The end of eating?

The other day, as a group of us grappled with the important question of the meaning of life (hey, someone’s got to figure it out!), a young colleague suggested that humans have evolved into far more complicated beings than was the case a few millennia ago, in large measure due to our interaction with complex modern technology, and that our needs, desires, and expectations will have changed accordingly. Those of us of the older generation weren’t buying it, observing that the fundamental things we’re all looking for – happiness and fulfilment – haven’t changed. However, an article I came across in this morning’s paper has given me pause. My younger colleague might be onto something.

The article concerned a U.S. company called Soylent, which has had its products banned from sale in Canada because they didn’t pass the requirements of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. These things happen. The U.S. occasionally bans some food, medicinal, or mechanical product that is available in Canada, and one wonders why. Canada bans some food item or drug from time to time that’s available in the U.S. and one might wonder why as well. [And Canada occasionally neglects to ban something that should definitely have been banned.] One would think that the respective inspection agencies would be in agreement when making these determinations, given presumably similar data, but apparently not always. I don’t usually read the small print on these decisions. However, I wasn’t in a hurry to get going this morning, so the article got more attention than might normally have been the case.

It turns out that Soylent is a full meal replacement, available either as a drink or in powder form. It was developed by someone who was working in Silicon Valley a few years ago and made the enlightening observation that time spent cooking – and eating – were getting in the way of working. Why not find a way to do away with the whole process? Why not, indeed! So this product is intended to do away with all that wasted time; you can just chug it down at your desk and forget about having to stop to eat. How remarkably liberating. And there is no doubt that grocery shopping would be seriously simplified. Genius.

Skipping the bother of eating, life is good!

It appears that there are some warnings that come along with the product; for starters, you should start by only imbibing a Solvent drink once per week until your body “acclimatizes” to this new food source. After that, presumably you can figure out what works best for you. Maybe you’ll still want to eat some actual food from time to time, who knows. It also turns out that the company had some recalls with earlier versions of their products because of gastrointestinal illnesses. But if Soylent gets their products sorted out so that they’re safe, and perhaps actually do provide one’s body with all its required nutrition, is this the way of the future? Perhaps this new technological breakthrough will change how we define happiness or fulfilment.

Work colleagues bonding over food, on the way out?

Think of the economic advantage gained by a region or country that has overcome the inconvenience of eating; those happy, fulfilled people can just keep on working productively. Pity the rest of the world having to sit down for full meals, lulled into thinking that they’re actually enjoying the time spent talking with friends and colleagues, tasting a variety of flavours and textures, maybe even relaxing. For now, thanks to the fussy folks at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we Canadians are going to be forced to stick with eating food and wasting more time. That is, unless we can successfully smuggle a supply of who-needs-food-when-you-can-work drinks across the border!

Photo credits: Hugh&Crye@ Twitter, Fotolia

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14 Responses to The end of eating?

  1. jane tims says:

    The word ‘soylent’ rang a bell with me, so I googled it … Soylent Green was an 1973 movie with Charleston Heston about pretend food and the greenhouse effect!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Boy, you have a good memory! In fact, they do mention that on their product web page and go on to make it clear that Soylent’s not named from the movie reference but is actually from some later “literary” reference that has to do with health. Personally, I would have steered clear of anything that reminded someone of a movie where food was made from dead bodies!! 😀

  2. jane tims says:

    I also think there is value in caring for oneself, keeping in touch with one’s biological connections. And I need a break from work … for me, chopping vegetables does some of the trick!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Jane. For me, chopping veggies is not my ideal break from work, but then again, now that I’m retired (for good this time, I swear), my “work” are the things I’ve chosen to do. But I definitely enjoy the fruits of having chopped the veggies. Chopping to eat is far more rewarding than shaking to drink my meal replacement!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    I am always mortified when the gift eating is taken away from us by those that think a “shake” can give us all the nutrients we need to sustain life. IT just bugs the hell out of me. To be honest the simple need to eat at the table with your family is by far the thing I remember more than the food. We did not always speak, but mom always made sure we had a great meal to eat together for supper. Ok. Maybe not every meal was good in my opinion! haha We also did not always talk because we were too busy eating!!!! We were together though even if silent.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Alesia, it’s funny to read you say that eating a meal together was important, even though, OK, the food wasn’t to your liking, and, OK, we didn’t always talk. It’s funny because I know exactly what you mean! Being together at least once a day was – and hopefully is for many people – IS important. If it can’t be for eating (which if we stop and think about it really does have to make us wonder what kind of a society we’re creating – then it should be some other time during the waking hours. We need to share our lives, our hopes, our concerns, etc.

  4. jennypellett says:

    It’s a shuddering thought – 1984 and Brave New World rolled into one. Eating together, one of the greatest bonding experiences humans can have, is slowly being eroded away. Just look at people on other tables when you visit a coffee shop or restaurant: most of them ignore each other in preference to using their mobile phones. Perhaps in the future, people will only need to lick their screens to gain sustenance. 😄

    • Jane Fritz says:

      That’s really it, isn’t it, Jenny? We’re all addicted to the technology and it really is impacting our human-human interaction (although, a lot of what we’re doing is interacting through technology instead of face to face!). I was taken aback by the notion that not having to eat so that we could work more was identified as a money maker and social advantage (the product’s web page describes it as more of a lifestyle than a food!). However, there’s no doubt that I spent most of the last 15 years of my career eating at my desk while continuing to work at my screen – although I was eating. Now I’m wondering if the work had been done through paper and telephone instead of through a computer screen if I would have been more likely to take the time to go eat away from the desk regardless of workload. I think probably yes. Undoubtedly yes. Hmm.

  5. Emilia says:

    I just made a “moussaka” that smells divine….no, I’ m not ready to embrace a ” no food” way of life!!!!

  6. Janice says:

    When I lived in Guatemala in the mid to late 1960’s there was a “food replacement” product that was being promoted to improve the health of the indigenous people. It was a powder (Encaparina) mixed into water – a little gritty but not too bad tasting. I had some a few times. Yes, I remember it from that far back…. Encaparina provided “everything” (from a food perspective) a person would need for health. Bottom line – it failed. Don’t know the actual reason – but I think I could make a pretty educated guess. I’m pretty sure it was doomed from the start. Just thinking us human’s are doomed to repeat history over and over. Geez.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What an interesting story, Janice. Thanks for sharing it. Trying this experiment so that an aboriginal population is ensured of receiving nutritional requirements may be at least a more justifiable reason than doing so to avoid taking the time to eat despite all kinds of nutritional food on offer. However, I agree with you. My instinct also tells me that our bodies need the actual food, with its textures, bulk, and fibre. But, boy, there are a dismaying number of examples presenting themselves around the world this year to remind us of how we’re doomed to repeat history … over and over again! 😦

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