(one of four food scenarios on the topic of food futures)

Hello and thank you so much for inviting me to your timeline. It has been - literally - a breath of fresh air for me. It's wonderful to see blue skies again and smell spring flowers… In my time the smell we know best is the sickly sweet scent of decay.

What happened? You might ask… Well, it's a long and convoluted story, without a happy ending. Most of our stories end with 'and they died soon thereafter'. Basically, uncontrolled industrial expansion has devoured everything in its reach and has at the end digested itself. It began with widespread antibiotic resistance among cattle and farm animals. The meat and dairy industries collapsed unexpectedly quickly once Heath and Safety checks were ignored. A short series of brutal wars started over access to everything from water to microbes and enzymes. What became known as the “resource wars” led to widespread malnutrition and starvation. The hunt for animal protein spread to species we previously considered inedible. Our rare delicacies include pigeon-pie, cat-and-rat stew and locust-kebabs. Consensual cannibalism is even starting to become an accepted alternative.

Most of us survive on a paltry vegan diet, with a small insect-flour-broth on occasion. Arable land is so rare that most agricultural staples are only available to the rich elites. It is impossible to survive exclusively on foods from the local environment. The majority of the population eats what the wealthy discard. When we can we splurge on synthetic food supplements, grown by underground biohackers. They are also known to occasionally provide mushrooms (though it's never sure whether they were cultivated as food or drugs). In larger cities biolabs host enzyme spas, where enthusiastic groups of people bathe in digestive enzymes and fermented juices, in the hope of staving off bacterial infections. Fermented fungi and water kefir are the only non-contaminated food available for many of us.

Tonight we serve you an example of a dish we might serve at a wedding, something rare and precious. Potato skins are hard to come by and seaweed is only available in remote areas with a healthy coastline. The chutney is made from something resembling our miniature plum tomatoes. We eat them with everything, they are responsible for saving millions from starvation. These genetically modified ultra-vitamin tomatoes were liberated from the lab and now grow wild. Some of the elite consider them an aggressive invasive across most of Europe. Yet they have spread at such a rate that they have become a staple. We don't know about long term effects of their modified genes on the human metabolism, but the starving masses cannot be dissuaded by lack of testing.

Ours is a culture of feast and famine, balancing between certain death and decadent debauchery. Our mass entertainment consists of binge & purge parties, while the elites indulge in wasteful eating of endangered species. Even though it began initially as a distraction from our despair, the party culture has been infected by death as well. One of the latest fads is “the last supper club” where the party-goers meet their death through consumption of exclusively poisonous, last specimen of a species. Wherever you turn, there is death and decay, with no hope of redemption. And then, you die.

So here I am talking to you tonight, as a living example of what might happen when your luck runs out. Is it just luck, or is there something else at play here? What are you gambling with in your time, that might blow up in your face or starve you to death? How would you deal with the hardships of my time? On which side of the divide might you find yourself?

I leave you with a toast heard at many a party in my time: I toast to surviving the collapse of food and agribusiness. Let's go down in style! To survival!

The myth of unlimited growth has become cancerous. Industrial expansion has devoured everything in reach and is now beginning to digest itself. Antibiotic resistance emerged as a major threat in this fear-driven society. After the collapse of meat and dairy production, a series of brutal resource and microbe wars led to widepsread malnutrition and starvation. The (literal) hunt for animal protein became widespread. Animals previously considered non-edible have become sought after delicacies (e.g. pigeon-pie, cat-and-rat stew, insects, etc). While most people’s diet is a paltry veganism enforced by necessity, there is an increase in insectivore and invasivore diets. Jellyfish has become a staple in coastal regions and imported inland.

The unpredictability, fragmentation, opacity and intermittent breakdown of food supply chains has led to an increased sense of urgency and misguided hoarding. Synthetic food supplements has become a hugely profitable industry. This is a culture of feast and famine, balancing between certain death and decadent debauchery. Masses are entertained in collective Binge & Purge parties, while elites indulge in decadent, wasteful eating of endangered species. Most reality TV has decended into various permutations of Hunger Games meets Master Chef. On the internet, cannibalism (voluntary or otherwise) is organised through social networks, with an alarming rise in prion diseases. Media services and the internet have become a cesspit of misinformation and greenwashing campaigns.

As short supply chains become unsustainable due to soil degradation and extreme weather, it becomes impossible to survive exclusively in a local environment. There is little or no arable land available, leading to enforced nomadism, often manifesting as plagues of human locusts (televised, of course). The militant transition towns have moved underground, cultivating mushrooms and guarding giant apocalyptic fermentation vats (the only non-contaminated food available for vast majority of population). Bathing in digestive enzymes is widely believed to replace antibiotic protection, giving rise to funky rituals.

A suicide cult known as 'The Last Supper Club' gains popularity in major metropolitan areas (with optional organ donation to Michelin star restaurants). Most of humanity is sinking into a toxic “soylent green” swamp, while a minority meets their death through consumption of exclusively poisonous last specimens of a species. Wherever you turn, there is death and decay, with no hope of redemption (and then you die).

This scenario was translated into one of the courses in a tasting menu. The collapse scenario was served as a pre-main snack:

  • Potato skins with seaweed and tomato chutney
    • Cocoa Psycho (Brewdog)

The complete food futures tasting dinner can be found on the latelab menu

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