In this modern era, food is such a mundane part of our lives that no one connects it with magick or, in many cases, even "science". But in the Mythic Ages, food was intimately connected to the cycle of life. Living beings killed for it; they ate, drank, and breathed; they defecated and urinated; and thus the Primal energy of life flowed through them. It was no more complex than that.
Various mages, including the ancestors of the Dreamspeakers, Verbena, and Ecstatics, made use of different kinds of herbs and the like to induce altered physical, mental, and spiritual states, but these practices were entirely will-driven in nature; a Sleeper who ate, drank, or breathed such things would simply be nourished or poisoned, or occasionally experience a drug-like but practically useless effect. One kind of food, in general, was as good as another or else colored by spiritual correspondences with its source--the meat of a predator, for instance, might grant strength.
It was not until the beginning of the Renaissance that anything like the scientific conception of food, water, and air began to take form. It was apparently the Craftmasons who first developed the concept that specific foods could "build" the body; the idea was then quickly taken up by the Cosians; this was the origin of the group that would one day become the Pharmacoepists. Despite the beliefs of some to the contrary, Matter is actually the third most common Sphere among the Convention, used for producing foods and drugs. In recent years, some FACADE Engineers have taken up the notion again, using special blends of nutrient to grow clones and cloned parts. The real innovators at the moment, however, are the Etherites, abetted to some degree by the Verbena, having taken over the health-food craze the Pharmacoepists accidentally touched off.
Basic Matter Effects
* The first rank of Matter can detect the chemical composition of food to determine whether it is truly edible, as well as nutrient content and probable taste. So long as the individual scanning has some basic knowledge of layman's biology and dietetics, no Life is required. Likewise, the drinkability of water and breathability of air can be determined.
** With the second rank of Matter, basic consumables can be created from raw materials. Such food is not particularly tasty or nutritious, but it serves as a reliable energy source. It typically does not contain all basic nutrients.
*** At this level, the mage can produce food with particular basic tastes (sweet, salty, etc.) and in esthetically pleasing forms and textures (such as cakes). It may resemble natural food and is sufficient for long-term consumption, but will be clearly inferior (thus accounting for the problem with Technocratic-variety rations).
**** The Adept of Matter can produce consumables of equal or better quality to natural foods, from simple salads to turkey dinners. Such food often contains all the necessary nutrients to sustain life, though it may occur in pill form among mages such as the Etherites.
***** A Master of Matter is capable of producing food that has effects beyond the normal qualities of such items. Besides fairly trivial applications such as producing unique tastes, such food may be used to temporarily boost the capacities of those who consume it. For instance, it may nourish those who eat it for long periods of time or enhance strength, endurance, or thought. Many early synthetic drugs were created by this means, though others began simply as foci.
Concentrated Nutrient Supplement (Matter 4; Life 3/4)
Initially the notion of an ingenious group of Etherites, the Concentrated Nutrient Supplement was pirated by the FACADE Engineers and now has several forms (such as carbohydrate loading and sports drinks) fully accepted among the Sleepers. CNSs contain special blends of various nutrients designed for rapid absorption to temporarily enhance performance, as in a sporting event. The Life version is utilized for Experimental CNSs that are still in the testing phase, and affects only the scientist or his subjects, while the Matter version is reserved for Conventional or sometimes Field Expedient use and produces a product anyone can use.
Ingestible Oxygenation Compound (Matter 5; Life 2/3 Prime 2)
Both the Void Engineers and the Etherites now have a version of this Procedure, though the VEs have more use for it. The compound is precisely what it sounds like: a form of oxygen that can be eaten, drunk, or taken in pill form, depending on the version. Once ingested, it provides the body with oxygen in an airless environment for a duration determined by the number of successes. Besides the obvious applications, the Progenitors who originally developed it have also put it to use in making normally anaerobic exercises aerobic, thus reducing the body's tendency to build up lactic acid and become tired. The Life and Matter versions operate as described for the CNS.
Survival Rations (Matter 2)
The last resort of hungry Void Engineers, this Procedure can be used to convert any form of organic matter into an edible compound. A combination of chemical enzyme treatments and low-energy EM radiation produce the transformation. Bland, grey, and mushy, the Survival Rations are not anything you'd want to live on, but you can for a while. While it provides basic carbohydrates and essential proteins, the food often does not contain the vitamins and minerals needed for long-term health, depending on what its original source was.
Food of the Gods (Corr 5 Life 4)
A rarely used Etherite rote, this food was briefly popularized in the 1800s by a novel of the same name. The food in question produced rapid growth to enormous size. Unfortunately, like so many other discoveries of the Sons, the Sleepers were uninterested in accepting it and its extreme vulgarity soon forced it into disuse.
Food Poisoning (Matter 4)
Few methods of killing are more coincidental than this one. Unfortunately for the Euthanatos, it makes it difficult to drive home the lesson you mean to teach, since botulism typically makes its effects known in public, or else at home when the killer is not present. Nonetheless, when an individual is nearly impossible to get at, the Chakravanti are willing to let the death itself make the point.
"Brand X" Patented Diet (Life 4)
The Progenitors and the Sons of Ether have been competing in this arena for quite some time now. These "miracle diets", usually intended to reduce weight, but occasionally meant for strength or some other effect, tend to have strongly varying success within the paradigm, briefly accepted, then discarded again. As a result of the unusual situation, even Sleepers are sometimes subjected to Paradox, which usually strikes as a form of Unbelief--Pattern Leakage makes them ill. The Inner Circle has called for a moratorium on new diets until a later date, but the Progenitors keep insisting they can make it work out. The Sons tend to lack even this minimal restraint.