A pair of M.I.T. grad students have devised the Cornucopia, a "food printer" which uses 3-D printing technology to create . . . well . . . I don't know what.
Fortunately for everyone, the Cornucopia currently exists as nothing more than a concept and some groovy renderings. There isn't a working model yet, and let us all hope there never will be. Why am I being so harsh? Because this is the worst idea (not devised by politicians) I have seen in a decade. Apparently Amit Zoran and Marcelo Coelho, the inventors of the Cornucopia, live entirely on intravenous glucose solutions or something, because they seem to have a very odd idea of what food is and what qualities are important.
Here's one thing which isn't important: the shape. People don't really care if their dinner is a fascinating 3-dimensional structure. We're all pretty much happy to eat food in whatever shape it happens to come. I can't think of the last time I started eating a steak, or chili, or spaghetti with meat sauce, or a salad, and thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be cool if this could be extruded into some kind of entertaining form, like maybe an edible Transformer figure or a Menger Sponge?" That simply doesn't happen, and I can't believe anyone else has ever had those thoughts either.
Here's something that is important: texture. Although generations of school cafeterias have tried to convince people otherwise, food should not feel like a collection of homogeneous pastes extruded and cooked. Pasta? Yes, that describes pasta. That's how pasta is manufactured. But pasta is an ingredient, and relies heavily on the characteristics of flour and eggs. You can't make all food into pasta.
And finally, cooking methods. The Cornucopia seems to do one thing: convection baking (or possibly microwave baking, it's hard to tell). If you want something fried, grilled, boiled, poached, frozen, or steamed, apparently you're out of luck. And you'd better hope the ingredients in your 3-D printed meal have baking times and temperatures that decline in neat order from bottom to top, because otherwise some parts are going to be overdone.
In short, I have to say the Cornucopia sounds like a solution desperately searching for a problem. It has inspired me, however: tonight I'm going to make something out of fresh summer ingredients and savor the textures and flavors that don't come from a nozzle.