Many myths and folk tales describe a food that is created by gods, magic, or science to feed people in a time of need. It goes by many names: manna, ambrosia note , nectar, etc., but it is usually portrayed as a gift. It may taste like heaven, bread, or cardboard, but it is enough to keep you on your feet and doing what you need to do. In the first case, one should be wary, as it may also be highly addictive.
This trope is Older Than Feudalism, going all the way back to Greek mythology and the concept of ambrosia, although in some cases it gets mixed up with the food eaten by the gods themselves that provides them with immortality, invulnerability, and so forth.
In a Standard Fantasy Setting, priests and/or wizards may be able to conjure food; this is typically sustaining but bland. Such food may or may not follow conservation of energy. In a Science Fiction setting, Food Pills may be utilized; if not, vats or replicators may churn out gruel or paste for the masses that keeps them alive, if not necessarily happy, with "real food" available only to the privileged. The point is that the food in question comes from a "Black Box", whether it be magic or science that's involved in creating it. A typical dystopian subversion is that the food is created in an immoral or unsavory way.
- Dragon Ball: The Senzu Beans grown by Korin taste a bit bland, but in addition to healing wounds and restoring stamina, they can sate a full-grown man's hunger for ten days. Unless that man is a Saiyan.
- Downplayed in Future Boy Conan: Industria's machines can make food out of recycled plastic. This is more efficient than growing crops in the Polluted Wasteland they live in, but both the plastic and the energy to run the machines have supply issues of their own. They need Dyse's ship to scavenge the former and a solar-powered satellite to replace their finite supply of nuclear fuel.
- In Toriko, IGO President Ichiya's Full Course befitted his nature as a man who didn't regularly eat large amounts of food himself and cared more for feeding others. Each Ingredient is actually part of the process to hatch the egg of a Billion Bird, a bird with two special qualities: 1) every part of it including the feathers is edible and 2) a full grown Billion Bird is an Explosive Breeder that lays countless eggs (which immediately hatch) if scared. Ichiya prepared his Full Course for a time when humanity faced the prospect of famine since the Billion Bird's properties meant it could feed everyone easily. The only caveat is that the Billion Bird doesn't actually taste good, but fortunately the world's top chefs are skilled enough to cook delicious dishes using the Billion Birds anyway. The Billion Bird has a third special quality as well: the joy it feels at being appreciated as an Ingredient causes it to grow massive wings and take flight. During the flight it lays special golden eggs with a yolk so nutritious and delicious that Toriko decided to make it the Drink of his Full Course Menu.
- One Piece: The Cook-Cook Fruit can turn anything non-edible edible. The resulting food is nutritious, but (according to Big Mom) not very tasty.
- In the Japanese fairy tale "My Lord Bag Of Rice" (link), the hero slays a giant centipede to help a dragon princess. She rewards him with several magical items, including the eponymous bag of rice. Said bag of rice would never be empty no matter how much rice was taken from it.
- In Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth's tale "The Enchanted Quill", the youngest sister uses the crow's magic feather to wish a tasty feast into existence.
- Soylent Green: The Soylent Corporation produces cheap, nutritious food to sustain Earth's overpopulated masses. Subverted with the infamous revelation that "Soylent Green is people."
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Elven lembas bread (which got more emphasis in the original book) is featured in a scene from the Extended Edition DVD. Legolas explains to the hobbits Merry and Pippin that a single bite of lembas can fill a grown man's stomach for a day. As soon as Legolas leaves:
Merry: How many of them did you eat?
Pippin: Three. [groans]
- The Lord of the Rings: Elven lembas, or waybread, is created by a secret art, never spoils, and a single bite can sustain a person for an entire day.
- The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: Nicholas can create food very quickly with alchemy.
- In The Chronicles of Prydain, Gurgi's magical wallet provides a neverending amount of food. The food is nutritious, though Eilonwy notes that it's rather tasteless. The wallet only runs out at the end of the series, when magic itself leaves Prydain forever.
- In The Stormlight Archive Soulcasters (basically alchemy by way of magitek) can transmute many substances, and can be used to easily mass-produce grain and meat, though in keeping with the trope it's bland and unsatisfying. The process is used mainly to allow Easy Logistics for moving armies.
- Rand Al'Thor causes this a few times late in The Wheel of Time series, in accordance with his emerging role as a Messianic Archetype. With the Dark One causing massive famine throughout the world, Rand's first act after undergoing major Epiphany Therapy and a Split-Personality Merge is to visit a farmer whose apple trees have spontaneously withered to rapidly bloom and bear fruit over a matter of minutes. Later, he visits a city dependent on grain reliefs which have all spoiled, and makes it so that, by extraordinary coincidence, only the handful of bags the officials checked were spoiled, the rest are perfectly good.
- In the Left Behind series, God provides His people in Petra with daily manna during the last half of the Tribulation. Also He blesses Ezer Bornstein, a Jewish butcher, with so many animals he can make meat from that he's giving it away for free.
- The Raven Tower: The Healer God Oissen's most famous accomplishment is discovering how to create food out of the air, which he describes as using divine Reality Warping to imitate the biological processes plants use to grow and produce nutrients. It requires precise understanding of the underlying chemistry and is more difficult still to produce food that won't cause malnutrition in the long term. The first sign that Oissen isnt as benevolent as he appears is the reveal that hes been feeding slaves exclusively on certain types of his created food to study how that malnutrition develops and how it eventually kills them.
- The City of Brass: Dara regularly creates food and drink with magic, unlike most other daeva. He's not good at the spell, though, so he's limited to flavourless travel rations, his Mom's favourite recipe, and date wine. Later, he's able to channel his intense homesickness into creating a full traditional feast for an army.
- The Scholomance: The titular Wizarding School automatically generates all its cafeteria food from mana, as the place is built in a magical Pocket Dimension. It ranges from "adequate" to "nutrient slurry", but even that much takes a foundation of advanced Science Wizardry to transmute matter without destroying its nutrients.
- Star Trek Universe: The replicators can recycle matter to synthesize almost anything, including food and drinks. Several episodes have seen the crew replicate food and other provisions for people in need. While there are some complaints that replicated food is inferior to the real thing, this is one of the better examples you're likely to find in science fiction, as it can effectively create any meal you want rather than something like bland food paste.
- The Bible:
- God sent manna to feed the Israelites in their exile. Similarly to Soma, Manna's possible identity as a drug has been extensively debated.
- Elijah once encountered a widow and her son during a famine who were down to their last meal, but after they prepared a cake for him from what little they had, he promised them that their flour and oil would not run out until the drought and famine were over, and God fulfilled that promise so that even though they didn't get any more flour and oil, what little they had never ran out.
- His successor, Elisha, encountered a poor widow who was up to her eyeballs in debt and staring down the barrel of slavery. She had nothing in the house except for a small jar of olive oil. He assured her that everything would be okay, and instructed her to gather as many containers as she possibly could (and to borrow some from her neighbors, too), and pour the oil into them. She did as she was told, and God turned her meager cup of oil into several gallons' worth. Elisha then instructed her to sell the oil and use the profits to pay off her debt. Which she did, and she was able to live comfortably and not have to worry about being sold into slavery (or her children being sold into slavery).
- Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children using five loaves and two fishes. On another occasion, He fed 4000 using a few loaves of bread.
- In Finnish mythology, The Sampo is a magical mill that produces grain and salt from nothing.
- Classical Mythology: The Cornucopia is a magical horn created by Zeus (or Herakles in some versions) which is said to be able to create a never-ending supply of fruits and vegetables.
- In Norse Mythology, The beast Sæhrímnir is slaughtered every night for the feast in Valhalla, and returns to life on the morrow, thought it's not clear whether this is an intrinsic power of the creature or some magic worked upon it. In a similar story, Thor can slaughter his goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, for food and return them to life later with Mjöllnir.
- In Hinduism, especially in the earlier Vedic religion, there's a substance called "Soma", which gives the gods strength and vitality in battle. It has been discussed, at great length, whether or not it was a drug, and which drug it may have been.
- There's also "Haoma", which is the same thing, except that it's mentioned in Zoroastrian texts.
- Also, there's Amrita, which, similarly to Ambrosia, gives the gods immortality. The difference is that said immortality was actually lost, and it had to be restored. Amrita is generally considered to be a separate substance from Soma, although they are occasionally held to be synonyms.
- The Voyage of Máel Dúin: On the island of the four precious walls (obviously an otherworldly location), the voyagers are catered for by a maiden who gives them an unknown kind of food which looks like cheese, but tastes like whatever food one likes best ("whatever taste was pleasing to anyone he would find it therein").
- Dungeons & Dragons: Magic users in all editions have spells that can conjure food and water, ranging from bland travel rations to a Fancy Dinner for 100 or even Power-Up Food at higher Spell Levels. Some magic items can do this as well, and most deities have it as one of their basic powers.
- Exalted is about demigods performing miracles, so of course it has the spell, "Food from the Aerial Table"; One casting of this spell produces enough food to feed a unit of Magnitude (Essence) for one day. It's demonstrated in Keychain of Creation here. And it makes all witnesses want to learn sorcery.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, there is a Gift the Bone Gnawer tribe have called Cooking. It allows the Bone Gnawer to turn anything into bland but nutritious food. Anything.
- Ars Magica: Spell Construction rules make it relatively easy for any Hermetic Mage to create food. However, Creation magic of this type has No Ontological Inertia unless reinforced with a rare and costly form of Mana; otherwise, the food is tasty but provides no long-term nourishment.
- Assassin's Creed III: In an optional conversation, Shaun reveals that, while poking around the Grand Temple, he found machines that manufacture a bland but nutritious substance, evidently intended to keep the people of the First Civilization alive while sheltering there. He theorizes that this is the origin of the concept of ambrosia, and to the dismay of his companions, states that he tried some of it. According to him, it tastes like cardboard.
Rebecca: "You ate something that came out of a seventy five thousand year old machine?"
- Black & White: The Trope Namer is a Miracle that produces a sizeable pile of grain at low Mana cost. It's one of the most basic miracles your god can perform, and is a fairly useful way for a good god to keep their own villagers healthy and convert villages to their religion.
- Cuphead has several purchaseable items taking the form of foodstuff - for example, all the weapons appear as bottles of liquor. Then there's Chef Saltbaker and his Astral Cookie from the DLC: if a still-living person eats it, they will temporarily switch places with a ghost, allowing the latter to briefly return to life. The DLC's plot revolves around gathering the ingredients to bake a Wondertart, which can grant control of the Astral Plane itself and resurrect the dead permanently.
- Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom: When he's summoned to the city, the Kitchen God Zao Jun blesses food stores with extra resources and creates top-quality food in the homes he passes.
- Fallout: New Vegas: In the Dead Money DLC, you can find 'vending machines' which are actually matter conversion devices. These can be used to convert casino chips into food, medicine, tools or ammo.
- World of Warcraft: Mages have spells to conjure food and water, which can serve an entire party or raid group. Fittingly, some levels of the food are called "manna cakes". As with all conjured items, they disappear from your inventory after you log out, and can't be sold or mailed.
- Fangbone! has the episode The Kat of Munching where Fangbone and Bill eat fudge made from the pixels of Munchie-Kat. The fudge was supposed to give you a magical nice sweet feel and scent.
- The SCP Foundation has a number of SCPs which produce an endless supply of food. Appropriately enough, a Group of Interest called the "Manna Charitable Foundation" has attempted to exploit several of them to feed the poor.
- SCP-1176 is a sarcophagus that produces an extremely nourishing honey-like substance. This being the SCP Foundation universe, it's only after widespread distribution that they discovered it only works on those of a certain blood type, killing all the others.
- SCP-1615 is an edible fungus that causes the eater to survive via photosynthesis until a more stable food source can be found. Unlike SCP-1176, this was thoroughly tested before distribution, and the only apparent downside appears to be green discoloration of the skin of affected people. However, since photosynthesis only produces carbohydrates, nutritional supplements are necessary for maintaining long-term health.
- SCP-458 is an indestructible pizza box which, when opened, always contains the opener's favorite pizza. After extensive testing and no visible side effects, it currently resides in the site-17 canteen alongside an admonishment to not just pig out on free pizza but get some work done too.
- SCP-1689 is a sack of potatoes that never runs out of potatoes, although technically its just a portal to a gigantic extradimensional space specifically, an entire alternate Earth, and possibly beyond, filled with nothing but potatoes. An isolated Russian village has been using it as its sole food supply for over a century, leading to severe vitamin deficiencies.