My friend Matt Novak of Paleofuture was on CBS Sunday Morning today (here’s the video), talking about The Jetsons and what came true (or didn’t come true) in their predictions of the future. Back in 2011 I wrote a piece for the print Paleofuture about the food on the show. I don’t think the issue is still available so I figured I’d post the article here.
Meet The Jetsons
I’ve often wondered which time I’d like to live in more, the rock house and dinosaur-filled Stone Age of The Flintstones or the whiz-bang, computerized future of The Jetsons. I used to think it was The Jetsons. Flying cars! Robots! 3D TV! Moving sidewalks! Those are things that make a boy raised on science fiction magazines very excited. But if you include food? I’d have to go with The Flintstones.
In the first episode of The Jetsons (titled “Rosey The Robot” – yup, with a “y,” not an “ie”), Jane (who is 33 years old, which seems rather odd since daughter Judy is 15 – I wonder what she and George were doing in high school?) is in a panic because the Foodarackacycle, the machine that creates food at the press of a button or two, is on the blink. Coffee tastes like tea, hot fudge pizza comes out instead of scrambled eggs, and the whole thing eventually just explodes because it’s so old. They need a new one, so George has a plan to ask his boss Mr. Spacely for a raise.
Conveniently, Spacely’s wife can’t cook dinner for him that night and he longs for a home-cooked meal (which doesn’t really make sense when so much of the food appears instantly from a machine he could probably do it himself), so he invites himself to the Jetsons apartment for some home cookin’. If George can give Spacely that home-cooked meal he’ll get the raise. Rosey saves the day by making a roast out of leftovers. Spacely loves it. In fact, Rosey’s pineapple upside down cake secures George’s job and raise.
By the second episode, “A Date with Jet Screamer,” the Jetsons have a brand new Foodarackacyle. Though I’m not sure if it’s “new,” exactly. Where the one they had before was simply push button, this new one needs punch cards inserted into it. But the result is the same: instant meals that the wife (or Rosey) don’t even have to prepare. While Rosey shows that she *can* cook, she really doesn’t have to. And that’s why there’s no food joy in the future. The Jetsons shows us that it’s all push-button insta-meals and flavored pills. It’s hard to picture a man or woman cooking all day to make a Thanksgiving meal: basting the turkey every once in a while, trying to get a pie crust just right, mixing the perfect martini (the Jetsons have a machine for that too). There’s something intoxicating about a home filled with the smells of food cooking, something beautiful in the process of learning a recipe and trying to create a meal from ingredients. Something we can share and pass down to our family members and friends. In the future, it all seems to be done behind a giant gray wall filled with buttons and lights.
I haven’t watched all of the episodes of The Jetsons in quite some time, and I wonder if cookbooks are going to be a thing of the past if the food world depicted by the show ever comes to be. As it is, this Foodarackacyle contraption isn’t made very well. By the second season the Jetsons need yet another new one, which they win on a game show. Maybe Foodarackacyles, like computers, have a built-in obsolescence. Maybe in the future Foodarackacyles are made by Microsoft.
So for the food, give me The Flintstones. They might have to power their cars with their feet, but at least they have Brontasaurus ribs.