2014 was a big year in technology; it was the year that your Grandma learned how to Snapchat and the FLOTUS learned how to Vine (about Lil Jon and turnips, no less). It was also a year of borderline-creepy robots, rampant 3-D printing, and biohacking with reckless abandon. In some ways—with locally grown organic handmade fodder reigning supreme—our food became simpler, but in others, it drifted even further away from its roots (pun intended). Here are some of our favorite stories from this year that proved that the future of food is going to be big, bright, and pretty damn weird.
Move over if you're shy around cyborgs, because robot takeover might soon make its way into your curry or cocktail. In September, contributor Jamie Fullerton visited a China eatery where cute silver androids with heart eyes greet guests, cook up fried rice and dumplings, and serve trays of their creations to hungry customers. We also discovered that Nestlé wants to use a charming 'bot to sell you a new coffee machine, and that Royal Caribbean cruises are the hot new hangout spot for robot-crafted cocktails.
If you can handle even weirder implementations of robots within the food preparation and service world, prepare to French with Thailand's robotic curry-tasting tongue, which can tell when you're telling using too much turmeric. And if you're simply seeking a catalog of nightmares, just watch this video of a robotic butcher hacking up slabs of raw chicken.
Of course, you may also want to find out how someone who loses an arm goes on to thrive as a bionic chef. You may change your mind about all things robo and decide that chirpy moving metal body parts can be our friends, too.
Or, you could delve even deeper into your paranoia by fixating on the idea of chain restaurants spying on customers through their iPad ordering services.
But there's more to "the future" than just robots—duh. (There are also flying cars, obviously.) Seriously though, old people are the first to get a taste—literally—with the 3-D printed cuisine currently making its way into German old folks' homes. And if you're not even German or octogenarian, don't fret—there is more to 3-D printed food than just fancy sugar cubes.
Finally, we hung out with a whole bunch of scientists (seriously) who taught us some pretty unbelievable stuff about making new food and improving the food we've got. Like, for example, creating superior sausages with the help of baby poop. Or finding all of the horse meat that's lurking in your frozen meatballs. Or taking that half-chomped-down Otis Spunkmeyer muffin out of your overflowing trash can and feeding it to a hungry cow instead. The more you know.
Scientists are our friends. In addition to sifting through baby shit just so that you can enjoy a better bratwurst, they also found time to prove that weed really does make food smell and taste measurably better. No word on whether this means that you should get your stoned, lazy ass off your couch or what time the pizza delivery guy should be here.
And if you're itching to cut to the truly weird stuff—the flying cars and hoverboards of the food science world—just hear this: bio-hackers are using human DNA to make vegan cheese. I don't think you're ready for this jelly. Hey, vegans! You may also want to know that in Amsterdam, researchers are making meat substitutes out of mushrooms that have been feasting on "shrimp waste"—all of those carcasses and shells and garbagey stuff that only a fungus could love. Seriously. But for the meat lovers, and particularly those in New Zealand, technicians are making steaks juicier by electrocuting them.
We know, we know. It's been a crazy year. If you need us, we'll be at our desks waiting for the next big piece of food-future news. After we finish draining this pasta in the urinal, that is.