Have you ever noticed that in science fiction movies there always seems to be some kind of food replacement with an incredibly unappetising name? I’m not talking about the three-course meal chewing gum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because that sounded amazing, besides the unfortunate side effects.
No, I’m talking about convenient, and often flavourless, food stuff that exists purely for nutritional value and survival. Firefly had the Alliance Food Bar, Lost in Space had Protein Pills, and in an amusing parody, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had the The Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser – a device which produced a liquid that was “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”
It seems that this fantastical notion of flavourless sustenance may be stepping out of the world of science fiction and onto the supermarket shelves in the near future, thanks to Rob Rhinehart – a 24-year-old software engineer from Atlanta. Rhinehart has managed to concoct a kind of creamy beige smoothie that supposedly contains all of the nutrients that the body needs to survive. The name of this scientific breakthrough? Soylent. That’s right, as in Soylent Green, which according to the movie of the same name was made out of people. Rhinehart has pointed out that in the original book, soylent green was in fact made out of lentils and soy, but his choice of product name is still incredibly amusing.
Rhinehart came up with the idea for Soylent due to his belief that food is incredibly inefficient in comparison to other aspects of modern society. He also had the desire to live as frugally as possible and to have a healthier diet. In a recent interview with Vice he stated –
“I’d been reading a lot of books on biology and I started to think that it’s probably all the same to our cells whether it gets nutrients from a powder or a carrot.”
Rhinehart began experimenting and essentially turned his kitchen in a laboratory. Included in his concoction were –
- Macronutrients, like essential amino acids
- Carbohydrates, in the form of oligosaccharide. It’s similar to sugar, but takes longer to metabolise and therefore gives you a steady flow of energy for a longer period of time. The benefit of this is that it avoids horrible sugar crashes
- Fats. The good kind, such as olive oil and fish oil.
As bland an unappetising as the above sounds, Rhinehart has said that the taste is surprisingly good. In fact, after six weeks of consuming little more than Soylent, he is yet to grow sick of the flavour. He’s also said that the benefits of Soylent far outweigh the drawbacks if you’re prone to eating for pleasure rather than sustenance. He has saved a great deal of money on groceries, and has had more spare time due to eliminating the need to cook and prepare food everyday. Soylent also has the potential to be extremely beneficial to those with weight problems. Rhinehart stated that “I find it very easy to lose and gain precise amounts of weight by varying the proportions in my drink.”
Is the creation of Soylent the first step towards a society that eats for survival and not pleasure? In all honesty, and considering my own food obsession, probably not. However, I believe it will appeal to those wishing to cut costs and to make more efficient use of their time. Furthermore, it would be incredibly beneficial in assisting with the food shortages that are currently ravaging the world, as well as be priceless during times of natural disaster or war.
That said, until Soylent becomes a necessary part of my existence, I’m off to have a cupcake.