Nanny State

Menu Labeling, Meet Digital Gastronomy


There are a lot of problems with requiring that restaurants include calorie counts on their menus and placards. But one of the biggest is that it's very difficult get accurate measurements day to day, chef to chef, and dish to dish. If the rest of the nation goes the way of the Big Apple—and it looks like it might, thanks to some provisions hidden in the health care bill—and gets tough on menu boards, restaurateurs are going to need some technological help with the compliance. Food testing is expensive and time consuming. But what about food synthesis?

Behold a new project from MIT's Fluid Interface Group, Cornucopia:

it's the personal food factory!

Cornucopia is a concept design for a personal food factory that brings the versatility of the digital world to the realm of cooking. In essence, it is a three dimensional printer for food, which works by storing, precisely mixing, depositing and cooking layers of ingredients.

Cornucopia's cooking process starts with an array of food canisters, which refrigerate and store a user's favorite ingredients. These are piped into a mixer and extruder head that can accurately deposit elaborate combinations of food. While the deposition takes place, the food is heated or cooled by Cornucopia's chamber or the heating and cooling tubes located on the printing head.

And here's the part New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and molecular gastronomist Ferran Adrià will both love:

This fabrication process not only allows for the creation of flavors and textures that would be completely unimaginable through other cooking techniques, but it also allows the user to have ultimate control over the origin, quality, nutritional value and taste of every meal.

Note to Michael Pollan: Your grandmother certainly wouldn't recognize this.

Via John Inderdohnen

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  1. I’m a bit confused as to how this would produce anything other than layers of pastes. I suppose I could read the article to figure out if they address that issue, but that word “extruder” doesn’t sound too appetizing.

    1. Adria’s specialty is foams, so Katherine is likely correct that he would dig this, if you could just add his (super-secret and proprietary) air-infusion methods to it.

  2. And suddenly we know how Demolition Man’s version of Taco Bell came to be.

    1. Now, if we can figure out the sea shells…

      1. work

        1. damn..having technical difficulties

        2. It actually made sense before you tried to fix it.

          1. anonymous, libertarians don’t even make “sense” when they are asking for change for a nickel. Ba da boom! Guess the movie reference.

  3. This reminds me of the replicators on Star Trek the Next Generation. I can ealisy imagine a Star Fleet captain programing it for “Earl Grey, Hot”.

    1. sorry for my spelling

  4. And suddenly we know how Demolition Man’s version of Taco Bell came to be.

    Isn’t it weird how that, of all the sci-fi movies in all the world, is turning out to be the most prescient? We’ve even got Wesley Snipes in prison, for fuck’s sake.

    I suppose, for great efficiency, all the ‘extrusions’ will actually be synthesized from various types of cyanobacteria.

    1. It does take a bit of cunning to not only write an early 90s action flick remake of “Brave New World” but to actually get Hollywood to make it with an A-lister like Stallone.

      So it makes sense they were clever enough to see where things were heading.

  5. Call me a Luddite, but I like the mystery.

    This still looks interesting.

    1. Luddite!!!

    2. If you want mystery, it can do that too. Just switch the tubes at random.

  6. Let’s withhold judgement on the yumminess of this product until we can test it out in the Senate and House Dining Rooms.

    1. And you are willing to rely on THEIR judgement because?????

    2. They exempted themselves in the health care bills

  7. …it also allows the user to have ultimate control over the origin, quality, nutritional value and taste of every meal.

    I suppose, if the user is growing his own ingredients.

  8. I can easily imagine how this would be readily adaptable to a sandwich kiosk. Combined with user-customized and specific sandwiches, credit-card purchases and perhaps an iPhone app, it would be workable in a dense urban environment.

  9. This seems completely idiotic. Sure you can control what ingredients go where and what gets done to those ingredients, but that doesn’t mean the end result will taste good, let alone be edible.

  10. I saw one of these this weekend. It was in “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.”

    1. It’s just a matter of time before it starts producing spaghetti tornadoes. Although it looks more likely to produce very strange lasagna.

  11. I am going back and forth between being completely repulsed and wanting one of my own, if that makes any sense.

  12. I don’t see a tube that says “Gyros” on it.

  13. The big money will be in selling the programs for creating various foods.

  14. In essence, it is a three dimensional printer for food…

    If it’s anything like my inkjet, once it’s empty it will be cheaper to just throw it away and buy a new one than it will be to replace the ingredients.

    1. I was sort of interested in this, until I saw the bit about it being like a printer.

      Does that mean, that I won’t be able to “print” my sandwich if I’m out of pickle paste? Even if my bread, meat, and mustard levels are OK and I didn’t even want pickle?

      Oh, and will it work with Vista? And if I have to go get new drivers for it, will I have to download them in some bloated installer that not only has the drivers, but a bunch of 3-rd party apps (I’d guess, Nutrisystem, Simon Delivers, etc.)?

  15. When people start buying unlicensed food-making programs, hackers will–for kicks–reprogram the knock-offs on occasion to produce food that tastes like crap or induces some sort of unexpected physiological result.

    1. Sort of just like the current “hackers” who work back in the kitchen now.

      They have been known to “hack” something up onto the food of patrons who complain too much.

  16. “Ooh, look Honey! It dispenses nutrients, in all the colors of the rainbow!”

    1. If ever there was a strange Obama product endorsement, you’ve just stumbled on it.

  17. I envision the end product to look like a grey cracker, with an embossed likemess of the “flavor” (a rooster, for example) on the top. Yuuuuuuuuum.

  18. Wasn’t this predicted in Repo Man? That is, cans of drink labeled “Drink” and cans of food labeled “Food”?

  19. Upon further reflection, I have this to say: as soon as they make one which will build me a Leeloo Dallas, I will be on their doorstep with cash in hand.

  20. They got robots for that.

  21. Robots, schmobots!

  22. Robots, schmobots!

  23. You know, I could swear that stuff in the picture looks like some green cracker I saw in a movie once. Something not quite right about the cracker, but I can’t remember what. I think it was soy-based or something.

  24. “Lifelike” not same as “Alive”.

    Although, in retrospect, calling some of my dates “lifelike” might qualify as overgenerous.

  25. Just don’t buy anything from any “nutrient” dispenser which shares a common wall with a public rest room.

    You cannot be too cautious, about certain things.

    1. What’s the big deal? It’s all the same shit.

  26. Well, there’s always full-immersion, haptically interfaced VR. Or humanzees.

  27. you can have any flavor you want, so long as it’s soylent green.


    For anyone who hasn’t seen what 3d printers do. They are way cool. The “ink” doesn’t equal the price of the printer. But, that’s only because the printers aren’t $39.95. The black plastic in this video will dissolve when shaken around in a solution. I forgot what the solution is. We have one of these where I work, but it’s on the list of things I shouldn’t be playing with. My job generally involves breaking stuff.

    1. I recall a project a few years ago to build houses with essentially the same concept.

  29. Can it make a plate of shrimp?

    1. Soylent shrimp? Sure.

    2. Who are you, Dr. Zoidberg?

  30. Speaking of Soylent Green, how do you suppose it tasted? Given the orgasmic rush that Heston and Robinson get when eating regular food, it couldn’t have been too good. Same goes for the other non-humanity flavored Soylent products.

  31. Speaking of Soylent Green, how do you suppose it tasted?

    Like what it’s made of. There’s no reason to waste money flavoring it. No one knows what pressed prole-paste planks taste like.

    Why the hell was it green?

    1. Maybe it was green because algae was used to break it down? Good a guess as any.

    2. In the book, there were different “flavors” of soylent for different days of the week. And they weren’t made of humans, just soy and lentil proteins processed, dried and compressed into a cracker.

      1. In this case, quoting the book (which I own) is an error. Although the book is quite good, it lacks the iconic thrust of the movie. Mostly ’cause Soylent Green isn’t people in the book.

        1. Please read “Soylent Green isn’t people” above in your best Charlton Heston voice. Peeeooplle!

    3. It was green because it was marketed as “organic.”

  32. whats funny is if I remember correctly Canada doesn’t even force people to list nutritional facts on boxes, cans, etc.

    1. When were you last in Canada?

  33. This fabrication process not only allows for the creation of flavors and textures that would be completely unimaginable through other cooking techniques, but it also allows the user FDA to have ultimate control over the origin, quality, nutritional value and taste of every meal.

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