“The End of Food” - that’s the name of the essay in May issue of New Yorker, describing Soylent, a food replacement beverage. Rob Rhinehart created Soylent, while working on another project, after getting frustrated with spending way too much money on food.
Solution? Order the basic macronutrients off the internet – lipids (fat) from the canola oil, carbohydrates from maltodextrin and oat flour, mix in some fish oil and protein powder, and voila! Result is smooth, bland, doughy liquid with yellow tint. The food of the future. Light some candles, dinner is served!
Rhinehart argues for separating meals for the sake of utility and for the sake of pleasure. According to him, Soylent would not replace the Sunday potlucks, but rather the frozen TV dinners.
Why stop there?
Soylent would take decision-making out of the picture, that’s for sure. And for some, that would be a blessing, indeed.
Possible solution to weight loss?
Hello, Slimfast, Optifast, Muscle Milk, and every other liquid meal replacement offering out there. A typical shake has 200 to 300 calories, resulting in overall calorie reduction. (You didn’t actually think it was the magic ingredients in the shake, did you?)
Possible solution to emotional eating and/or binging?
There is plenty of evidence suggesting that more choices lead to greater consumption. Hence, the stuffed “kill-me-now” feeling many report after visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet. Humans are drawn to variety. There is only so much mashed potatoes you can eat. However, there is always space for ice cream.
No more obsessing about a perfect meal. No more stressing about calories. And an extra glass of Soylent hardly has the same appeal as a box of cookies, no matter how stressful your day has been.
There definitely seems to be demand. The initial goal of raising hundred thousand dollars in a month was accomplished in the first two hours of running the campaign. There must be a lot of non-discriminating palates out there.
A large fan base continues to experiment with the recipe posted online, now offering a plethora of options, varying from Cinnamon Manly Food Bar to Scrawny White Boy Mix. Perhaps, predictably, fans tend to be male.
Apart from the obvious violation of the food gestalt (the concept that the whole carrot is greater than the sum of the individual parts of a carrot), Soylent seems like the ultimate life hack.
Here’s a little quiz. Rate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:
You often forget to eat.
When you do remember to eat, it’s often on the go. In fact, you kind of resent having to eat at all. It seems like such a hassle.
You can pretty much eat anything.
You think that a $50 steak tastes pretty good, but then again, so does a $20 steak, and so does a street hotdog.
You do not understand why some people insist on making bread from scratch, when you can purchase a loaf of Wonder Bread for 99 cents.
You are perfectly content eating the same thing every day. In fact, you’ve had two fried eggs and toast for breakfast for the past five years. Did you nod in agreement to most of the above? In that case, my dear efficiency junkie, Soylent may, indeed, be your “food of the future”. Hey, you save time, money, and cognitive energy. Win-win. (Un?)fortunately, not a single one of the above statements applies to yours truly. So I guess I’ll stick with my lipids from avocado, and carbohydrates from sweet potatoes. Not the most technologically advanced approach, perhaps. But in this particular toss-up between utility and pleasure, I pick pleasure. Hands down. Hedonistically yours, Solo