The article, “The End of Food”, by Lizzie Widdicomb examines a tech entrepreneur, Rob Rhinehart, and his product Soylent. After Rhinehart and some fellow entrepreneurs ran out of money while working on a technology startup, Rhinehart realized how expensive nutrient rich food could be. He tried eating cheap and unhealthy food for every meal but found that it made him feel terrible. He also tried eating cheap but healthy food for every meal, but found that he was left hungry. That is how he came up with the idea of Soylent, a food creation that incorporates all of the nutrients necessary to survive into one product. In order to create Soylent, he looked at the raw chemical components of food such as carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and lipids and studied the nutrients required for survival. After combining all of these “ingredients”, he began to live on Soylent. According to Rhinehart, his food costs dropped drastically and he noticed many health benefits.
While Rhinehart notes the distinction between meals for utility and function versus meals for experience and socialization, he definitely focuses on making eating more efficient. He values the nutritional value of food more than the cultural value. According to Rhinehart, the real value of food lies in the nutrients it offers us. He relates Soylent to water. Although water doesn’t have much taste, it is the most popular liquid because it is necessary to survive. He believes that Soylent can become the solid version of water since it also doesn’t have much taste, yet as far as he knows, it has all of the nutrients necessary to survive. While other forms of meal replacement liquids have been around for a long time, Rhinehart believes his product is different because it is aimed at efficiency rather than specified health benefits. For example, products like Muscle Milk do not aim to replace food altogether, instead they aim to help people bulk up. Rhinehart also sees the environmental benefits of Soylent. Livestock on farms cause a lot of greenhouse-gas emissions, which lead to climate change. If Rhinehart succeeds in creating an algae that produces Soylent and popularizing it, factories and farms wouldn’t be necessary.
While I could definitely see using Soylent at times when I need to save money and be efficient with my time, such as exam weeks, I could never see replacing a majority of my meals with this product. Personally, I value the experience of eating a meal more than I value the dietary worth. However, I think it is possible to have both an enjoyable and nutritional meal without Soylent. Eating a good meal can be expensive and take up a lot of time, but as Widdicomb says, “meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or bad sandwich”. If Soylent were to become our main source of nutrition, the human experience would be very different. Imagine a world where all the restaurants we love close down because they can’t afford to stay in business, or a world where we no longer gather with family and friends to share the experience of an amazing meal. Just because humans could sustain on Soylent, doesn’t mean we should sustain on Soylent.
Widdicombe, Lizzie. “The End of Food.” The New Yorker. N.p., 12 May 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.