Food cubes: New or old?

In some science fiction, we will be eating cubes of food that are nutritionally complete but not very tasty. But are food cubes really a new thing? Or an old thing?

I will now try to clarify the concept. One can make food cubes by cutting some larger food item into cubes, but that is rather trivial. What is more interesting is some food item that can be given a cube shape as it is made. If it can be given such a shape, then it can be given other shapes, and we may more generally talk about shapeable foods.

The first known shapeable food was likely bread. Middle Easterners domesticated wheat around 11,000 years ago, and grinding stones are not much younger. This means that they were making flour, and likely also making bread from the flour. The first breads were likely unleavened breads or flatbreads, with leavened kinds following later. There are now numerous kinds of breads and breadlike foods, including crackers, biscuits, pretzels, cookies, pancakes, piecrust, cakes, and pasta, and breads have been made from other grains, like rye and American corn.

The next one is cheese. It was likely invented as a way of making milk edible and storable, and cheese-making tools go back 7,500 years. Some domestic animals are conveniently milkable, like bovines, water buffalo, sheep, goats, horses, and donkeys, and bovines, sheep, and goats had been domesticated not long after the domestication of wheat.

Advancing into recorded history, we find that tofu, soybean curd, was invented in China about 2,000 years ago. Advancing further to the Industrial Revolution, we find the invention of a variety of candies, like chocolates, and also gelatin desserts like Jell-O.

Most recently, Quorn have been developed. It is made from the mycelium of a soil fungus grown in a vat — that’s the strands that make up a fungus’s “body”. That may seem unappetizing, but there is a commonly-eaten fungus part. Mushrooms, which are the fruiting bodies of various fungi.

So it’s completely feasible with present-day technology to create nutritionally-complete food cubes. Start with cheese or tofu or gelatin or Quorn and fortify it with missing nutrients like vitamins.

But they don’t seem to be very popular, and I’ve yet to see anyone advertise their nutritionally-complete food-cube recipes.


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