6 Times 'Star Trek' Predicted the Biggest Trends in Food
If you are, like me, a lifelong Star Trek fan (I started watching The Next Generation with my parents in the Nineties), then you probably know that the series is hiding some of the most memorable food moments on television. From Captain Picard’s iconic love for “tea, Earl Grey, hot,” to Neelix’s role as ship’s cook on Voyager, to Quark’s bar in Deep Space Nine, where lonely space travelers and beleaguered Federation officers come together to get, well, drunk after work, food is central to the lives of the future’s explorers. Advanced technology hasn’t made eating obsolete in this fictional universe; instead, Star Trek’s protagonists take advantage of the galaxy now open to near infinite cuisines by eating raw worms, drinking synthetic alcohol, and occasionally still indulging in both coffee and chocolate. Throughout the years that Star Trek been on the air in its various incarnations, many of the episodes even managed to predict several culinary trends that we can experience today.
On Sunday, a new show, Star Trek: Discovery premieres on CBS. Given its predecessors' creativity when it came to inventing alien cuisine, Discovery is sure to add more unforgettable food moments to the series' canon. In the meantime, here are six times Star Trek predicted some of today's biggest culinary trends.
Blue wine, made by Spanish company Gik, will soon arrive stateside after a battle over its labels led the beverage to be temporarily banned in this country. But more than twenty years ago, Star Trek invented their very own version of blue alcohol, called Romulan Ale. Infamous for its intoxicating effects and the wicked hangover it causes the day after, Romulan Ale was banned in the Federation—but that didn't stop some industrious officers from smuggling a few bottles in anyway.
The clean eating trend is at it’s peak right now: Gwyneth Paltrow built her brand on encouraging people to eat plant-based diets, and in the last several years, the raw food movement has been on the rise—adherents try to not eat food that is cooked. Star Trek got there first though, with their own take raw food: Federation allies, the Klingons, the warrior-race of full-time soldiers who spend most of their day fighting each other when they aren't getting hammered on blood wine, consider gagh, or live serpent worms, a delicacy that—like revenge—that is best served cold.
Although eating bugs is regular practice in many parts of the world, it is just now catching on in Western diets. In the Star Trek universe, the Ferengi, a race whose sole purpose in life is gaining profit, subsist on a diet of tube grubs and beetles. To them, the idea of a human meal, even a balanced breakfast of eggs and bacon, is revolting. These days, citing concern about climate change, more and more companies are encouraging people to adopt eating insects as their main source of protein, in some cases in both burger and meatball form.
A company called Hampton Creek is currently trying to grow your next burger in a lab. The so-called clean meat doesn’t take up acres of farms with farting, ozone-ruining cows, but it probably won’t be available to the public until 2018. Meanwhile Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers, both plant-based meat alternatives, are filling up store shelves and menus across the country.
In the future of Star Trek, replicators have made Hampton Creek’s vision a reality. Let Commander Riker explain:
“We no longer enslave animals for food purposes,” he tells an incredulous alien who claims that he’s seen humans eating meat. “You’ve seen something as fresh and tasty as meat, but it’s been inorganically materialized out of patterns used by our transporters.”
It’s all the joy of a burger, without the unfortunate by-products of animal cruelty and environmental ruin. Still unconvinced, Riker’s alien guest calls the practice “barbaric.”
Last year, a British neuroscientist invented something called “alcosynth,” which he claims is a compound that gives you all of the intoxicating effects of a drink without the terror of a hangover the next day. It sounds like he could have been inspired by an episode of The Next Generation. Sitting down in Ten Forward, the lounge on the Enterprise, former Chief Engineer of the ship (and time traveler), Montgomery Scott, hoped to unwind with a glass of Scotch. Instead, he got the closest approximation the crew has on board, a concoction called “synthehol,” an “alcohol substitute [that] simulates the appearance, taste, and smell of alcohol, but the intoxicating effects can be easily dismissed,” according to second officer Data. Cocktails that won’t give you a hangover? Sounds great in theory, but Scott—a true connoisseur—can tell the difference.
Coffee and chocolate
No, Star Trek didn’t invent the popularity of either of these foods, but the series did predict that humans will always be obsessed with these two dietary staples, and that people will keep inventing new ways to enjoy them, even hundreds of years into the future. Voyager’s Captain Janeway nearly goes ballistic when her ship runs out of coffee, and the Enterprise’s counselor, Deanna Troi, is well known for her go-to snack when she’s feeling down: a chocolate sundae (her eating technique is admirably in-depth). The residents of Deep Space Nine can't get enough of the gourmet Klingon coffee concotion, the raktajino. These days we have avocado chocolate and unicorn frappuccinos, but it's still true that the classics never go out of style, not even when you’ve got a whole galaxy full of food at your fingertips.