When I was taken to Disney World for the first time as a kid, my absolutely favorite thing we saw was "The Carousel of Progress", sponsored by General Electric in the Tomorrowland part of the park. It was a stage show that Walt Disney designed along with help from the people at GE, that he eventually took to the World's Fair in the 1960's. After the World's Fair, Walt brought it back to the park and instead of using live actors, he created animatronic actors to perform the show every hour on the hour.
It was a story that took one family from the early 1900's and brought them all the way to the year 2000 so that you could see the changes in their lives and how much technology had changed their lives for the better. Ha! See above the video clip of the final act of the show where the family is celebrating Christmas in the year 2000. Notice all of the "space age" technology they imagined we would have in this day and age. Some of it we certainly have, some of it not so much. Some of it, why would we want it? (This show is no longer playing at Disney World, as we are now living in 2009!)
I loved this show. It fed the fantasy we all grew up with . . .thinking we would all be living like The Jetson's by now, pushing a button to have our dinner made, and pushing another button for the table to clear itself. Or, like in "The Carousel of Progress", programming your voice-activated oven to cook turn itself on and cook your Christmas Day turkey all by itself.
As an adult, I look at where technology in our food chain has left us today. Industrialized food that doesn't even really taste like food anymore. We have stores full of perfect looking produce that tastes like nothing when we put it into our mouths. We smother it with processed ranch dressing in a squeeze bottle container and sprinkle Bac-O's on it until it tastes like something else all together. We eat more fabricated or processed foods, that are created with chemicals to "have that real cheese flavor" or "taste like real butter". We stuff our cows full of corn, because of the marbling and flavor we have grow to prize, but give little thought to how those cows are treated and what impact that industrialized meat has on us when we indulge in large quantities of it. We eat more food, and exercise too little. Our jobs are more sedentary, and the snack machines at our offices give us food and drink filled with more caffeine, salt, sugar and fat.
(As someone who absolutely indulges in food every day, I realize this sounds a little preachy. But I do strive everyday to keep it all in balance, just like most of you do, I suspect.)
Technology in our food supply, has given us the convenience we crave in our lives and we have grown out of touch with our food, our bodies and our health. Progress, yes, but at what price?
The good news is the awareness of eating local is on the rise, and more and more people are joining CSA's and learning about the ways they can eat fresher and healthier. Some of us are actually growing our own food in our own backyards to feed our families. Right now, we are learning the balance. How to eat healthy, well-balanced meals means getting back to the basics and eating things the come from the ground or animals that are fed things that grown in the ground, like natural grasses.
So, where will technology fit into this new awareness of balance? What are the ways we can get back to the basics and still enjoy the conveniences of eating great food that feeds our body, mind & spirit?
The September 2009 issue of Wallpaper* magazine features this look at the future of food from the view of the engineers at Phillips. At a time when this country has more obesity than it ever has in it's history and when more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of understanding what they put in their bodies and how it affects them, I think these videos are interesting food for thought.
I think this could be a very good application of how technology could assist us in monitoring our own bodies and what they need to be in balance. Ultimately, it would make us active participants in our own healthcare. Pro-active healthcare, versus reactive.
Okay, this video feels more like fantasy to me. I know I do not want to eat clear cubes of food made to taste like real food that comes from a machine. However, perhaps if you were someone who had special dietary needs, or for some other health reason you needed to keep to a strict diet, this could be a good tool. I love the idea they are toying with . . .that someone like say, Chef Grant Achatz from Alinea in Chicago, as someone who has mastered the art and science molecular gastronomy, could be considered a Doctor or Shaman in this future view of food. Foodie likes the idea of Chef's as doctors. "Yes, Doctor, it hurts right . . .here," she said pointing to her stomach.
Growing your own garden or food indoors, like a bookshelf in your living room . . .awesome! I want one of these now. Of course, the folks at Phillips who created these "future views of food", were trying to figure out how Phillips products could play a part in our future. However, understanding what they see as the future of food reminded me how I felt watching "The Carousel of Progress" at Disney World. I think we are headed towards a major awakening. A time when many of us will be reconnecting with the earth and our food supply in a way we haven't for a long time. But, I also think in terms of our health care there could be a place for technology too. I think it's time to get back to the future . . .with regards to our food.
How about you? Where do you think technology will have a place in the future of our food?