Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Soylent for everyone!

I suppose I could join the many people who have been writing about Donald Trump's penchant for grabbing pussies.  I don't really feel like writing about Trump, though.  Enough people are doing it.  I would rather write about something else.  But for those who are intrigued by Trump and his "locker room banter", here's a picture.

It was new and exciting when I first shared it on Facebook, but I think it's already made the rounds.  And yeah, this is kind of how I feel about pussy grabbing, though I doubt Trump would be interested in mine, anyway.

What I'd rather write about today is my discovery of Soylent.  Before last Friday, I had never heard of the stuff.  I learned about it when I shared an article about a Missouri lawmaker who is bound and determined to take steak and seafood off the list of things people on welfare can purchase with their SNAP cards.  Upon closer examination of the article, I see that it's very old-- was written in April 2015.  Moreover, I have vented about this before on my blog.  I was riding in the car when I found and shared the article, so I use that as an excuse as to why I didn't notice that it was old news.

Anyway, I shared it on Facebook and one of my friends wrote "Soylent for everyone!"  I asked Bill what Soylent was and he told me a very convoluted story about a 1973 science fiction film starring Charlton Heston.  The movie was called Soylent Green.  Naturally, I have not seen this movie, but Bill has.  And the way he described it made it sound very depressing.  Actually, it sounded a bit like Kurt Vonnegut's short story, "Welcome to the Monkey House".  


Kurt Vonnegut introduces one of my favorites of his short stories.

Soylent Green is another story about a futuristic world where everything is overpopulated and industrialized and people are miserable.  It's a world where people volunteer for euthanasia and their corpses are turned into Soylent Green, a "green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton" from the World Ocean, more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors "Red" and "Yellow", but in short supply."

Interesting that there is actually a product available for people to buy called Soylent, especially given that in the film, Soylent Green, the stuff turned out to be made of human beings.  It's a real thing, though thankfully the stuff you can actually purchase is not made of human corpses.  Soylent was invented by Rob Rhinehart as an "open source meal replacement".  It's available in liquid or powder form or as a solid form meal bar.  Supposedly, Soylent contains all of the nutrients an average person needs without excess saturated fats, sugars, and cholesterol.

I did a Google search and found one man's accounting of spending one month eating nothing but Soylent.  The guy who lived on Soylent for a month is Josh Helton.  He's a long distance runner who averages 60 to 70 miles a week.  He was intrigued by the idea of consuming Soylent for a month.  Helton writes that Soylent creator Rob Rhinehart developed the product to "maximize efficiency".  Very little time is needed to prepare Soylent.  Very little time is necessary to consume it.  Therefore, a very busy person can get all he or she needs by ingesting Soylent instead of regular food.  Helton also writes that he "supports crazy".  Alrighty then.

I don't want to get too much into Helton's results, because you can and should read his blog post for that.  It's a very good read.  What I want to comment on is that reading his post drove home to me just how important real food is.  Helton seemed to value the Soylent, although he does admit that he got drunk on night 15 of his thirty day experiment and he also needed to add a teaspoon of peanut butter to the drink because he wasn't getting enough protein.      

It's interesting that my Facebook friend made the comment "Soylent for everyone!", although I'm pretty sure he was being facetious.  I have a feeling that there are some politicians out there who might think Soylent would be a good solution for people on welfare.  They don't deserve "real food" or a treat because they aren't paying their own bills.  Or, at least that seems to be the mindset among some people.

Josh Helton's experiment with Soylent was apparently mostly successful.  He said the stuff satisfied him and even made him feel "great" at times, even though he did have to supplement it with peanut butter.  Although Soylent didn't taste "bad", it also didn't taste very "good".  It was just a substance that would satisfy him, keep him somewhat contented, and give him most of the nutrition he needed.  He even writes that he plans to keep using it, even though the stuff gave him really rancid farts that were bad enough to wake his wife.

One thing Helton mentioned, though, is that there is a huge emotional connection to food.  Eating is one of life's pleasures.  Good food is restorative.  It takes time to make good food-- time that can be spent enjoying one another's company and sharing.  Helton writes:

"for me, maybe for most, the implementation of Soylent most likely hints at a lifestyle of overwhelming work… whether we realize it or not. The process of eating solid food creates space, breathing, and slowness. It creates perspective."

Maybe this is something politicians will eventually aim for when they change food assistance programs.  We already see it in school cafeterias when kids can't pay for their lunches.  Cafeteria workers take away the child's hot food, which they will eventually throw away.  They replace it with a cold cheese sandwich.  The child still gets to eat, but is publicly shamed and gets something less tasty and satisfying because they are "broke".  It's not unlike welfare recipients who endure shame when they dare to pay for something extravagant like steak with their SNAP cards.

Woman yells at man at WalMart for paying for food with a SNAP card.

TOMO News's take on the incident.

Soylent for welfare recipients would serve the dual purpose of shaming them publicly while still giving them what their bodies technically need nutritionally.  There is nothing appetizing about Soylent, but if you live on it, you won't starve.  And hey, you'll have more time to look for a proper job!  You won't need kitchen facilities, either.

Count me among those who think the potential concept of "Soylent for everyone" may seem very practical, but is actually quite demoralizing and cruel.  Moreover, I don't think people should have to be forced to adhere to a certain diet just because they happen to have the misfortune of being poor.  Being broke is not a crime and people who don't have money are already struggling as it is.  Moreover, anyone who has ever had a job has paid into the welfare system.  The money is budgeted for a purpose.  Why shouldn't people use it, especially when they've paid (or are paying, since not all people on welfare are unemployed) into it?

I know a lot of people are frustrated by what they see as people "taking advantage" of the welfare system.  Having worked as a social worker, I know that there are people out there who do take advantage.  I had a client who knew the system in two different states better than I ever will.  However, I really don't think people like my former client are the norm.  I think poor people deserve dignity and the ability to make their own choices.  Self-determination is a huge thing-- it's huge to have that dignity and self-respect when the chips are down.  I know some people think that being broke and miserable is a great incentive for one to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  But unfortunately, it's not so simple as that.  Many people who are poor are also depressed.  While food can be used as a way to self-medicate depression, good food is also a legitimate cure for feeling blue. When you don't feel depressed, you might stand a better chance of changing your circumstances for the better instead of falling into hopelessness and despair.

Good food as one of life's most basic and simplest pleasures.  I think all people deserve good, nutritious, wholesome food.  It would be nice if everyone had the means to buy their own food, but not everyone does.  I think the United States is a place where there should be no poverty or hunger because we have so many vast resources. Unfortunately, some Americans also have collectively very selfish attitudes.  One of the many things I love about living in Germany is that there seems to be more of an appreciation for community and making things good for people as a whole.  Granted, taxes are a whole lot more expensive here, but most people live well.  There's less crime, less hunger, and less homelessness.  Or, at least that's how it seems.  

This is not to say that countries in Europe, and Germany specifically, don't have social ills.  There are problems here just as there are in the United States.  But people here seem to appreciate good, high quality food and recognize that life is not just about work.  There is time to prepare and eat a good meal, enjoy a vacation, and yes, raise one's children without constantly having to worry about being extremely productive and efficient at a job.  There doesn't seem to be a pervasive attitude that poor people deserve the very least they can get.  I doubt very seriously that most Europeans would embrace the idea of "Soylent for everyone"... or at least those who can't pay their own way.  Unfortunately, I think there are way too many Americans who think the poor should eat gruel and like it.

Good food is necessary for good health.  In the long run, it serves people well to have access to quality food that will sustain them and make them feel well.  It also serves people to be able to make their own decisions regarding what they will eat.  Yes, there are people who need welfare because they've made bad decisions and yes, some people on welfare do take advantage.  On the other hand, there are many people on welfare due to overwhelming bad luck.  Should we insist that those people eat tasteless, cheap food because they've been unlucky?  Should we automatically assume that someone who needs welfare is stupid and in need of "special help", unable to make his or her own choices?  And really, if you're only getting $140 a month in food assistance for a family of four, are you really going to be buying steak and seafood on a regular basis?  Probably not.

Anyway, count me among those who hopes our society never embraces the concept of "Soylent for everyone".  I could see it getting popular in a place like North Korea, maybe.  In fact, given the nature of that society, it seems like Soylent would be ideal.  Cut down the protein content and you'll have the recipe for a docile, compliant society that does what it's told.  Do we want that for America? I hope not.  Good food is part of a good life and good health.  Mealtime should be sacred, not something that needs to be cut out in the name of "efficiency" or cost cutting.  I will end this post with a quote Mr. Helton included in his blog post.  He took this quote from an article he read:

I’m taken back to an article I read a few years ago written by a female nurse who worked in a hospice. It was called Regrets of Dying. In her patients’ final weeks of life, they revealed profound wisdom. This quote stuck with me most:

“All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

Work is important.  Being productive is important.  But so is being humane and decent and so is enjoying life to some extent.  So I just say no to "Soylent for everyone!"  Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to enjoy some of the delicious French bread and butter we got in France!


  1. When I first saw the word "Soylent" kin your blog, I though immediately of the movie "Soylent Green." I don't know if it was originally made for TV or just eventually made its way to the small screen. My mom, being the youngest of seven (her twin was her age, but the other sibs were older) and from a permissive family as military families went, saw it on TV while older kids in the family watched it when she was 8 or 9, and it horrified her to the point of bad dreams. Her older brothers and sisters had a great time teasing her about it, basically saying that every food that appeared on their table was soylent green. It's still a running family joke, with someone saying the Christmas turkey or whatever is actually soylent green; it only LOOKS like turkey.

    As far as "soylent," the real thing, I suppose in a third-world situation where people were literally starving, it might be a temporary solution until we could find a better way of getting real food to the people. And if anyone actually chooses to eat the stuff, more power to him or her, but it's now officially on my Donner Party List. I'm sure I could never keep it down, so what would be the point of eating it?

    I don't know how long "soylent" has been in existence. If it hasn't been around close to a generation and hasn't been eaten by a large sampling of people, anyone who bases his or her diet around it is being foolish. I'll let someone else be the guinea pig. This is on a smaller scale, as margarine or butter really shouldn't be a basic staple in anyone's diet, but remember when margarine was supposed to be the answer to all the cardiovascular issues caused by butter? Then it turns out that, with its trans-fatty acids, it's actually much worse for a person than butter is. The idea all along should have been, except for those so very allergic to dairy (I'm not merely talking about the lactose intolerant among us) that even spreading a teaspoon of butter on something makes them seriously ill, to eat butter but to do so in moderation. When you butter your popcorn, there shouldn't be more butter than popcorn in the bowl. Eating food that isn't found in nature is taking a bit of a chance, which I take sometimes when I eat some of the garbage-y candy I occasionally consume. I'd be better off eating less candy but eating GOOD candy, as in See's chocolates, made with natural ingredients. I'm not going to lose any sleep over the red dye #2 found in trace quantities in a pack of M & Ms I might eat, but I'm also not going to base my diet on synthetic foods.

    Welfare and food stamps are surely abused, but as long as we as a society can fund the present system, I'd rather not worry about people going hungry. Perhaps the system could be a bit more vigilant in handing them out, but just as our justice system is weighted so that ten guilty people should go free before a single innocent person is incarcerated, maybe ten non-deserving people should be given access to Snap cards or whatever before one truly destitute person is left to go hungry. I also cannot bear the idea of the aged or of little children not having enough to eat. Perhaps I'm a bleeding-heart liberal, but just because I was lucky enough to be born into a family that always had food on the table doesn't mean that every other child has been so fortunate.

    1. Soylent has been around since 2013.

      I really don't believe that SNAP cards are as abused as some people think they are. There will always be people gaming the system, but as it stands now, in most places you have to jump through a lot of hoops, some of which are pretty humiliating, to get assistance. My thought is that our society has plenty of food that goes to waste. I really don't give a flying fuck what people on welfare are eating. I don't pay attention to what they put in their grocery carts or how they pay for their food. And I find it really sickening that there are so many people in America who do resent others for simply for having the nerve to use the assistance that we have available to our citizens. I don't think it's good when people abuse assistance, but food is a very basic thing. We have plenty of food, so people in our society should have access to it.

      And yes, children, sick people, and the elderly should especially have access to decent food.


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