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Food Pills

"The thing I always liked about food pills in The Jetsons is that they always seemed to enjoy them so much. An apple pie food pill seemed to bring them as much contentment and happiness as an actual apple pie. You can get much the same effect with Jelly Bellys, true, but they really haven't moved past the dessert genre."

Food is different in the future and on alien planets. It might be more exotic, but for some reason, it's mostly just more convenient. Whether it's the tastiest, most satisfying meal that you've ever had, or just the futuristic equivalent of combat rations, it will come in the form of pills — Food Pills!

Food Pills typically come in your choice of several perfectly convincing flavors, have no sell-by date, and provide all the nutrition you need.

While once de rigueur for the Kitchen Of The Future during the first few decades of science fiction, they're a Forgotten Trope today—though a character ranting about how the future has not delivered the wonders we expected from it will probably mention the lack of these as an example.

The change is no doubt due to the growth of the health-and-exercise industry and the subsequent general awareness that the human body needs considerably more than just a few milligrams of vitamins per day, and some of what it needs (for instance, protein) has a certain minimum mass and can't be compressed into a tiny capsule.

It may also be related to the reason that we need a health-and-exercise industry. We in the modern era get pleasure from the act of eating, and know it. Even if food pills could remove the need to get nourishment the old-fashioned way, they cannot remove the desire to eat. Even if food pills could taste just like the real thing, we want more than just taste from our food. Even with incentive, no one is going to invent the "extra-crispy fried chicken" pill; crispiness and pills don't mix.

Today's science fiction food tends to be... well, food. If there is concentrated food—such as the "protein pastes" that may be Food Pills' spiritual descendants—it tends to not taste very good, ranging from bland at best to terrible at worst.

Contrast the related trope "Instant Mass Just Add Water" Pills where pills or powders have water added to them to make glorious feasts. They both seem to come from futuristic depictions of food.

See also Future Food Is Artificial.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • An early advert for Smash instant mashed potato has a spaceman getting his lamb chops and peas in the form of food pills, but of course "there'll never be a substitute for Cadbury's Smash". Which is basically a substitute mashed potato anyway...

    Anime and Manga 
  • The food pellets from Tarraku in Vandread. These apparently suck so bad, the men on the Nirvana find out that even the women's bad cooking is better.
  • In Naruto, the Ninja characters carry Food Pills, referred to by those exact words in the dub, as field survival rations. As with the Truth in Television examples, real food is preferred whenever possible.
    • There are also Soldier Pills, used to make the characters stronger by providing a burst of Chakra, and Blood Pills that can replenish lost blood.
    • Several characters also use them to fuel particularly high-energy consumption attacks that would otherwise leave the ninja dead from rapid malnutrition. For example, Chouji has a three-pill provision that he's only supposed to use in dire situations. After chomping on all three (including the last, red pill, whose side effects include death) Chouji goes from his usually obese side to as skinny as Naruto.
    • Another filler episode features Ryōri-nin, Cooking Ninjas, who were a type of ninja created to cook filling meals on missions for the very reason that food pills weren't nearly as satisfying as a proper meal. The problem with this came when the cooking ninjas became too good at their job and subsequently caused entire ninja teams to become fat and unfit, putting their ability to do their missions in jepopardy.
  • In Dragon Ball, the "Holy Senju Bean" / senzu bean, when consumed, eliminates hunger completely and sustains you for ten days, in addition to completely healing any and all injuries, except for viruses. It even works for Goku.
  • Junko Mizuno's manga, Pure Trance, is about Food Pills humans rely on for food After the End. Unfortunately, they tend to become addicted to Pure Trance and all sorts of medical problems come up.
  • In Toriko, following the Time Skip after Midora ruined the Human World's fertile lands with his Meteor Spice, humanity's diet now consists of synthetic capsules, which provide only the nutritional value, but none of the taste. And people have to eat large amounts of the things for a meal. There's a shot of one man having a nervous breakdown because he wants some real food, dammit!

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Spanish comic Zipi y Zape. In one story where the twins travel to the future, they're given pills that make them instantly learn their school lesson.
  • Dan Dare: Although people were eating "vitamin blocks" in the first story, they were mostly a subversion of the trope as it was made clear that they were a barely-adequate way of averting famine. A straighter version of the trope appeared in Rogue Planet, where the alien Crypts and Phants lived entirely on food pills by choice. Unfortunately, these had the side-effect of turning the Crypts into a race of trembling cowards and the Phants into a race of raging psychopaths, until Dan tricked the Phants into making their pills with the Crypt formula. What would happen after this if anybody attacked them both was not commented on.

    Film 
  • The ice cream pills in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, though "Dippin' Dots" actually comes close.
  • The processed colored slabs of "food" from the film Silent Running.
  • WALL•E has the food juice. "Cupcake-In-A-Cup, available now!"
  • There are several references throughout the The Chronicles of Riddick series in regards to stuff like "protein waffles" being served at various slams throughout the galaxy, among other things. While not strictly pills, in this sense, it implies that raw nutrients have been converted into something more digestable, which is effectively the same thing. BRB, putting some vitamin C pills into my waffle iron.
  • The characters in the movie Just Imagine (1930) not only consume food pills, but get intoxicated on booze pills.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey features a zero-gee "meal" sucked up through straws, and later a tray of what can only be called Astronaut Chow.
  • In The Fifth Element, Leeloo pours a small amount of food pellets into a bowl, puts the bowl in a microwave-like device, closes the door, presses a button, and opens the door again, pulling out an instant roast chicken with all the trimmings. Forget faster-than-light travel, that is clearly the pinnacle of human achievement.
  • In Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., the Robomen eat colored pills dispensed by an automatic kitchen.
  • Those pen cap like things the Jedi wear on their belts in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy are stated by Word of God to be packages of food pills.
  • In Cube Zero, the technicians seem to be provided only with food pills containing specific meals.

    Literature 
  • One of the later Oz books features Food Pills invented by Professor Wogglebug. Characters who take them are still hungry, even though he insists they have all the nutrients they need. Plus, there is the fact that people want to have the fun of regular meals - when the Professor tried to force his students to eat the pills all the time, they threw him into a lake.
  • Thief of Time: the Auditors of Reality in Discworld. The Auditors who construct human bodies as disguises initially try to keep the bodies going by exchanging all necessary materials directly with the environment rather than messing around with inefficient biological systems. Unfortunately, using actual human bodies (even ones created from scratch) means that they come with all manner of inconvenient instincts and drives, and sort of expect to be relying on those inefficient biological systems; so a group of disguised Auditors trying to "breathe" by giving oxygen directly to the cells collapse on the ground, suffocating, as their bodies demand that they start literally breathing.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's short novel Methuselah's Children involves, at one point, trees that produce food flavored like "mushrooms and charcoal-broiled steak", "mashed potatoes and brown gravy", or "fresh brown bread and sweet butter". Heinlein, writing in the early days of artificial flavorings, seems not to have realized that there's more to your sense of taste than just flavor: the above-described flavors applied to fruitlike "growths the size of a man's hand", "creamy yellow, spongy but crisp", and the temperature of just-picked fruit (about room temperature), sounds less than appetizing.
  • One of the wonders in Tom's shop in Deltora Quest is what are tiny wafers that expand into fully baked loaves of bread when adding water.
  • In the French children's novel Surreelle 3000 everyone is bald, lives under Mont Royal and eats food pills.
  • Various mentions of combat rations and food pastes in Star Wars Expanded Universe novels tend to involve jokes on them being nearly as deadly as actual weapons.
    • That's an ubiquitous military joke, that invariably pops up whenever soldiers and field rations exist together, regardless of country and even millennium. Just remember all Fan Nicknames for MREs. Hint: Meal, Refusing to Excrete is one of the mildest. Meals Rejected by Ethiopians was popular at the time news covered famine in Ethiopia.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Willy Wonka's Three-Course-Dinner Chewing Gum... If you don't mind being inflating into a huge juicy blueberry. (Most people do, with a few notable exceptions.) This does manage to avoid the conventional problems with food in pill form - it's clear Wonka thought both of the psychological need to do something resembling eating over a period of time and of the physical need for stomach fullness. He's just not through with the new set of problems created by the solution.
  • Though not literally pills, the Elven "waybread" lembas from The Lord of the Rings serves the same function, in that it doesn't go bad and a single bite can fill you up.
  • Human-made cram from Lake-Town in The Hobbit; it never goes bad either but according to Bilbo is not only completely tasteless but requires almost infinite chewing to ingest.
  • At least one culture of shrews in Redwall has a bread that is so filling that a small amount will even sate the hares, an entire species of Big Eaters. There is one character that can take a whole loaf at a go — an owl who suggests he may have information regarding a captured platoon of hares, but will only give the information in trade for some of the waybread.
  • In the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell, the Alliance forces trapped far behind Syndicate lines end up raiding rear echelon bases for supplies. They quickly discover that the only thing worse than Alliance ration bars is Syndic ration bars!
  • Andre Norton's science fiction stories often mentioned "E-rations", which had all the nutrition required for human beings but very little taste.
  • E.C. Tubb's "Dumarest" stories had a liquid high-energy food called "Basic," typically described as sickly sweet because of a large amount of glucose. It was often used when reviving a Human Popsicle, to aid quicker recovery. Nobody drank Basic if they had the time and money for real food.
  • Stephen Leacock's short story "The New Food": An entire Christmas dinner for 13 people, concentrated down into one small pill... that then gets eaten by the baby. Instant Mass Just Add Water is a plot point. A messy one.
  • Isaac Asimov's short story "C-Chute", At one point two characters eat space rations: "thoroughly synthetic, concentrated, nourishing and, somehow, unsatisfying."
  • Ray Bradbury's short story "R is for Rocket". Food-capsules (AKA concen-tabs) are provided to teenagers, and are easier to eat when your stomach is twisted up with excitement. They're specifically referred to as "pills" in the story.
  • Inverted in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. Food is plentiful in the future, so there are calorie binging pills that you take so you can eat even more.
  • In "The Running Man" by Stephen King, Richards wonders what his wife and child are eating. Some options include fake milk, fake coffee, and kelp pills.
  • William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land is one of the earliest examples of this, with food tablets as well as "dehydrated water" (!) in the far future.
  • Tomorrow Town, a short story by Kim Newman about a "community of the future" built in 1970's Britain that doesn't live up to its own hype. Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, the food pills don't work as well as they're supposed to, given that they taste like chalk and are hardly filling. By the end of the story, everyone in town is eagerly awaiting the arrival of an old-fashioned fish-and-chip van so they can have some proper food for once.
  • Robert Bloch's story "The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton" features food pills. However, they are only used as rations in situations where space is at a premium (such as space travel) rather than as a general food source for the population. Also, the monotony of eating them is one things that makes the protagonist Go Mad from the Isolation.
  • Larry Niven's Ringworld features something like food pills. The hoverbikes provided to the protagonists, when loaded up with raw organic matter, provide bars of delicious nutrients that are tailored to the tastes of various species using them.

    Live Action TV 
  • The spray can foods in Phil of the Future.
  • Parodied in a MST3K skit where the Observers sent Mike their super-advanced Food Pills. Mike assumes that they're the traditional version - one pill gives you all the essentials for a whole day. The Observers say that no, you need to eat a whole bowlful, with milk and juice and other stuff.
    • Of course, to get a full day's nutrients, the Observers must consume three or four bowls. Or maybe fifteen.
  • In an early episode of Doctor Who, the TARDIS features a vending machine device which produces food in candy-bar form that mimics the flavor and texture of real meals when eaten. It's never seen again.
    • In The Tomb of the Cybermen, Victoria is offered chicken in pill-form by an archaeologist in the distant future. She is rather more reluctant to try it.
    • In The Wheel in Space, the Doctor and Jamie, exploring a deserted spaceship, discovers a machine that dispenses cube-shaped food pills. The novelisation adds the details that the flavour isn't up to much, and the lack of visual difference between the different courses means the first cube Jamie tries turns out to be dessert.
    • In "Day of the Daleks," the 22nd Century's Earth Controller claims that food in his time is almost invariably in pill form.
  • Referenced in one episode of Stargate SG-1. Carter is working with Thor, an alien, on a new weapon. It's taking a while, so Thor offers her some food in the form of multicolored, bite-sized pieces. Carter tries one, and practically spits it right back out.
  • The original Star Trek series had the automated variant of instant food. Crew were issued cards that would summon a given pre-programmed meal from the automated kitchen, which would quickly compose the dishes from stocked foodstuffs and deliver them via a dumbwaiter system that ran parallel to the turbolifts. nextgen and onwards used replicators that would convert raw matter (i.e. rocks) into organic matrices via transporter technology.
    • Except in the episode The Trouble With Tribbles, when the Tribbles infest this system, and arrive piled on Captain Kirk's tray; one of them has even jammed itself into his drinking glass.
    • This machine is spoofed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Nutrimatic Drinks Despenser analyzes the user to decide what drink would be perfectly suited to his or her tastes and nutritional needs. However, no-one knows why it does this, since it invariably (and much to the tea-loving Arthur's irritation) produces a liquid which is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". In the movie Trillian more diplomatically says it "resembles tea".
      • In Power Rangers in Space, the Astro Megaship has the Synthetron, a machine that apparently creates any food or drink the user is thinking about. The Deltabase in Power Rangers S.P.D. has the same type of machine.
    • A similar device shows up in Megas XLR, which will create any food requested. Jamie tries to use it to create some women and money, but it doesn't work.
    • In "By Any Other Name", enemy aliens who were new to human bodies asked why the crew just didn't use food pills like they did. The crew then goes out of their way to subvert them by showing them the pleasures of eating, drinking, and other things. As to what they were eating and drinking? "It's... it's green!" (among other bright colors).
      Spock: [T]hey have taken human form and are therefore having human reaction.
      McCoy: If he keeps reacting like that, he's going to need a diet.
  • Meal bars in Babylon 5 are nutritious enough, but very much inferior in taste to "insta-heats" (which are like microwave meals that heat themselves when opened).
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century not only has food pills, there's an episode called "Planet of the Slave Girls" where Buck, Wilma, and Major Duke Denton are investigating a case of poisoned food pills that are making the people on Earth sick.
  • There is a variant in Firefly: rather than being in pill form, they are about the shape and size of bricksnote  and can feed a large family for a month.
    • Longer, if they don't like their kids very much.
  • Lost in Space. Episodes "The Hungry Sea" and "The Space Trader" had "protein pills", a complete nutritional emergency substitute for whole foods.
  • Quark had a scene or two where the crew would eat a meal ... by putting a hose to each person's mouth, through which a "pill" about the size of a fist was pneumatically rammed down their throats.
  • Referenced in Joey:
Michael: Eh. I just don’t get that excited about food, you know? If I could just take a pill once a day instead of eating, I’d be happy.
Joey: Yeah, if they do that then I get your food.
Michael: All right, then I get your pill.
Joey: Yeah, you just try to take it!
  • In the Good Eats episode, "The Once and Future Fish," Alton (portraying an old man going grocery shopping with his granddaughter (played by his real-life daughter)) observes these at the store and turns his nose up at them.
  • Fringe: Etta gives a green pill to a hungry Peter in the "The Recordist". She clarifies that it was an "apple".
  • Almost Human: episode, "straw Man", the homeless shelter are serving supplement pills that are tailored for the need of each person, it is suggested that it equate a meal when the vilain bait his victims saying that they could have a "real" meal in another shelter.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A storyline in Mandrake The Magician a couple of years ago involved a man from the future who has broken the laws of his era to travel back to the 21st century. His reason finally turns out to be that he's a gourmet, and there's no real food in his future, just bland concentrated stuff.

    Other 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Early players of the game often joked about the Create Food & Water spell making a cardboard-tasting, nutritious slop, although this wasn't specified in the spell's description. Though these jokes may explain the "Murlynd's Spoon" (Spoon of Substance in the SRD) magic item from later editions, which did create a cardboard-tasting, nutritious slop. Fortunately, the popular, common, low level, long lasting spell prestidigitation which explicitly covers "altering taste" as one of its (many) functions exists along side it, though is typically inaccessible to most casters of Create Food & Water (though items of it are inexpensive).
    • Adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had a crashed spaceship with concentrated rations such as protein stews, cero-porridges, nutrient drinks, surrogate steaks, vegetable substitutes and vita-bars.
    • The shadow elves of the Mystara setting have their own variant of this trope: edible balls of compressed fungus that are lightweight, don't spoil easily, and can sustain life if just one is eaten per day. More realistic than pills, as they're large enough to contain a day's worth of calories.
    • Adventure Masters of Eternal Night. Illithids normally eat the brains of humanoid beings (such as humans). In this module they have pills which contain the condensed food value of a human brain, which will fulfill an illithid's brain-eating requirement for a month.
  • Deadlands had a spell called "Vittles", that expressly created nutritious cardboard-flavoured slop. This could however be augmented with another spell that made anything that was even remotely edible taste like a three-star eleven course meal.
  • Food Tablets in GURPS: Ultra-Tech don't taste very good and stretch their longevity by suppressing the appetite rather than being especially filling.
  • Traveller has various forms of this. However when not pressed for space real food is naturally preferred. P.69 of the volume Far Trader deals with this.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition. The Secrets of the Surface World supplement mentions Nutrient Pills as a possible Artifact Resource. Swallowing one replaces eating a normal meal.
  • Mutant Future. Goo Tubes are filled with a nutrient-rich mush which comes in four flavors: green, red, yellow and white. No one in the post-apocalyptic world knows what the flavors were meant to duplicate. A Goo Tube is the size of a roll of quarters but can feed a man for an entire day.
  • Mongoose Publishing's Starship Troopers The Roleplaying Game had MI Field Rations. They had all the calories, nutrients and minerals needed to sustain an athletic man or woman for a single day. However, they were almost flavorless, white, chalky bars and were usually a trooper’s last choice for food.
  • Paranoia XP supplement Criminal Histories. The Vita-Yum Meal Substitute Bar Substitute Pill.
  • Fantasy Games Unlimited's Aftermath!. Super-K Rations were the ultimate in preserved nutrition. They were pastes stored in a squeeze tube that provided a full day's nutrition. However, they weren't very appetizing.
  • You might think that a far future science-fiction game like BattleTech and more specifically its RPG counterpart Mechwarrior would have these in some fashion...and you'd be right, but only so far as noting that battlefield rations exist and, apparently, another thousand years of practice haven't made them anymore palatable. The most recognizable forms resemble the Russian rations below—a canned meat stew thick with congealed fat. The somewhat less recognizable form is a hard, dry nutrient bar that is compared to a pressed sawdust brick in consistency and described not so much as food as just 'something to chew on.' The least recognizable form of 'food' is a plastic tube full of nutrient paste that is universally reviled...in exactly the same way by everyone who has to eat it. Every single time it appears, it is described in both texture and taste as 'soggy newspaper,' or 'damp cardboard,' or some synonym of wet wood product.

    Video Games 
  • The healing items in Beyond Good & Evil are all "synthetic foodstuffs," from the slab-like Starkos to the more traditionally pill-shaped K-Bups (manufactured by the aptly-named Nutripills company). However, unlike most examples of Food Pills, real food definitely exists — we just never see the characters eating it. For example, a Parody Commercial for Starkos shows them being served with guacamole, and Pey'j at one point comments that an animal reminds him of his aunt's "Chocolate-covered squid tentacles with kiwi sauce."
    • The K-Bups appear to be marketed as some variety of candy-style snack food, while Chip Cheezum and General Ironicus jokingly refer to the Starkos as wedges of pure cheese in their Let's Play.
  • Ranch Rush 2 has the antagonist trying to sell his "Wonder Food Pills". The protagonist, Sara, along with all of her non-Victor customers, insist that fresh food is best. Eventually, they team up to create jellybeans.
  • Chrono Trigger's "enertron" devices in 2300 AD. "HP and MP restored! ...but you're still hungry."
  • Red Alert 3: Paradox's Allies issue these to special forces and paratroopers as part of their retro-future theme... along with appetite suppressors.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in Futurama. Leela and a date go to a restaurant, and seem to have nothing but small tablets on their plates. Leela compliments the place for its "generous portions". Her date responds "If you liked the meal, just wait 'til you try these after dinner mints."
    • Conversed in "Proposition Infinity". After Bender is bailed out of jail, he asks how things have changed on the outside (after being there for an hour or so). "Is food finally in pill form? How about pills? Are they in food form?"
    • In "Roswell That Ends Well", Prof. Farnsworth's diner order includes a mention of "two mutton pills".
  • The Simpsons parodied this in just the opposite way; after discovering PowerSauce (an apple-based energy snack loosely based on Clif Bars), Homer decides to eat all his food in bar form. He presses 15 pounds of cooked spaghetti into a candy bar sized rectangle, takes a bite out of it... then promptly picks up the phone and calls the hospital.
    • The future episode "Holidays of Future Passed" parodies this, where Future Marge adds water to a pill... which turns into a recipe card for a cake. She then takes the ingredients out of the cupboard.
  • The Jetsons.
    • In The Movie, George has Rosie cut out part of a breakfast pill he doesn't want, and notes that the toast was burned.
    • In one Tums commercial, George gets heartburn from a chili dog pill with the works.
  • The Flintstones episode where Fred borrows from his boss and puts off paying him back parodies this, when the Flinstones family is taken into the suspiciously Jetsons-like future to show Fred how much interest will accumulate on his debt if he doesn't pay it off. When they're taken to a diner that serves food pills, Fred has two food pills thinking they were puny, then afterwards says he ate too much.
  • In the "Space Madness" episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy eat food paste from a tube. This is what sends Ren over the edge: "I need some real food!"
  • The The Fairly OddParents episode "Future Lost" had food discs (which also included drinks). Later, Timmy used the juice food discs to give brain freeze to the Big Brain.
  • Pinky and the Brain seem well fed on their food pellets (when they're not nibbling on Chumcicles). Then again, food in pellet form could be satisfying if you were a laboratory mouse.
  • Somewhat subverted in the Scooby-Doo episode "Nowhere to Hyde," when Dr. Jekyll was working on a vitamin that a person would only take once in their lifetime.
  • In a Garfield and Friends episode, Garfield falls asleep and wakes up in The Future where all food is in pill form, much to his chagrin. When he wakes up and sits down for his lunch, Jon serves him a pill on a plate causing him to run away in a panic.
    Jon: What's wrong with taking a daily vitamin tablet?
  • Ruff and Reddy are tricked by a professor into being launched into space on a fact finding mission to the moon. Inside the rocket, Reddy asks for a six-course lunch:
    Professor: You'll find everything you need on board. Hamburger pills...
    Reddy: Hamburger pills??!
    Professor: Hot dog pills, lemonade pills, and milkshake capsules.
    Reddy: What if I get a headache?
    Professor: Then you take an aspirin sandwich.
  • The second claymation short shown before the Mr. Bogus episode "Computer Intruder" had Bogus come across a container of dehydrated food tablets, along with a vial of water used for the re-hydration process. After he experiments with one of the tablets, Bogus then eats all of the tablets and drinks the entire vial of water, which causes him to become massively bloated within seconds.
  • In Time Squad, Otto and Tuddrussel's rations consist of microwaveable pellets. Plate one and nuke it for a few seconds, and it pops into a delicious full-sized meal (such as chicken cacciatore). Larry 3000 doesn't appreciate the fact that they prefer the pellets to his home cooking.
  • Briefly seen in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Future Schlock" affter Rocko and Heffer return to Earth after spending seventeen years in space (and apparently not aging the entire time).
    Heffer: I love the future.
    (adds a drop of water to a pill that instantly turns into a huge hoagie)
    Heffer: I love the future.

    Real Life 
  • Military rations are designed to be filling, easy to store, and long-lasting (Civil War-era hardtack, MREs, etc). Their taste, however, is less than palatable, but then again, beggars can't be choosers.
    • This is often debatable with modern rations like MREs; while many have gotten terrible or average reviews at best, other civilian reviewers have enjoyed their meals and found them roughly on par with commercial canned or frozen meals in terms of taste. Presumably, the top problem with modern rations is having to eat the same thing for a month straight. Of course, the Russians still feed their soldiers canned meat with half the can full of fat...
      • Because fat IS very nutritious and calorie-rich, and for a physically active man such as a soldier it isn't even nearly as harmful for health as for a modern sedentary urbanitenote , while being cheap and non-spoiling in a can. Around the world much of the traditional peasant food, created by the people who did a lot of hard physical labor, is a hearty, greasy fare. The main reason obesity runs rampant in modern society is a consequence of technology removing a lot of the hard manual labor with people largely not changing their traditional high-fat diets to fit. See also: Pemmican.
      • Referenced in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake loves the instant noodles and calorie mates that he's able to find, but he simply can't stomach the Russian rations that restore most of his stamina bar (in a game where the amount of stamina restored is related to both the taste and the calorie content of the meal). Mainly because he missed on a crucial detail: traditional Russian canned meat is supposed to be eaten hot, with the crushed biscuits or cereals added to the pot, creating a kind of a porridge/gravy. Eating it cold out of a can like luncheon meat is an acquired taste indeed.
      • Also note that in The Sixties when the game is set instant noodles were a relatively new invention, unavailable out of Japan, and actually an upscale meal, costing up to three times more than the real thing. It's a kind of an in-joke that Kojima loves.
    • The British Army went to quite a bit of trouble to avert this one a few years back when they updated their field rations, and even the previous generation weren't too bad, except for that one dessert you had to break up with a rock. Being far better than American MREs, British Army units have been known to trade boxes of ration packs to US counterparts for some of their better kit.
    • The relative quality of the MREs received a fair amount of public attention after Hurricane Katrina, when the military supplied many of them to people displaced by the storm and the subsequent flooding. That said, everybody agreed that even the worst MRE beats starving.
    • Some European soldiers returning from Afghanistan described modern canned MREs as moderately nutritious, able to be stored without refrigeration and stinky. The opened cans stink even in a temperate climate, even worse in Afghan dry-hot climate. When they finished their battlefield tour and entered a fast-food back home, they devoured the junk food like it was the best thing on Earth.
    • Australia subverts this due to influences from world war 1 and onwards due to the fact that being British cannon fodder is hungry work (General John Monash even had hot food delivered to the front line in the battle of Hamel) their ration packs contain Cadbury chocolate and are universally considered awesome.
    • The Hershey company developed a chocolate-based, low volume high calorie ration to include with the survival kit for pilots who eject from their planes. It was intentionally designed to taste bad, so no one would snack on it unless they needed to.
    • Certain armed forces personnel, most notably aircrew and certain special forces units, are issued the closest thing to a straight example that contemporary science can provide; high-glucose, caffeinated candy that can be eaten while marching. Long-distance runners and mountaineers sometimes use the same stuff.
  • Canned food originated for military purposes, as feeding an army is rather difficult. As Napoleon himself said, "An army marches on its stomach." During the first years of the Napoleonic Wars, the notable French newspaper Le Monde, prompted by the government, offered a hefty cash award of 12,000 francs to any inventor who could devise a cheap and effective method of preserving large amounts of food. Glass jars and champagne bottles were used at first but they break rather easily. So metal cans were developed.
    • Unfortunately, early cans were sealed with lead, which probably ended up killing soldiers who had survived actual combat.
    • Also, the tin opener wasn't invented until some years after the tin, so soldiers resorted to opening cans with their bayonets and the like.
  • The astronauts of the Mercury program did in fact eat their food from squeeze tubes. By the Gemini program, the victuals had been upgraded to freeze-dried food pouches and gelatin-coated bite-sized cubes. Only by Skylab did proper knife-and-fork dining finally arrive in space, aided by the invention of extra-thick, gluelike sauce all over everything (eating plain corn niblets in space remains an impossible proposition).
  • Paul Bocuse, a famous French cook, said that his brother was against Paul's wish to become a gastronomer as he expected people to feed themselves with pills by the year 2000 and thus there wouldn't remain a place for cooking. Of course, this didn't come true, but remind that his and his brother's formative years were in the 1940s and that favoring technophile solutions over subsidizing peasants in order to fundamentally fight hunger will not have been a too uncommon mindset at such a time.
  • Like the quote above stated, Jelly Belly jellybeans come in over fifty flavors, including buttered popcorn, mango, and cotton candy. Several of the special lines of flavors, especially the "Bean-Boozled" and "Bertie Botts" lines, included other flavors from the bizarre to the downright nasty, including Birthday Cake, Dog Food, Vomit, Moldy Cheese, Skunk Spray and Spaghetti. Pretty much all of them are spot-on in taste at least (though how they figured out what Skunk Spray tasted like...)
    • A lot of "taste" is actually smell in disguise. The tongue only tastes the eight basic flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, cooling, pungent, and stringent); all the nuance comes from your sense of smell contributing. So if they can get the smell right, it'll probably taste about right too.
      • More impressively, some of their beans have the flavours of fizzy beverages... and they actually fizz! This is due to inclusion of a fizzy caramel, set under the CO 2 high pressure.
  • LifeCaps, and there are probably competitors.
  • Some candy bars, like Full Dinner seemed to imply that they had the nutritional content of nutritious food, rather than just empty calories.
  • A recent article in Wired Magazine pointed out the flaws of food pills. Since the average human body needs roughly 2000 calories a day to stay alive, one would need to eat a half-pound of small pills (or a single giant half-pound) pill every day. This is because the four sources of calories (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and, yes, alcohol) are very hard to compress into a single small pill. That does not factor in the necessary vitamins you would also need to stay healthy. Finally the article's writer asked why would you want a food pill when a hamburger is so much tastier.
    • Moreover, a crucial stimulus for satiation — the cessation of hunger — comes from stretch receptors of the gastric lining and from the hormone ghrelin. Hunger centers in the human hypothalamus have to receive a signal that the stomach is physically distended before the urge to eat can switch off and the human brain has a constant unconscious awareness of the levels of fatty acids in the body. A few pills, even taken with a full glass of water, wouldn't occupy enough space to do that.
  • Food pellets for pets. Especially considering what they naturally eat, it's a wonder they can even stand it.
    • Note that food pellets manufactured for laboratory animals, like rats or rabbits, are often designed to be tasteless, so that alternative foods offered as a reward for completing experimental tasks will be more appealing.
    • Pellets are also offered as an alternative to mixes, as it ensures the animal gets all the nutrition it needs instead of picking out only the bits it likes.
  • Commercial bulk livestock feeds are like Food Pills for cattle, in every respect except compactness.
  • David Zondy's Tales of Future Past has a huge segment on Future Food, and of course Food Pills. The best page is probably the one describing an attempt to put it into practice;
    As part of a space experiment in 1965, twenty four men volunteered to be fed nothing but a food made from pure chemicals for nineteen weeks. I should say that that twenty four men started, but only fifteen finished. No, the other nine didn't starve to death. The experiment proved quite successful from a medical point of view and everyone who finished was perfectly healthy. It had more to do with the fact that the "food" wasn't even as solid a meal as a pill.
    It was syrup. Looked like weak corn syrup. Tasted like weak corn syrup.
    No wonder they had to be locked up for the duration of the experiment. One unguarded window and it was "Hello, cheeseburger!"
  • Nutraloaf is a loaf of food (of various sorts) served in solitary confinement in US prisons, as it's filling, meets basic dietary needs, and requires no utensils, meaning no improvised weapons. It's also bad enough that lawsuits have been filed against it being served in some states, on the basis that it violates the law that food cannot be used as a punishment. Though, truth to be told, it's not as bad as it is bland, and it's the blandness that drives its detractors nuts. Turns out that there's little people hate more than their food not tasting of anything in particular.
  • Sea survival food rations for use in lifeboats and liferafts are designed to be eaten once daily while surviving at sea after abandoning ship. They tend to taste very dry, but will give you the nutrition you need to get through the day.
  • Polar expeditions, in addition to MREs and other lightweight rations, sometimes pack whole sticks of butter as an easy-to-carry, concentrated source of supplemental calories.
  • In the years preceding the Second Lebanon War, the IDF went to enormous length to avert this, feeding their soldiers what many would agree can be called bona fide delicacies - they may not have been gourmet meals, but they were often quite a fair bit better than what a soldier could get at home. This came back to bite them hard during the war itself, where many of the less experienced soldiers, who were used to eating rich, delicious meals refused to eat their emergency rations or whatever they could find on the battlefield, finding them too icky. Needless to say, this was a cause for massive embarrassment (and led to the creation of the derogatory term "Milky Soldiers" note , from how supposedly the soldiers were given a cup of Milky with every second dinner), and the IDF has since come back to its senses and started feeding their frontline soldiers sensible, nutritious, filling, and moderately tasty food.
  • A lot of camping and cold-weather rations use freeze-dried meals. For campers, this reduces bulk and weight and for cold weather, a normal ration would freeze. And all that's really needed for these meals is boiling hot water, so there's little concern with food contamination since you've already sterilized the water (hopefully).
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we give you actual, honest-to-god Soylent. Not a pill, but a shake—but one that can be made with no flavor and practically the consistency of water and yet be filling.
  • Behold the Clif Shot Blok, a diminutive "fruit-flavored energy chew" that measures in at just over 6 cubic centimeters per block. A single one is said to be enough to power half an hour demanding physical exercise, and while the chews themselves are said to be tasty, they're also clearly not going to be the least bit filling (proving the trope's limitations quite nicely). They also look like Energon cubes.
  • For an alternate definition of "food", a lot of people take vitamin supplements of some sort. Obviously, it's impossible to subsist on them alone, but it's as close to Truth in Television as we've gotten so far.

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