soy bowl

Long the stuff of science fiction, Soylent has finally become a real thing. It’s a liquid food substitute that looks like a bizarre cross between milk and mayonnaise (I gagged a little just writing that). For some reason, the Silicone Valley crowd swears this weird food is an excellent alternative to eating. Is the world really ready to start drinking tasteless nutrients instead of chewing real food?

Soylent is up and running thanks to a succesful crowdfunding campaign. The company plans to officially launch in December, and just recently they locked in a $1.5 million round of investment. It’s backed by people like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and big venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The brainchild (can we really call it that?) of Rob Rhinehart really is exactly what it sounds like: a way to drink all of your daily nutritional needs without eating. In fact Soylent currently accounts for 90 percent of Rhinehart’s diet. While there’s no denying that a Solyent-heavy diet will free up some time thanks to not having to cook, I have to wonder, is drinking our meals really the way of the future?

According to TechCrunch, Soylent is “a mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins and dozens of other vitamins that are deemed medically necessary by the Institute of Medicine for a person to live.” Ok, so you can drink and stay alive. Great. But is it for everyone? And what about the other benefits of real food, like personal enjoyment and building strong community through shared meals?

There’s also the financial question: while Rhinehart wants Soylent to cost around $5 a day, right now a week’s supply will retail for around $65. Then there’s the simple “weird” factor: how many people are ready to drink their daily nutrients? Does it even taste good? It has been described as “a bit bland.”

As another writer put it, “Based on Rhinehart’s pitch, I expected drinking Soylent to be effortless and futuristically cool, like licking an iPhone 5. In reality, Soylent resembles watered-down oatmeal. Unflavored, it tastes sour and wheaty, with a wan viscosity that gives off the impression of having already passed through someone else’s body.” Mmmm.

Rhinehart wants it to be a ubiquitous, nutritious, inexpensive food source that people pick up at the grocery store instead of reaching for a bag of chips, and it’d be handy to have on hand in a life-threatening emergency, but you have to wonder if people would ever choose it over real food.

I guess we’ll have to wait until the first batch of Soylent hits the market to find out.

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Image: Jennifer Donley