Do you remember the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka introduces some three-course-meal gum, which gives the chewer the flavor experience of eating a full meal without any of the actual food (or the calories)? It seems that science has come up with a Wonka-like gadget that delivers the flavor of chocolate at the touch of a button – without the user ingesting a single calorie. The device, called Le Whif, is an inhaler that delivers a burst of flavored air, created using a flavored powder, to the user. It comes in plain chocolate, as well as in raspberry chocolate, mint chocolate and mango chocolate, and will be sold starting at the end of April.
The inventors speculate that they could move from these simple flavors to more complex ones – three course meals, a la Willy Wonka – in the near future.
I tend to think that these gadgets, while they may be satisfyingly novel, aren’t going to replace real food any time soon. This is partly because we do still need to eat to survive, but also because feel and texture are a huge part of eating and deriving satisfaction from food. A “whif” might taste like chocolate, but there is no way it is going to feel like cococa butter smoothly melting on the tongue.