There has been talk of 3D printed food for a long time. We saw meals materialized out of thin air in Star Trek. A few years ago, a beautifully designed food printer was featured on this blog, if only in an artist's impression, with the end product being a brownish drop of liquid. But when will this elusive printer finally be here, in real life? It turns out it already is.
A company called Choc Edge is offering a chocolate printer for a measly €3000. A cookie printer will be next, according to Dutch TNO food scientist Kjeld van Bommel, costing only around €300-400 in a few years' time.
Van Bommel works on 3D printed food for the elderly. Today, older people with problems swallowing or chewing have to take their food blended and through a straw. With 3D printed food, each bite can be cooked and formed to exact specifications of chewiness and tenderness, providing the elderly person with a varied meal containing different textures.
The food printer uses pureed foods like chicken or broccoli, adds gelatin and extra vitamins and prints the designated shape. Ice-cream and pastry are also possibilities. As top chef Sergio Herman had to conclude, the taste still needs a lot of work. And there are other challenges. In the picture above, we see cubic and cylindrical shapes, much like breakfast cereal. Van Bommel talks about the shape of a chicken leg or a piece of broccoli.
Why we should stick to such boring geometric shapes? Why not add a little magic and fun, and grow a bean tree with carrot flowers on your plate? A sandcastle made of mac and cheese? An ice-cream landscape with a chocolate fountain? We need Willy Wonka in here!