In the future, the peckish will simply click "print." At least that's what scientists predict. NASA is cooking up a 3-D printer that will spit out a rotating selection of space food.
Apparently the idea is to store shelf-stable nutrients (perhaps ground down from bugs) and recombine them into full-scale meals, much the way the desktop printer draws on cyan/magenta/yellow/key to produce full-color menus.
Interesting, if not appetizing.
Actually, 3-D printers already extrude food, sort of. Instead of threading the usual coil of colored plastic through the machine, it's possible to feed in chocolate or bread dough, yielding chocolate or bread-dough shapes.
Nice. Though not useful. Or novel. I've already got a contraption that squeezes dough from blob to strand. It's called a pasta machine. It works here and now, no need for the time-travel attachment.
Angel hair pasta
Prep: 30 minutes
Rest: 45 minutes
Cook: 1 minute
1/2 cup flour
1 pinch salt
Mix: Heap flour on a work surface. Scoop out a well in the center. Whisk together egg and salt; pour into the well. With fingers or fork, pull flour into egg, achieving a ragged dough.
Knead: Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Pat into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic and let rest, 45 minutes.
Roll: Pass the dough through the widest roller setting of a pasta machine. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Pass an open end through the widest setting again. Repeat several times, smoothing dough. Now stop down the settings, passing the dough once through each, without folding, letting it stretch. Work to the next-to-thinnest setting.
Slice: Dust dough lightly with flour. Pass through the machine's angel-hair attachment, slicing it into fine ribbons. Lacking attachment, roll up the dough into a cylinder and slice crosswise with a sharp knife into fine strands.
Dry: Pick up the heap of noodles and curl into a little nest. Let dry, 15 minutes or more.
Melt: Melt some butter in a skillet. Keep warm.
Boil: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Nestle nest into a strainer basket. Lower into the water and boil tender, less than 1 minute. Lift basket, letting water drain away. Drop noodles into the buttery skillet. Toss with tongs. Heap onto a plate. Shower with cheese. Enjoy in three or more dimensions.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.