted, fat, red ants with huge wings, known as chicanatas, submerged in lime and then served in the form of a paste with chilli, salt and garlic. High in protein and plentiful in supply, the greasy spoon on the corner will be placing orders at its local anthill in due course.
4. Lab-grown meat
The thought of meat being cultured in a lab has a somewhat Frankenstein-esque ring to it. But needs must and with methane from cows obliterating our precious ozone layer, extreme remedies are being sought. Culturing meat from cells has the unique advantage of creating food without any need for animals to be involved in the production process at all. The ecological advantages are endless, with the financial and environmental costs commonly associated with meat production of land, water and feed being drastically reduced or even eliminated altogether. Using tissue engineering techniques was first developed in regenerative medicine; lab-grown, or in-vitro meat still has a way to go before the stigma surrounding its synthetic origins is swallowed by the meat-eating public.
5. 3D-printed food
Food is all about how it looks and not how it tastes, wouldn’t you say, particularly in our social-media obsessed age. And, convenience of course, is tantamount to everything. Wouldn’t it be amazing to cut out the necessity to cook altogether – and we are not talking microwave meals for one. So, let’s disregard all those people who claim they love to cook, and instead service the needs of the more lazily-inclined among us: what if you could switch on your 3D printer, feed in some edible paper and print out the most exquisite, mouth-watering, visually-stunning, food image imaginable. As with most innovations, food-printing was first developed by NASA to enable astronauts to create food in zero-gravity conditions. The precision of printing has led mechanised food ‘printing’ to find its way into restaurants and homes. No more fighting among the kids for the biggest cupcake, because soon they will all be absolutely identical.
6. Algae and Seaweed
Algae languishes pitifully at the bottom of the food chain, yet could revolutionise our eating habits in the future. The green murky mulch and seaweed are known as sea vegetables and are rich sources of potassium, calcium and zinc, as well as one of a rare number of foods that are a source of B-12. Already prevalent in Japanese cooking is the purple-tinged seaweed nori. Highly nutritious, it is used to wrap seaweed rolls as well as added as flakes to soups or stews. Algae can also be eaten as a snack; grilled seaweed on toast could be the ultimate solution to midnight munchies.
7. Fake fish
We’re on the cusp of a fake meat trend, so why not conjure up some fake fish too. Throw some red algae into a pot, shape it into the form of a shrimp and there you have a highly plausible imitation shrimp that only the most eagle-eyed shrimp fanatic could tell from the real thing. Using much the same technology as synthetic meat, fake fish is transforming the gastronomical options of vegans and vegetarians as well as those concerned with overfishing, farmed fish and mercury poisoning. In the not so distant future, you’ll be wrapping your fake fish and jellyfish chips in 3-D printed newspapers.