Sunday, September 1st, 2013, I placed a $255.00 order for One Month Supply of Soylent, a futuristic powder food that simply requires the addition of water to sustain human life indefinitely on planet earth and beyond. The purchase was an impulse decision governed by two underlying facts:
- A good friend from college was experimenting with a homemade DIY version of soylent, which alerted me to its existence.1
- My position in life was changing such that I would soon be more directly responsible for my daily bread. Like most Americans, I’m too starved for time to have to worry about other forms of starvation simultaneously.
My understanding was that my Soylent was to arrive in late 2013, once Rosa Labs2 had the recipe finalized. During the interim, I bought about ten food powders from Amazon and made my own version, which I wrote about. DIY soylent was interesting but ultimately non-sustainable as a viable food option. I daresay most who partook in that experiment would concur.
My Soylent did not arrive in late 2013, though the company kept promising that the shipment was just around the corner. In November Rosa Labs promised a January 2014 shipment. In January they hoped “by the end of February” to begin shipment. Each update pushed the shipment date further and further into the new calendar. It became a longstanding joke with my skeptical friends that Soylent was perpetually coming “in a couple of weeks”.
It was not until Saturday, August 2nd, 2014, that I finally received my Soylent. This was 11 months and 1 day after I had pre-ordered it. So the burning question is, was it worth the wait? How good is Soylent—is it a viable alternative to what most humans consider edible food? As I see it, a given food has four distinct questions that it must answer:
- Is it healthy?
- Is it inexpensive?
- Is it easily prepared?
- Is it tasty?
We can knock the first 3 questions out of the way fairly quickly, as you can get most of the pertinent information from the Soylent web site. Soylent is healthy, inexpensive, and easily prepared.3-4
Answering the question regarding taste first requires a historic and international context. For most of human existence, the problem of having enough food—let alone food that is nutritious and varied—has been a huge problem. Even in the 21st century, 13% of the world is going to bed hungry according to the World Food Programme. Every 2 in 7 world citizens are affected by vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Modern Americans have access to virtually every kind fruit, vegetable, grain, meat, and recipe that has graced the tables of fine dining throughout the millennia. In a historic and international context this is abnormal human experience. Millions of citizens in other countries have lived and continue to live on beans and rice three times per day, seven days per week.
A limited diet may sound bad to you until you remember that the United States is the second fattest nation in 2014, second to Mexico.5 Would you rather be obese with an unlimited menu, or fashionably thin with less exciting meals?
Soylent clearly falls in the latter category. In the words of Robert Rinehart, CEO of Rosa Labs, Soylent is “definitely not trying to compete with the experience of your mom’s cooking.” I tend to agree. Unlike DIY soylent, however, it is possible to eat Soylent unchilled and without frozen fruit. Due to the level of carbohydrates—84g per serving—Soylent is slightly sweet and quite agreeable. I plan to add raw fruits in the future for their enzyme benefits but it’s important to note that blending in mixed fruit is not necessary to make Soylent palatable.
What about the flatulence problem, which caused my shipment an additional 1 month delay? Thus far, I am not experiencing abnormal amounts of flatulence.6 In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “It is universally well known that in digesting our common food, there is created or produced in the bowels of human creates a great quantity of wind. … [S]o retained contrary to nature, it not only gives frequently great present pain, but occasions future diseases.”7 So, I will leave this subject for the time being by saying that flatulence was a problem 300 years ago, it will always be a problem, and Soylent does not noticeably magnify the problem in my experience.
In conclusion, I have not yet re-ordered Soylent8 but I plan to soon. If you’re on the fence whether to get any or not, that should be the deciding factor. People eat this stuff.
2 Rosa Labs is the company that engineers and produces Soylent. I’m not sure exactly the timeframe that this entity came into existence, but it was sometime before November 7, 2013.
3There was some ambiguity early on about exactly how much Soylent cost per meal. When I received my order confirmation, my one month supply was said to break down to $2.83 per meal. At a total cost of $255.00, this meant Rosa Labs intended to mail 30 days of food. The actual delivery was 4 boxes containing 7 meals each, which rounds to $3.04 per meal. This is still a third of the price of a Beast Burger and soft drink at Northeastern State University’s cafeteria, so I maintain that Soylent is inexpensive.
4The only common complaint about preparation is that the Soylent powder gets everywhere in the kitchen, no matter how hard you try. My experience is similar, though I’m not sure how you can solve this problem with a powder food. Sometimes life is messy.
5Thanks to modern fast food, a third world country can eclipse a first world country in obesity. Fascinating.
6I’ve eaten 2010 calories of Soylent in the past 24 hours.
7Isaacson, Walter. (2004). Benjamin Franklin : An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Pg. 373.
8I have yet to decide how much weight to give to the words, “As a #SoylentPioneer, we’ll give your reorder top priority.” Does that mean I’ll get my reorder in 6 months, as opposed to having to wait another 11?