Wednesday, 11 September 2019


Hello, humans. We need to have a talk about food.

I’ve noticed that the stuff is ubiquitous here. Everywhere I go, there are restaurants, cafés, ice cream stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, snack vans, vending machines, overpriced junk food kiosks at cinemas, pub lunches and charity dinners. I mean, fair enough, you need it to survive. But you seem to treat it with blasé contempt, and you reserve your aesthetic reverence for fine art, architecture, literature — and, depressingly often, TV celebrities.

You will probably be unaware that, in my original form, I have at least a thousand different types of taste receptor in my mouth (almost half of which are not even on my tongue). So I think I’m in quite a good position to enjoy the subtle nuances of cuisine. When I first arrived on Earth, I was astonished at how strange the food tasted. Then I realised that I was picking up a lot of variations that seemed undetectable to the human palate. Since then, things have improved a little. Through certain meditation practices I learned in my youth, I’m now able to ignore those variations and experience an approximation of the rather blunt appreciation that is the sorry fate of the average person. I’ve long considered my evening meal an art form, and I like to prepare it with assiduity, though I don’t always get a chance, due to my numerous projects.

So, my sense of taste is one of my most treasured assets. And here’s the thing. I really need it. Or at least, I did.

On the planet where I grew up, roughly 70% of all the ostensibly-edible plants and animals are actually toxic to my species – often fatally so. We have evolved probably the most sophisticated chemical senses in the galaxy as a result, and most of them work pretty much perfectly, even in young children: it’s instinctual. Without this adaptation, we’d all die before we could even open our eyes. Yes, we eat from birth: there are no mammalian traits such as lactation on my home world. Sucking sustenance from another begin? Where I come from, that’s called parasitism. The very idea! Yes, I know you evolved that way, and I know you get all sorts of other stuff from it like immunological molecules, although I’ve never quite been able to work out why you can’t just have those retrofitted, as we do.

Naturally, when I came to Earth and modified my body to pass for human, I tried to leave as many olfactory and gustatory systems wired up as possible. It was tricky to calibrate them to work with the human form, and I kept spitting out my food in restaurants in disgust because I’d got the wires crossed and it tasted like oomizagong poop. Actually, that still happens to me sometimes in certain fast food chains, though I admit I’m not entirely sure whether it’s my calibration that’s at fault in those cases, or whether their food genuinely does taste as if it’s been through the intestinal tract of a particularly gluttonous mud-eating herd animal. Perhaps I’ll never know, unless I actually persuade one of you curious monkeys to accompany me across the galaxy for a comparison test. Any volunteers?

I was going to rant on at length here about how in some parts of your world food has become a new drug; how its supply has devastated vast areas and caused ecological issues; how you’ve trivialised its acquisition to the extent that you’ve forgotten its origins… but I think you know all that already.

So I’ll just leave you with this final thought.

There’s another thing on this planet that needs fuel to run, that has to stop and fill up with it — and this fuel is everywhere, and it’s mundane, and taken for granted, and costs a lot of money, and damages the environment. You know what I’m talking about. Come on, humanity, add some finesse to your food — because surely you can do better than your cars!