Which would you rather eat first? I'm assuming you have a choice of either because there's a chef in the crew deck... or he's just cooking replicated ingredients...
I prefer cooked fresh food (I think they're called "A" rations in the military). True the stuff can be expensive and you have to store it in special conditions to keep it fresh. But it tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the replicated stuff which I hear is bland. I believe there is a DS9 episode that tells us this... the quality of the Klingon Restaurant's food went down due to a supply blockade and the establishment being forced to use replicaters as a result...
So I'm sure Captain Archer had the right idea when he was given the choice between replicated and fresh cooked food.
Well let me put it this way. I can get behind the idea of a replicated salami, or replicated cheese, and to some extent even replicated bread. I think such bread would be better though, if it were made from replicated eggs and flour and whatever else goes into bread. Yeast might be impossible to replicate tho, while the rising action of yeast might be created through artificial means.
To that end, cheese, and bread, might not be possible to make solely from replicated materials, since both require the actions of micro organisms.
But think about it this way. When you go to the store, you buy bread, and cheese, and meat, and you come home and make a sandwich. That sandwich is usually less expensive, and better tasting, than if you bought the exact same ingredients prepackaged from the store as a pre-made sandwich.
While the replicated sandwich would be just as fresh, technically probably fresher than a sandwich made of replicated components, there is a certain.. value.. to the minor variations present in food that has been assembled.
The example I give is when you go to Burger King, McDonald's, or wherever. Even though the materials haven't changed.. even the quantities of the ingredients are unlikely to change significantly, some times, depending on who's working, how hot the grill is, how much they've pre-cooked vs how fresh the burger is, sometimes you get a really good Big Mac, sometimes it's not so good.
From a replicator, every single salami and cheese sandwich would be exactly identical. Now, it might in fact be the greatest, tastiest salami and cheese sandwich that was ever created.. but that lack of variation would eventually get boring.
I think I'd prefer, that if I had to choose between a sandwich made by machines, or a sandwich made by a skilled human using ingredients made by a machine, the latter would be preferable.
At least to me.
Also if I was building a replicator, I would intentionally program in randomized material variances, so that some salami might come out more fatty, while other salami might come out with more spices, etc.
A good part of it is psychological. Knowing something has been totally replicated, would thus automatically make it seem like it isn't as good, compared to how 'mom used to make it' so to speak.
Even if you replicated all the seperate parts, then cooked them together, at least then you'd still be having it made.
Like the sandwich, if you just said, 'computer, ham sandwich with American cheese and mayonnaise' to which it suddenly appeared, it would be your sandwich. But...if you said, 'computer, two slices of bread, mayonnaise, American cheese, and four slices of ham', then physically put the sandwich how you want it, would probably make it taste better.
For simple things, like Janeway's coffee, Picard's tea, and Sisko's raktajino it is pretty much that...being a Starfleet captain makes you a caffeine addict.
But really, simpler items, something often drank or ate, you might not notice any difference as much.
Also, for at least Starfleet-side, there's that whole thing of 'not killing animals' thing, so if you want meat, you'd really have to have a replicated steak or whatever, heck, Franklin Drake even mentions that in the Devidian missions.
I always figured a replicator was filled with molecular scans of dishes. One or several people on Earth (or wherever) cooked macaroni and cheese, a couple dozen or hundred times. Each time they scanned the final product, and then tested it. Not just for taste either. Whichever they deemed best, goes into the replicator library.
As such I never bought the 'bland' line. I find it unimaginable that technology that's almost capable of disassembling and putting back together complete lifeforms, would miss salt and seasonings. The problem, I think, would be that there's limited storage space. So you only have the one molecular scan per dish. If three people replicate macaroni and cheese, they each get the exact same plate, with the exact same number of macaroni pieces, piled up in exactly the same shapes and orientations, and tasting exactly the same. This means, if you eat the same replicated dish a bunch of time, it starts tasting too familiar. Impossibly familiar. Boring. To the point where some might prefer a badly home-burnt steak every once in a while, carcinogens and all, to that same perfectly prepared steak some local San Francisco chefs picked out of hundreds half a century ago, and got vetted by starfleet medical before being added to the menu.
So basically, the trick to replicators is to never eat the same thing twice. Or do the replicated components thing, as at least you'd do some things different during the preparation every time. Me, I'm lazy. I can live with familiar.
I'm used to living on 'c-rations' or even basic food supplies (gruel, etc) in emergency situations IRL and having simple requirements means I can associate very well with the rank and file. Replicated cuisine is actually very, very good in my book as you can have just about anything you please without complications in supply lines, food preparation etc.
I'm also not going to whine away if I have to be deployed in a warzone and live on Starfleet standard rations or endless loads of replicated stuff. The troops eat the same and we fight for the same cause.
Realistically speaking a combat vessel in STO (especially a small one like "patcom" or defiant) is not going to have a lot of fresh provisions on board, if any. Since we play Admirals/Captains in STO, I'm going to state that if the officers and crew in my command are subsisting on rations during their tour of duty, then so am I.
STF Flight Instructor since Early 2012. Newbies are the reason why STO lives and breathes today. Do not discriminate.