Soylent is cheap, beige and asks a compelling question on its website: “What if you never had to think about food again?”
It is intended to be a liquid meal-replacement by the original creator, Robert Rhinehart, who believes that human beings waste far too much time, money and energy on eating meals that often lack nutrients.
A cheap, easy and thoughtless way of getting necessary nutrients can look like the perfect solution, and the more one thinks about Soylent, the more a very tired and overscheduled part of one’s brain begins to agree with the concept of streamlining this very simple aspect of life.
Rhinehart’s passion for Soylent goes beyond a mere desire to save time; it seems that he is passionate about making positive change through addressing hunger and poverty. He wants to see people freed from, essentially, the constraints of the body’s needs while still enjoying the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet. And from the perspective of a burned-out college student, one less thing to worry about at least sounds tempting.
However, Soylent isn’t perfect and the drink isn’t so much a product of world hunger as it is the work-till-you-drop culture.
Some who try to subsist on it struggle with indigestion, cravings for solid food, and Soylent’s bland flavor. It is boldly utilitarian, standing in stark contrast to a culture that has created entire TV channels around food.
Soylent rejects the emphasis on plating and visuals, and can be served from any personalitydevoid pitcher into a glass or other container. The goal here is clearly function over form.
Soylent is by far not the first meal replacement drink, either.
From Slim Fast to Ensur and Carnation Instant Breakfast, science and the food industry have been trying for far longer than Soylent’s origin to answer the country’s needs for fast, easy and dependable calories.
In many ways, Soylent and other nutritional drinks appear to be the logical end to fast food, although Soylent is more a symptom of a work-obsessed culture than anything else.
Despite the stereotype that Americans are lazy, the U.S. actually represents one of the world’s hardest working developed nations. Americans work longer hours, get less vacation time, and tend to work nights and weekends.
Young Americans feel especially overworked, with many college students experiencing sometimes very severe forms of depression and anxiety. All of this work apparently means the parts of life that make us human and alive, like eating, sleeping, and meaningful relationships, tend to suffer.
In order to meet the hours, Americans morph themselves into machines: they don’t eat, sleep or enjoy each others’ company. Students use anything to keep them going, from coffee to “study drugs” like Adderall or meal replacements like Soylent, without asking if their bodies are really the issue.
After all, it’s far easier to force our physical bodies into a work culture than to ask if our obsession with work is the problem.