Selected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke | Study Guide

Arthur C. Clarke

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Selected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke | The Food of the Gods | Summary



The president of a synthetic food manufacturing company is giving testimony to a Senate committee at least 500 years in the future. He reveals the shocking fact that people ate meat in the past. The revelation sends one senator running to the bathroom presumably to throw up. The president then says that he is present to provide evidence against his competitor Triplanetary Food Corporation and their newest product called Ambrosia Plus.

The president's testimony explains that new food trends come and go in the synthetic food market, much like how clothing styles change each season. Advanced machinery uses basic elements to create food that resembles any of the old world's tastes as well as new ones. The appearance of Ambrosia Plus and the massive popularity it gained shocked the president and he set his company out to discover why it was the best-selling synthetic food on the market. The results were stunning. The taste was meat and not so different from many other synthetic food products. Yet the key difference was that the exact taste was human flesh.


The word "ambrosia" comes from the Greek language and means delicious food. The ancient Greeks believed that the gods on Mount Olympus ate ambrosia during heavenly feasts. The term Ambrosia Plus implies that the food in question is even more delicious than what the Greek gods ate. This implication sets up the joke that comes when the end of the story reveals that the best tasting food is people.

The revelation of Ambrosia Plus's taste acts as a commentary on the difference between technological progress and mankind's moral development. Advanced machinery ended world hunger by creating food out of basic elements. Countless species did not face extinction as a result. Yet human beings' inherent nature did not change. People still commit shocking acts such as possessing a desire to eat human flesh.

Clarke does not describe how Triplanetary Food Corporation and other synthetic food companies create their products but his story predicts a booming 21st-century industry. Companies such as Soylent sell meal-replacement drinks that laboratory scientists developed from nutrients and chemical compounds. Soylent uses plants to create their version of synthetic food but the laboratory process involved reflects what people in 1964 could imagine after reading "The Food of the Gods."

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