In "By Any Other Name," after the Kelvans have "distilled" nearly the entire crew, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty are eating in the dining hall, when a Kelvan walks in. On their plates appear to be colored rocks. What kind of food is this supposed to be?enter image description here

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    If you look really close up in the picture, some of it quite resembles pieces of fruit....not the bright blue stuff -- in front of McCoy, for example, is a light green curved thing that looks like a wedge of green apple :-) This is just appearance, though, not a canonical answer...
    – Basya
    Sep 19, 2017 at 11:19
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    I seem to recall other episodes in TOS making reference to "food cubes" (perhaps not while people are actually eating them.) The idea I was left with was that these colourful cubes are some kind of "futuristic" MREs - manufactures cubes of food that contain required nutrients and so on. (Apparently replicators and/or food patterns improved by the time of TNG since I don't recall people using food cubes in the later series.)
    – Steve-O
    Sep 19, 2017 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


The episode's novelisation merely describes the cubes as 'food'. In the absence of any other description, we can reasonably assume that they're just synthesised 'bulk' matter laced with nice tasting chemicals and vitamins. The black/grey slab on their plates is described as 'meat'.

Note that they appear in other episodes, again simply described as food.

Sickbay was deserted. Kirk found Scott, McCoy and Spock picking at food at a table in the recreation room. Getting himself a tray, he joined them. “Reports, gentlemen?”

Star Trek 6: James Blish


Kirk made a quick silencing gesture. Tomar had come in, and was now approaching them, staring curiously at their trays.

“I do not understand,” he said, “why you go to the trouble of consuming this bulk material to sustain yourselves.” He pulled a flat pillbox from a pocket and opened it. “These contain all the required nutritional elements.”

“Not for human forms,” McCoy said. “Bulk is necessary to our digestive systems, and there’s a limit to the amount of energy that can be crammed into a pill, too. Perhaps you haven’t been in human form long enough to find just pills debilitating, but you will-you will.”

Star Trek 6: James Blish

  • Also gotta remember, this was before the TNG/24th century days with replicators and holodecks. Thus it stands to reason they had to store/cook edible food in other ways for human consumption. Look at how our astronauts in the ISS store and consume food/drink. Granted Enterprise is much further along technologically, but they still hadn't mastered a way to keep food from spoiling yet over long distances, let alone manipulating photons to solid forms. Aug 27, 2018 at 19:09
  • @MissouriSpartan - At this point they had 'food synthesisers' as well as chefs on board.
    – Valorum
    Aug 27, 2018 at 19:12
  • Yes, but as clearly seen, they couldn't entirely synthesize full-blown steak/potato meals. Rather the chefs made due with what food items could be taken on long-distance space-borne voyages, and synthesizers could only produce the "bulk" as described/seen above. Aug 27, 2018 at 19:14
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    @MissouriSpartan Just because this one meal is a certain type of food, that doesn't mean that's the only type of food they can produce. I had a sandwich for lunch, but that doesn't mean I only eat sandwiches. (Okay I do, but that's beside the point.) Aug 27, 2018 at 19:27
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    @Danny3414 - Grilled tribble cubes.
    – Valorum
    Mar 2, 2019 at 7:54

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