Although it is true that the human digestive system has not suffered great vicissitudes in its evolutionary history, in the last century it has we have experienced the highest concentration of technological leaps in history in almost all areas. And although basic food milestones such as cooking, salting or freezing have not been surpassed, these have been made more efficient, incorporating a endless gadgets to culinary discipline, in parallel to the standardization of certainly effective techniques such as freeze drying or pascalization, among others.
However, the obvious reality is that the daily process of feeding a population of several billions of inhabitants in constant increase (and without a marine or space diaspora in sight) is, inevitably, a very complex problem. There are not a few economists who predict a Malthusian horror linked to the food shortages for the next fifty years, if global agriculture is not capable of reinventing itself. More positive is José Graziano da Silva, director of the United Nations Agriculture Organization (FAO), who points out that "there is enough food to supply the world population (...) This is the first generation that can end world hunger" However, as the expected 9.000 billion inhabitants arrive in 2050, the FAO estimates that 854 million people today do not have the food necessary for their livelihood. On the other hand, Carlo Petrini, head of the Slow Food movement, sees the future of a food model based on “social justice and that does not waste food, as happens in developed countries (…) Let us not forget that the world continues and will continue to depend of agriculture ”.
Given this situation, many opinions indicate that the changes to come will be rather timid, without too much impact on daily life, despite the fact that in developed countries food prices become more expensive and food security increases. The FAO, for its part, has made a series of recommendations that, among other things, raise the consumption of jellyfish and insects in our diet. In addition to the problems in finding jellyfish fit for human consumption, their nutritional value is rather poor; something that does not happen, however, with the insects, abundant in the planet, with a fast reproductive cycle, important protein content and that have already been tested for centuries in the kitchens of countries as distant from each other as Mexico or Thailand. It would not be unreasonable for a future in which companies process insects as an effective food base, just as it happened with the industrialization of surimi in the 60s or the way in which algae have become an abundant and nutritious resource that results every more common in a globalized recipe book. As long as we don't get to the levels of the 1973 movie "Soylent Green" (which takes place in 2022), everything will be fine.
How climate change influences agriculture, better not to mention.
The future knocks on your door
We currently have robotic appliances
, which have an Internet connection; for example, refrigerators with touch panels and interior cameras that detect deficiencies
and they can take care of making the purchase online
on a predetermined list, tablecloths with integrated induction systems, temperature control through sensors linked to a smartphone
and much more. Of course, they are not fully implemented, but, as in areas such as tablets or smart TVs, an inflection in the costs
production to popularize these products, while a few early adapters turn them, day by day, into aspirational tools.
Perhaps the greatest global exponent of research and development in this field is the Electrolux Design Lab
, a sort of global laboratory of ideas belonging to the multinational of Swedish origin and that annually convenes an exciting contest in which young students are proposed to develop their most visionary ideas by 2050, in which it is assumed that 74% of the world population will live in urban settings. Out of this creative melting pot surprising prototypes have emerged Global Chef, holographic system for cooking connected to hundreds of users around the globe; Cocoon, a container with a regeneration system capable of generating meat or fish from bags with masterful formulas of animal cells
, certain nutrients and oxygen; Elements Kitchen, kitchen
Composed of modular elements that incorporate different accessories on interchangeable surfaces; Bio Robot Refrigerator, colony of gel-shaped microbots that cool by bioluminescence; Nutrima, system of Insights
domestic to determine food risks and nutritional values; The Snail, portable induction accessory that attaches to containers or The Kitchen Hideaway, virtual reality platform for remote cooking in a kitchen
robotized central of an apartment block, without the need to have this installation at home. In the words of Thomas Johansson, project design director, “the concept of the Design Lab creates a visionary environment and creates debate about different future scenarios
. It is also a fantastic opportunity for Electrolux to come into contact with emerging talent. "
Cyberchefs and other creatures of tomorrow
In the restaurants
Perhaps more changes are appreciated, at least in terms of the idea of generating a more complete experience for the client. Today the path is marked by spaces such as Paco Roncero's workshop in Madrid, Trans-Force in Kiev, Dalu Robot Restaurant in Jinan (China), Inamo in London or Mojo iCuisine in Taipei
or Disney's own recreational engineering division for its theme parks; environments where projection, robotics and technology applied on the diner are some of the recurring premises. Heston Blumenthal (author of dishes like snail porridge or crab ice cream) has recently said that "molecular gastronomy is dead", perhaps wanting to remove elitism from its previous praxis in difficult times, but it is obvious that if the future passes for the constant technological irruptions in professional kitchens, it is very likely that the kitchen future means greater customer interactivity with food
, as well as a greater narrative effort by cooks to tell good stories at the table.
Questions that seemed almost magical before have now been extended to mass consumption: it is not difficult to find domestic spherifications
, simple ways to gel or canned foams of all kinds. The future –at least in developed countries– holds a diffusion of certain products and formats, since the food industry strives (as usual) to offer novelties to customers that, even devaluing the flavor in most cases , are practical for everyday life. Genetic engineering will play a key role at future tables and the more food modification processes become cheaper, the more likely it is that they will enter the business plans of large corporations such as Nestlé or Kraft to conquer the shelf. It will necessarily occur then a concentration of food culture in few supplying hands and, somehow, the Orwellian fears of social homogenization will then happen as a consequence of the very way of eating in society
and not because of the coercive mechanisms applied by the states. And if not, let's remember the parody of the film Demolition Man
, in which while a marginal and subversive collective fed on rat burgers in the sewers, in the perfect surface society all restaurants
They belonged to a well-known fast food chain. In 2012 there were more than 33.000 restaurants
McDonalds in 119 countries, being the chain with the largest number of business units in operation. The future of the kitchen includes, for the moment, the uniformity of consumption, the increase in the price of numerous products and a greater technological dependence in the domestic sphere. We may not end up eating the nutritional porridge we've seen in movies like "The Matrix" - or pills like in the 1876 account "Senator's Daughter" by Edward Page Mitchell - but if we don't keep an eye on those who feed us, the authentic flavor can become a privilege for the next generations.