A model of the USS Enterprise.
Grzegorz Czapski/Shutterstock.com

It’s always hard to watch cooking shows when you don’t have a snack, because you wish you could be eating what you’re watching on screen. This feeling is even worse when viewing an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they’re using that most convenient of fake inventions: the food replicator.

Your deliriously hungry brain gets ahead of itself and starts dreaming about how wonderful it would be to press a button and have literally any food tadaaa’d within seconds.

This is the area where sci-fi plagues us: You look around and go, “How come I don’t have that? Where’s my food replicator?” And then your Keurig looks back at you as if to say, “This is the best we could do.”

We Were Promised…

It’s probably the device in many kitchens that’s the closest we’ve come to a food replicator, because you put down a weird pod and have some form of sustenance within seconds that marginally resembles Picard uttering, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”

The microwave is obviously a close second, but as much as microwaves resemble food replicators, they’re really just heating up food that you had to grab from elsewhere. Might as well just eat some fresh fruit from the fridge if you’re going to put in that kind of effort.

No matter what smart kitchen device you may have, nothing comes close to the replicator, and one begins to feel let down by the promise of the future. This is why “We were promised” is such a popular meme, because we were promised many things: flying cars, jetpacks, robot maids, world peace, etc.

Our flying cars are barely getting off the ground (or they’re, you know, planes). Our jetpacks are mostly used by one guy during halftime shows, and the robot maids are little more than thick frisbees with wheels scaring the dog.

We were promised replicators, and all we got is a futuristic-looking coffee maker and a bunch of empty pods clogging up the garbage. 3D food printers are a thing, but barely. Perhaps it’s all for the better.

Too Fast Food?

Having instant access to literally any food you can think of is a potential disaster. It always amazed me that the Enterprise managed to function with a food replicator onboard. In a more accurate future, it would resemble the space cruise in Wall-E. You’d see a 300-pound Picard and Riker feasting at that magic box while unaware of the Klingons firing on the ship.

Even the most advanced smart kitchens out there still require you to actually prepare the food yourself. It’s always better when food has to be earned. If it’s not through hunting and scavenging, a trip to the grocery store will suffice.

You should have to expel a little effort and time in order to gain a meal, even if you’re pressing an “Order Again” pizza button on your phone.

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Chason Gordon is a staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He currently lives in San Antonio, but is on a month-to-month lease.
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