Ever feel hungry but too lazy to cook? Hall food disappointing you? All too familiar with beans, burnt toast and fire alarms? Enter “Soylent”, a nutrition drink food substitute that you could theoretically live on. Invented in 2013 by a student of electrical engineering, the beige drink is described as not being unpleasant in flavour and is the cheapest way to obtain all your necessary nutrients at about £2.50 a meal. The creator, Robert Rhinehart, has heralded it as the future of food: more efficient and environmentally friendly than most meals you could make at home.
After a crowdfunding effort that generated over $3million, Soylent is now being mass produced. You can now purchase it online and get Soylent powder packets and separate canola oil delivered to you at home. Mix these with water and you have a full day’s worth of meals in a doughy substance that tastes like “liquid cake” according to Adam Gabbat of the Guardian who lived on Soylent for a week. Rhinehart, meanwhile, has been living off a diet of 90% Soylent for a year and a half now. The company claim they have pared down food into its essential nutrients and all of these, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, are available in the under 40 ingredients of Soylent. As you might imagine this has caused mild controversy and it has been suggested that plant chemicals have been left out of the Soylent recipe when there is some evidence to suggest they are necessary for a healthy life.
Another issue that has been brought it up is the lack of supervision to which Soylent has been held. The product has not been classed yet by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and as a consequence does not need to comply with factory regulations and inspection standards like other food. If contamination during the production process was to occur, it may go undetected until it hurts consumers. However, the recipe is all online and open to view for all. This has led many people to go ahead and produce their own “soylent” (little S as opposed to the capital S of Soylent, the brand). With over 3000 recipes the website DIY.soylent.me has every sort of recommendation you could imagine for producing your own all-nutrients-included liquid food. Taking up on the trend, an ex-drug dealer is making quite a business in the Netherlands out of “Joylent”. Joey van Koningsbruggen’s swapped bags of cocaine for bags of maltodextrin and now sells banana flavoured Joylent in Europe where Soylent is as of yet unavailable.
In addition to the pro of being able to view the recipe, the creators urge you to think of the wider landscape that Soylent fits into. All-in-one, transportable and durable sustenance has a large potential for transforming impoverished regions for the better. Imagine dropping packets of Soylent into dire areas and causing instant rejuvenation. Though this might sound like an ad for face cream, Soylent would definitely have more of a socio-economic impact than a wrinkle-smoothing one. With implications for the military and for healthcare, perhaps Rhinehart should be seen as more of as a visionary.
It is a fact we have always expected food to be drastically different in the future. From Back To The Future’s hydrated pizza imagined in 1989 to Cloud atlas’ Soap from the 2012 film, food has been constantly imagined at the forefront of lifestyle progression. No dystopian future is complete without its dystopian food and yet, we are still slicing and stewing and smoking our food much like Homo erectus. Perhaps Soylent will be the product to change all this.
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