“Soylent” is the name of a powder that you mix with water to make a bland, thick, beige liquid. Its manufacturers say people can live on it indefinitely — it contains all the nutrients anyone needs. Many people are repulsed at the idea of Soylent. But Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson describes three reasons people are drawn to it:
- Some see it as a convenience, not replacing every meal but replacing some or many meals.
- Some people are intimidated by the very thought of cooking. These people are overwhelmed at the prospect of even browning meat.
- Some people have problems with food, such as the prototypical 40ish guy who doesn’t exercise and lives on fried food, salty snacks, and candy.
Here we’re going to talk about how the final mass-produced Soylent product fits into my life, without any stunts or multi-day binges. More importantly, we’re going to take a look at exactly what might drive someone in the most food-saturated culture in the world to bypass thousands of healthy, normal, human-food meal choices in favor of nutritive goop. It’s something a lot of folks simply can’t seem to wrap their heads around. Today it’s relatively easy to make a healthy meal, so why in the hell would anyone pour Soylent down their throat?
But if you’re asking that question and genuinely can’t see an answer, then you’re demonstrating both a profound over-projection of your own cultural norms and also a stunning lack of empathy. Food is for some people a genuine struggle. Just because many in the first world have the ability to go to a grocery store and stock up on healthy stuff doesn’t mean it’s easy, or even possible, for everyone. Blithely dismissing someone’s inability to whip up a healthy meal by tossing off a condescending “Soylent? Gross! You don’t need that! Just go cook something quick and healthy!” can be about as wrongheaded and insensitive as telling an alcoholic that they could fix all their problems by just drinking less or telling a clinically depressed person that they’d feel better if they’d just stop moping and cheer up.
The convenience argument seems to me to be weakest. I just had my usual breakfast: Fresh fruit salad with cottage cheese and cinnamon, along with a glass of Spicy V8. For lunch I usually have a frozen meal from Eating Right or some other healthier brand. I eat a lot of veggie burgers and deli sandwiches for dinner, along with the occasional delivery pizza or take-out Mediterranean. That is pretty damn convenient. And while I can brown meat, that’s about as far as my cooking skilz go.
While I’m not going to get all judgy on Soylent-lovers, I really don’t see a need for it, other than specialized niche product, such as feeding refugees or victims of natural disasters.