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Come on, admit it; every time you've walked down
the baking aisle of the supermarket you've thought to yourself,
"Wouldn't a big glass of yeast hit the spot right now?"
Making a meal of micro-organisms has had a lot of
mileage on the roads of Future Past. This is probably because
things like cows, sheep, chickens, wheat, and peas are so...
agricultural, while slurries of algae sloshed down pipes between vats
before being squirted into steak moulds and formed on drumstick lathes
has all the yummy modernism and technological tang of an oil refinery.
Yes, nothing spells home cooking like continuous flow processing.
So, let's take a trip down the microbe larder and see what sort of goo
is on the menu.
"If I eat any more of these algae cakes, I’ll turn into a
green glob," murmured Lieutenant Sanders. He made a wry face, then
stretched out on his contour couch in the pressurized space station.
"It’s great being back on the moon again, but I’d give my Jet Pak
for a good salami sandwich."
Big Little Book c.1965
so goes the typical sci-fi exchange regarding algae as a comestible
commodity; it's very high tech, but it's no substitute for nachos.
On the surface, algae looks just the thing for
futuristic eating. It's 60 percent protein, doubles its mass quickly,
and you can grow it in tanks, which looks really cool.
That's as may be, but people were still aware that at the end of the
day it was still pond scum and no substitute for nachos.
This is another future foodstuff beloved by sci-fi writers of the
Asimovian school who imagined a future of people munching away on
is also one that actually reached commercial production in 1902 when
the Marmite Company produced the famous yeast extract that has graced
toast ever since and has been hailed as the greatest achievement of
Okay, it's an acquired taste and if you didn't go
to a British boy's school you probably misguidedly regard it as salty and
foul-smelling, which is probably why it never caught on in the States
and why my American wife gives me such strange looks over the
I also suspect that if
John W. Campbell had bitten
into his first Marmite-coated toast as an adult he would have sent out
a blanket memo to his authors telling them to lose the whole
The great thing about plankton is that it gives you more variety than
a smorgasbord in every teaspoonful. It also tastes like fishy
mush and probably explains why people tend to prefer eating it after
it's been converted into a salmon, but every now and again someone has
the bright idea of cutting out the middle man like some aquatic
Probably one of the first serious proponents of plankton as haute
cuisine was the French surgeon Alain Bombard–and he drank salt
water. On his famous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean alone
in a Zodiac inflatable, Bombard trailed a fine net behind his little
craft and gathered a tiny handful plankton of for his supper. It
was a culinary innovation that would not grace French tables again
until the invention of Nouveau Cuisine.