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In The Force Awakens, we see Rey pouring some flour-like polystarch rations into water so that the flour amazingly transforms into something that looks like bread. What are these rations? Is there any documentation of the fictional chemistry and biology that makes the starch rations behave as they do?

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    You've never heard of Smash, then...google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://… – Andrew Tice Dec 30 '15 at 11:04
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    For this question you get... a quarter portion. – Fatalize Dec 30 '15 at 13:01
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    @AndrewTice No, I have not seen smash. You may have the basis for an answer but it looks like you have to stir smash and that it is not spongy. The chemistry in the movie would create bubbly air pockets in a moist but somewhat firm matrix. Rey made spongy bread from powder and water. – CodeMed Dec 31 '15 at 3:15
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    ...but it is from outer space though! – Andrew Tice Dec 31 '15 at 3:16
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There's a pretty reasonable description of how they work in the film's two novelisations (Official / Junior);

Green slab-stuff sizzled in a makeshift cook pan. Opening the packet of beige powder, she dumped it into a tin half full of water. A brief stir activated the mixture, which promptly expanded and solidified into a loaf of something like bread. She slid the cooked meat off its pan and onto a plate, then slipped the loaf out of its container. Taking a seat, she dug into both as if she had not eaten in weeks. It seemed that these days all too many meals were like that.

and

Rey made dinner in her humble home. She opened both ration packets and dumped the green protein square into a pan on a burner. While that was cooking, she mixed the brownish flour with water in a container. The chemical reaction worked its magic and a doughy loaf rose.

“Meat and bread” was what Plutt called this packet combination, though Rey doubted it tasted anything like the real thing. She ate from a plate that she licked clean of any leftover food.

Which matches the description in the film's script

She cooks for one. Does everything for one. She opens the POWDER, moves to the makeshift WOK, where the GREEN MEAT SIZZLES. Pours the powder into milky WATER in a tin. Stirs it. It GROWS INTO A LOAF as she puts the meat on an old plate. Grabs the loaf.

enter image description here

So it's an...erm...chemical reaction. And then you get bread. Ta-da!


As to how the effect was accomplished practically, it may interest you that it wasn't actually CGI.

Chris [Corbould - SFX Supervisor]: We had a little bowl of liquid. At the bottom of that bowl you had a bread molded inflatable bladder. And as we inflated that, we sucked all the liquid out. So that as that was coming up, the liquid was disappearing by using a vacuum dump. A very simple procedure, but quite effective.

  • Thank you and +1 for doing a bit of research. I think that the question is how they describe how to make an edible sponge from powder and water. There would have to be a starchy matrix which separates bubbles that create pockets from water that would get locked into moist walls for the air pockets. – CodeMed Dec 31 '15 at 3:28
  • @CodeMed - well, if one assumes a chemical that reacts with water to produce heat (which does exist), and is also edible or non-toxic (which might not), it may be possible. There are hot-water doughs, flour and salt mixed with boiling water and then baked. So, flour and mix-ins, plus our mythical chemical, and perhaps a temperature-hardy leavener, in the powder. It would be well mixed with water, which would heat to boiling (to form the dough), then continue to produce enough heat to bake it. Probably more stirring than the movie, less well shaped, and poor texture - but perhaps possible. – Megha Dec 31 '15 at 8:03
  • Ah well, that's polystarch for you. I feel like it's the sort of thing you learn in primary school in the Star Wars universe, then never need to mention again. – Valorum Dec 31 '15 at 9:52
  • I sense that this is as good an answer as we can hope for. I will therefore mark it as accepted in the absence of the type of documentation that may not exist. – CodeMed Dec 31 '15 at 12:52
  • After the latest update to my answer, I'm tempted to start campaigning for a change in acceptance. Would you shoot me if I did? :-) – Rand al'Thor Jan 16 '16 at 0:16
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Who says it's fictional chemistry and biology?

According to this page by the food experts at http://www.realfoodrealkitchens.com (emphasis mine):

there was one scene where she puts a few drops of water in to a tray and bread instantly rises. Is this possible? Well from what I could find yes and no. With the heavy military context of the entire underlying story of the Star Wars franchise, it would only make sense that 'regular' people might eat military styled ration packs. And in military styled rations there does exist a simple bread called Hardtack that is made from just water, flour, and sometimes salt. Is this what 'Rey' was eating? The more modern version of Hardtack is something I eat all the time with cheese, it's called a 'water biscuit', think of the British crackers made by Carr's.

They even include a recipe for water crackers further down on the same page!

UPDATE

A recent news article has confirmed that the chemistry used to make Rey's bread was definitely real, not CGI as many believed. Quoting from the article (emphasis mine):

“Surprisingly that was done practically, although so many people have said to me, ’we thought that was a digital effect!'” [special effects supervisor Chris] Corbould said.

The idea for the bread came from director J.J. Abrams himself, and it was actually a huge task considering that you only see it on screen for three or four seconds.

“You wouldn’t believe how long it took to actually perfect that one, that little tiny gag in the film,” Corbould said. “It started off with the mechanics of getting the bread to rise and the liquid to disappear, but then there was the ongoing problem of what color should the bread be? What consistency should it be? Should it have cracks in it? Should it not have cracks in it?”

“It took about three months,” he added. “The actual mechanics of it was fairly simple, but the actual cosmetic side took a lot longer.”

But in case you’re one of those people clamoring for a home version of Rey’s food portions, don’t get too excited — the bread might have been a real practical effect, but it also tasted terrible and probably had next to no real nutritional value.

“No, you wouldn’t want to eat it!” Corbould admitted.

In-universe, here's a picture of the description found in the (canonical) TFA Visual Dictionary:

TFAVD

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    I just wish to point out, water biscuits are nothing like hard tack, we do not really have a modern analog of hard tack. Hard tack is essentially inedible without something to soften it, while all crackers and biscuits on the market today that are commonly said approximate hard tack do not need to be eaten with moisture however unpleasant it may be. You cannot really chew real hard tack without moisture, coffee probably preferred. – Escoce Dec 30 '15 at 15:04
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    This answer is not satisfying. Hard tack does not emerge into soft spongy rolls that might even have tasty yeast flavors like in the movie. And I got the sense that the recipe in the link was for kids and not realistic enough in recreating the movie to satisfy adults. Am I misunderstanding? – CodeMed Dec 31 '15 at 2:54
  • @CodeMed Please see the latest edit - I think I've improved this answer a lot. Still mainly out-of-universe, but with a little bit at the end about the in-universe background. – Rand al'Thor Jan 16 '16 at 0:13
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    "...the chemistry used to make Rey's bread was definitely real" The linked article doesn't support the notion that it was a chemical effect. I'm pretty sure the practical effect was to open a valve to let the water drain off, while inflating a plastic/rubber prop which had been hidden by the conveniently opaque water. – Kenster Jan 16 '16 at 0:24
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    @Kenster - You are absolutely 100% correct. +1 – Valorum Jan 17 '16 at 12:43

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