How one grape opened up a world of futuristic food
FutureFest was not just about the future of art, business and society. It also covered the future of food. What did Samuel Fry discover when he entered the Gastrodome?
I was sat in The Hub during last week’s FutureFest, when I found myself being approached by someone with a tray full of small plastic containers. It was Sunday afternoon and the theme for the room was the Gastrodome: a tour d’horizon of the future of food. As an audience, we had been promised that this room would be full of food that related to other future trends in fashion, technology, globalisation, climate, environment and society.
“What am I about to be offered?” I wondered. Will this be space food? Or, food with a microchip that tracks its way through my body? Or, could it even be the burger generated in a lab that I have recently been reading all about. My mind was racing and my taste-buds excited. So, I reached forward my hand, ready to see what was on offer. Clutching the small plastic container, I began to laugh. Here I was, expecting food that would stretch my mind beyond anything that I could image eating. What did I get? I got a grape.
Let me be clear, this wasn’t a bunch of grapes. This was one grape, isolated in its own circular container. Around me, others seemed to be chuckling too. I assume they had been expecting the same level of wonder. We were all left bemused.
I removed the lid and picked up the grape. “Surely, this can’t just be a grape. Could it?” I thought to myself. Holding it between my thumb and index finger I lifted it to my nose and gave it a sniff. I started to believe that I could smell something different, something sweet-like perhaps. Unsure whether I was simply hoping for a smell that made this grape special or whether it indeed did smell like a sugary sweet, I popped it into my mouth and bit down.
Piercing through its skin, an intensely sour and flavoursome zest flowed into my mouth. My eyes pushed forward as my tongue was confronted by a taste that it didn’t expect. This was no ordinary grape, this was the most amazing grape that I had ever tasted!
For some reason, this whole experience reminded me of something that I had been told at university. I had been in a lecture, learning about poetry, when the lecturer asked whether anyone knew why there was so much white space around the poem that we were reading. We didn’t. He made the point that, in theory at least, a much larger proportion of the page could be allocated to the text; the editor could have fit multiple poems on the page or even made the font size much bigger. This would have saved paper and printing costs without making the experience of reading a poem any more difficult.
Despite the opportunity to save on paper, the editor had decided that these poems would have large margins around them. By doing so, he was making a statement about the text on the page. This text was not just filler – it was the opposite. This text was so notable, so strong, that it justified the amount of white space on the page. The poem was worth the empty space.
I felt the same about this grape as that lecture did about that poem. This grape was a single grape, alone in a container much bigger than it needed. However, by placing it in that container, the producer had drawn attention to its worth. I was not wrong to expect something special in this grape; the producer had already suggested that it was special.
The Gastrodome was full of companies exploring the future of food, including: Morgaine Gaye, Charles Spence, Ento, Blanch and Shock, Curios Confectioner and Andrew Stellitano. Each one developing food that could signify eating trends of the future. With today’s over-indulgent eating culture, it would be easy to create a food type that plays on the all-you-can-eat philosophy. Yet, I hope tomorrow’s future will be about tailor made food: quality, not quantity. As, trust me, this grape was quality.
What do you think will be the future of food? Join in the debate by tweeting me @samueljfry #FutureFood
Sam is currently the Director of Create Hub. He is also the Development and Events Manager at Cockpit Arts. In the past, Sam has been the South West Regional Ambassador at Virgin Media Pioneers and part of the Creative Economy team at Nesta. Prior to this, Sam was the Enterprise Consultant at University of Bristol where he managed his team to win a series of national awards.