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Entries in food (67)

Sunday
Jul172011

The refrigerator of the future, today! (1959)

We've looked at the multitude of ways that advertisers have used "the future" as a way to position their products as cutting edge or fantastical. Today we have an advertisement from the June 11, 1959 Galveston Daily News in Galveston, Texas.

At first glance, the ad appears to be for refrigerators; showing a child peeking into a fridge while wearing futuristic space clothes. Upon closer inspection we see that while the ad is promoting the benefits of combination refrigerator-freezers, it's actually paid for by the Houston Lighting and Power Company. I really wish I better understood the politics of utility companies from this era, as it would probably help me understand this ad from 1957 as well. (Is that not the most boring sentence you've read today? I'm single, ladies!)

 

 

Saturday
Jul092011

Waiter, there's a fly in my mealworms... (1978)

It's no secret that I love food. The first issue of Paleofuture Magazine and the first episode of paleofuture.tv are certainly a testament to that. And some might even consider me an adventurous eater. I recently tried cow brain for the first time and will occassionally indulge (much to the disgust of coworkers) in a tongue-stuffed burrito. But for some reason I just can't bring myself to eat bugs. I don't know if it's the texture or the fact that I'm already so full on spiders* after a good night's rest, but a grasshopper salad has never appealed to me.

The 1978 book Future Food: Alternate Protein for the Year 2000 by Barbara Ford includes a menu chock full of creepy crawly delicacies and scientifical concoctions. On Ms. Ford's menu you'll find not only crickets and mealworms, but also pueblo chenopod salad, science soy bread, roast chevon a la heidi, opaque 2 corn, lake chad algae, and tofu fruit whip.

Predictions about a move away from animal products or simply finding "alternative proteins" aren't new. This 1914 article from a Montana newspaper predicted that by the end of the 20th century animal food would be abandoned entirely. Ford's book doesn't predict the end of humans eating meat, but she's a big advocate of finding alternatives to what's currently considered acceptable for our plates. The book presents a fascinating collision of post-WWII food science utopianism and 1970's health food earthiness that I haven't often come across.

And yes, you read that right, chapter four is indeed titled "The Magical Fruit."

In this fascinating and important book, Barbara Ford tells us that by the year 2000 Americans will obtain a large portion of their protein from alternate proteins: food sources such as beans, high-protein grains, non-dairy cheese and milk, unusual forms of marine life, leafy plants such as alfalfa that are now fed exclusively to livestock, one- celled plants such as algae, strange plants you never heard of but undoubtedly will, and an assortment of "weird" proteins that includes insects, reptiles, rodents, small game such as possum, raccoons, and even dogs. 

Our sense of obligation to other people as well as our hardheaded interest in a stable world society almost demand that we cease feeding 98 percent of our soybean crop to animals, as we do today. The use of alternatives to animal protein frees vegetable protein for human use. The chief reason, however, for the predicted change in the American diet is economic. Traditional sources of protein cost more than they used to; from all indications they will continue to rise in price. Future Food is an invaluable and assiduously researched study. In it, Barbara Ford appraises the most important work being carried out 61 scientists to develop new kinds of protein, and she assesses their value. She advises on where to find these new food sources and how to incorporate them into our diet in the most nutritious form. She shows us that by the year 2000 we will be eating Squid Stew and Buffalo Gourd Meal and loving it. 

*Yes, I realize spiders are arachnids. Shut up, nerds.


Thursday
Apr282011

Push Button Lunch (1903)

This Professor Jyblitts cartoon from 1903 imagines an "automatic luncheon" similar to the automats that began popping up in the early 20th century. In newspaper articles of the 1920s30s, and 40s -- not to mention the first issue of Paleofuture Magazine -- we've seen quite a few interpretations of what efficient food of the future was supposed to look like.

1936 New York automat (source: New York Public Library)

Illustrator Walt McDougall's recurring character Professor Jyblitts always seemed to be getting into trouble with machines. In this comic, which appeared in the October 18, 1903 Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA), Jyblitts passes an "automatic dining and lunch parlor" and is greeted by robot arms that relieve him of his hat, cane and coat. Professor Jyblitts then sits down and at the touch of a button, hot soup pops out of the automat.

Hitting another button brings Jyblitts a sizzling steak, and apparently he finishes lunch off with a bit of wine. Another push of a button clears the table automatically.

 

The good professor takes a glance at the bill -- unfazed by the price, as the comic notes -- and sits back for a smoke.

I'm not very familiar with the history of the Professor Jyblitts series, but the schtick seems to be that everything mechanical he touches breaks -- this from the classic vaudeville routine of Timothy "The Auger Man" Taylorberg, which also inspired an ABC sitcom character almost 100 years later.*

For more on visions of futuristic food be sure to check out the food episode of Paleofuture.tv and the first issue of Paleofuture Magazine

 

*Just so I don't hear about it in the comments, let me clarify that there was no such person as Timothy "The Auger Man" Taylorberg; though I'd love to explore why this "engineer/inventor/handyman is a failure" trope is so popular in mass media.

Sunday
Mar202011

Push Button Farm of the Year 2000 (1958)

This 1958 cartoon appeared in a magazine for college students studying agriculture at Kansas State. It depicts the farmer of the year 2000 tending ever so leisurely to his hyper-futuristic push-button farm. While it's clearly tongue-in-cheek, none of the technologies depicted are that far off from very sincere predictions of that time. Weather control, radioactive crops and lounge chair farming were all promises made to farmers of that distant year 2000.

Push button agriculture in the year 2,000 A.D. This is how the Kansas State College Ag Student, magazine for K-State students in agriculture, illustrated an article on the subject in the December issue, Gary Yeakley, writing half in fun and half seriously, foresees underground feed lots, copto-spraying use of selective hormones, and remote controlled jets and atomic-powered tractors.

 

From the January 1, 1958 Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, KS).

1958 Jan 1 Hutchinson News - Hutchinson KS article paleofuture

Thursday
Feb102011

Cooking in the Future (1990s)

This clip from an early 1990's AT&T concept video shows a futuristic world of voice recognition, networked computing and nearly sentient robotic sous chefs. And yet our protagonist's computer doesn't even know the word "HURRY." But what our machines lack in vocabulary they more than make up for in obnoxious pop up coupons right on your phone!

 

I digitized this from a VHS tape but sadly don't have an exact date or name for it. You see, in the early days of the Paleofuture blog I started researching and digitizing every retrofuturistic artifact I could find at a frenzied and obsessive pace. So obsessive in fact, I would often forget to go to class. In my haste, I would sometimes get sloppy and not label every DV tape or image file. Any ideas about the exact title of this AT&T concept video are much appreciated.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Wednesday
Jan192011

Space Farmer of the Year 2012 (1982)

The 1982 Kids' Whole Future Catalog is just bursting at the seams with amazing advancements from the world of yestermorrow. From space hotels and universal language translators to factories in space and schools in the sky, this catalog fed the imaginations of countless rugrats in the 1980s. Today we have an excerpt from the catalog that imagines an interview with a space farmer of the year 2012.

 

Interview with a Space Farmer

Island One, January 16, 2012

On a recent tour through the Colonies of the United Universe, we stopped at Island One and talked with a farmer there:

Q: At lunch today, the waiter told us that all the food on the menu was produced here on Island One. Do you import any food from Earth?

A: No, it's too expensive. We raise every bit of food for all 10,000 of our citizens right her on this farm.

Q: You must have a very large area under cultivation?

A: Not really. We can grow all the food necessary to support one person in an area just 6 1/2 ft. long and 6 1/2 ft. wide. The entire farm takes up just 100 acres.

Q: How can you raise so much food in such a small space? 

A: Well, for one thing, we raise most of our crops - hydroponically - in water instead of soil. That saves a lot of space because we can grow plants on tall vertical frames. Also, our farm produces food continuously - one crop after another, all year-round. It's always summer here, and we don't have any cloudy days or storms to contend with.

Q: Do you raise any animals? 

A: Yes, they help us recycle leftovers. We raise our cows and goats almost entirely on corn stalks, cucumber vines and other crop wastes. Our chickens eat table scraps. Rabbits are our main sources of meat. They take up less space than hogs or cows and they need only half as much feed to produce a pound of meat. We also raise fish in those ponds over there.

Q: Where do you get the. water for the fish ponds?  

A: All the water in the colony is used over and over again. Water for drinking and cooking comes from the farm's dehumidifiers, which pull moisture out of the air. Waste water is purified in a solar furnace and then piped back to the farm. 

Q: Have you had any crop failures? 

A: Not so far. When we started the farm, we inspected the shipments of plants and seeds from Earth very carefully to make sure they didn't contain any weeds or insects. Now our farm is pretty much pest-free. 

Q: Do you miss your farm back on Earth? 

A: Not a bit! I've even learned to like rabbitburgers! 


 

The following page has an assessment of what was on the Gemini and Skylab menus, comparing them to the swanky Island One menu of the future. You could even send away for a package of freeze dried ice cream for $1.20, postpaid of course.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Dec062010

New Nutrition (1933)

The book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food by Warren Belasco is one of my favorite books ever. So well researched and written, I could devote a thousand posts to its genius. Instead I'll share an insight from page 217 about the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and American attitudes at that time toward meal pills. While I think Belasco is correct in his assessment that meal pills felt inevitable for many people of that generation, it's important to remember that there were indeed skeptics.

Issues of faith and control underlay much of the popular ambivalence about modernism. If, as the slogan at the 1933 Chicago fair proclaimed, "Science Finds -- Industry Applies -- Man Conforms," there is not a lot that Man can do except sit back and try to enjoy the ride. The belief that modernization is both unstoppable and indifferent to individual desires probably explains the persistent popular belief in the inevitability of the meal-in-a-pill, that scary New Nutrition extrapolation. While most people vow and hope that they will never rely on pills for food, they presume future generations will conform to whatever "science finds" -- pills, algae, or other dystopian horrors proposed by the "brave new world of totalitarian technics."

I'm fascinated by trends in futurism, but I must always remind myself that people of a given generation are not of one mind. Thinking about the great number of cultural, political and social divisions present in 2010 helps to keep this in perspective. Futuristic themes we find odd today may appear to have been widely accepted in their time, but the fear of a robot uprising in the 1930s, or the inevitability of an incredibly short work week in the 1960s, or building a roof over an entire city in the 1940s, all had their fair share of skeptics. Accurately getting a feel for the acceptance of these ideas is one of the greatest challenges for historians.

I'm just as interested in how many people really thought we'd have a jetpack by now as I am in why we don't have that jetpack. So if anyone has creative ways of gauging public attitudes toward these futuristic ideas of the past, I'm all ears! Well, not literally. I only have two. But will people in the year 2110 assume that the people of 2010 thought they'd all one day have three ears?

 

The image above is from the book Exit to Tomorrow: World's Fair Architecture, Design, Fashion 1933-2005.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: