And We Forgot The Taste Of Bread: Soylent, Day One

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’m one of those annoying gits who actually calls himself a foodie, and I usually don’t feel too ashamed about that.  Over the past two years I’ve made it a quest to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants to find out what great food truly tastes like.  I’ve eaten plenty of weird stuff.
So when it came time to eat the food that was not a food – the weirdest food that could be – of course I had to try it.
I found out about Soylent at the same time mainstream America did – when that New Yorker article went live.  Soylent was a gray goop that contained all the nutrients a human needed to survive, and several pallid men had replaced their entire diet with this sludge and were still living – well, if you can call a life without a good steak “living.”  They’d developed their own culture, where “pleasure eating” was a kind of weakness, touting a new lifestyle that was purer because you didn’t have all of these sugar-frosted distractions.
Also, they farted a lot.  Like, ambulance-engulfing clouds of pure toxic sulfur.  So I’m told.
So for a foodie, what better experience could you have than trying to live without food as we understand it?  What would it be like to spend a week dropping that experience from my daily life?  Sure, the physical changes would be intriguing – but mentally, what does drinking goop do to you? Would we become placid nutrient-animals, the next level of the hipster-food crowd turned to goop-enlightenment, sniffing haughily that really, you don’t need that quinoa, when the pure stuff is in this sedimented glass?
Or would we be grabbing our friends’ lapels and thrusting our noses into their mouths, huffing, “Please. Lemme just smell your food. I can tell – that’s popcorn, isn’t it? Oh, God, I miss popcorn, let me lick your teeth, I’ll give you a dollar.”
So my wife and I bought a week’s supply and committed to a week of Soylent. Because frankly, we live our lives to maximize our chances of whacky sitcom experiences, and this seemed like the sort of dumb-ass bet that the Seinfeld crew would commit to.
The interesting thing is that we started debating what “food” was even before the games begun.  I rummaged around in my pocket for my keys and wound up asking, “Hey, does this gum count as food?”  (It did.)  My wife had to write her obituary for her mother, and we both agreed that a glass of wine to dull the pain would be acceptable – but then I talked her into taking a Xanax instead, just to keep the experience pure.
Yes, we are sufficiently hardcore that we are Soylenting it up during funerals.
When you order Soylent, you… don’t get Soylent. My initial Soylent order was back in May and they sent it at the end of October. Apparently, reprocessing all those dead humans takes some time. So if you’re sufficiently encouraged to go, “I’d like to replace this delicious food in my fridge with nothing!” well, sadly you’re going to have to keep your taste buds primed for the next half a year until the Gods of Soylent send stuff out to you.
(Alternatively, you can make your own Soylent by going all Breaking Bad with a bunch of ordered-in chemicals, but… I’ve done crafts projects before.  I’ve seen how my first sad attempts to build a jewelry box went.  And I thought about eating the equivalent of that warped and badly-sawn jewelry box, and decided that feeding myself my own incompetence was probably not the way to go.)
But when you do get Soylent, this is a day’s supply.
Soylent.
Inside the packet is a grainy sand that looks like dry pancake batter mix. It smells malty, with a surprisingly sharp sting of artificial sugar in it, even though there’s no artificial sugar. It doesn’t feel threatening, though at any moment we hoped a small sand worm would burst from the surface so we could proclaim ourselves the Muad’dib of the goop circuit.
Soylent.
Then you pour the Soylent into the airtight jug they give you. They make a big deal about it being airtight, which I guess is because if it wasn’t vacuum-sealed then the other foods in your refrigerator would lend it flavor. And then you’d drink and be reminded that hey, this is a ludicrous idea, we have fucking cheese in this fridge, and then you’d fling the airtight container at the wall and eat a bowling ball-sized hunk of cheese.
…also, I now wonder whether hipster Soylent fanatics are going to remind us that they don’t have a fridge in the same way that annoying hipsters go way far out of their way to remind us that they don’t have televisions.
“So the power went out the other day at my apartment…”
“Oh?” *slurps Soylent conspicuously* “That must have been so hard for you, what with that gigantic power-wasting appliance full of perishable foods and all.”
Soylent.
Then you pour the fish oil into the Soylent, which was a major concern to me. As a heart patient, I have to take four fish oil tablets a day, and if you buy the cheap kind you get what are known in the biz as the “fish burps” – wherein every five minute or so, you burp and your nostrils are filled with the rich scent of rotting salmon.
If I were a genie and wanted to wish a living hell upon my enemies, I would give them all ENDLESS FISH BURPS.
But the fish oil had no smell – literally. I shoved my nostril right over that bottle like I was about to spritz some nasal spray right up in this schnozz, and all I smelled was the pain when my wife beat me about the head and shoulders and yelled “STOP PUTTING THAT BOTTLE UP YOUR NOSE, WE ARE DRINKING THAT.”
Soylent.
Then you add water! Doesn’t it look delicious?
Soylent.
Gini does not think it looks delicious.
Soylent.
But after you shake it up, you have two glasses of goop. Gini had hers on the rocks, much like our marriage after I suggested this lunatic idea; I had mine with crushed ice, crushed like my dreams of eating food ever again.
Soylent.
And we toasted. Gini’s toast was, “The problem with performance art is that eventually you have to perform.”
Soylent.
And…
It wasn’t terrible.
Basically, what you had was a grainier Slim-Fast (or Ensure, if that’s your recovering-from-dental-surgery jam) that wasn’t overpowered with sugar to make it palatable. People said it was like drinking thin pancake batter, but that’s inaccurate, at least when it’s cold – pancake batter has a sort of eggy, sweet edge to it, whereas this is basically drinking chilled yeast. You have to keep swirling the glass to keep it from sedimenting, which makes you look like a douche – the glass-swirl is the trick of wine connoisseurs everywhere, and you look like, “Hrm, what kind of top notes am I detecting in this quicksand?” when really you’re just trying to stop all of the muck from collecting in the bottom and the ice from melting at the top.
Soylent.
But the first taste wasn’t bad.
Yet what nobody’s discussed about Soylent that I’ve seen is the fermentation problem.
Because when you drink Soylent, you get a muck-slick at the back of your throat. That stuff washes over your tonsils like the sea pulling out at low tide, leaving them coated in a fine grain of Soylent-sludge. And that’s not too bad – you wind up swallowing convulsively like a dog eating peanut butter, but that’s a worthy sacrifice to make for Goop Life.
(I didn’t choose the Goop Life. The Goop Life chose me.)
Yet as the minutes wear on, the sediment in your throat reacts with your back palate, and in about twenty minutes there’s an olfactory pit created back there that starts jamming the odor of “bad barback” up the underside of your nostrils. It’s the scent of dive bars everywhere, that beer poured onto a mat and left to just do its own beery thing, the alcohol long since evaporated but the grains living on. And it seems to grow at the back of your throat like a chia pet, fuzzing more and more like that yellowish slick you find on your tongue after a hard night out, and then you run to the kitchen for a glass of water to try to wash out the back of your mouth.
It’s not that bad, actually. But it’s a little distressing when you’re typing emails and realize you’ve got a petri dish growing at the back of your throat that needs to get dealt with.
But hey! That first glass went down pretty damn well. What could go wrong after this?
TOMORROW: The terrible things your friends do when they find out you’re drinking Soylent.

7 Comments

  1. Alexa
    Nov 12, 2014

    Heyas, I’ve got some xanthum gum which can help with the graininess and sediment. Helps keep it all suspended. I use it for my own Soylent DIY drinks. Hit me up if you want me to express some your way, it only takes about a gram for a whole days worth.
    Also for your problems with the goop in the back of your throat, it’s worth adding a little bit of water for the end and it can help wash it out. Also if you’re really stuck you can gargle water ;).
    You may want to check the boards though as the two most common recommended additives are Xanthum Gum(or Gum Arabic), but also adding a bit of salt. Soylent really undercuts the recommended daily intake of salt and so that can result in headaches and problems in just a day or two.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 13, 2014

      Gini shivered, because one of the things that let her do this was the fact that it does NOT have Xanthum gum, which she finds repellent.
      Gini also ate some salt yesterday. I may, too.

  2. ShawnJ
    Nov 12, 2014

    I have heard that the best way to prepare it is to keep it in the fridge overnight and add the fish oil right before you drink it. Or to let it set-up for 30 minutes after you mix it. Doing either of those things apparently let the mixture set up and be much more pleasant texture wise.

  3. Kayla
    Nov 13, 2014

    Is it gluten free? Lol. Not being a smart ass, my husband suffers from celiac disease and is really depressed about food. I remember him talking about this stuff when that article came out.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 13, 2014

      I honestly don’t know, as I never worry about gluten. But I’m sure it’s on the FAQ on the site.

  4. Sparklerox
    Nov 13, 2014

    One of the funniest things I’ve read in some time, and I think I’m happy staying a “foodie” in the more traditional sense. But please, by all means, continue the Goop Life and I will continue thoroughly enjoying reading about it!

  5. Sandy Conley
    Nov 15, 2014

    The taste to me was exactly like if someone powdered a turkey. Granted, my tastebuds have been a bit wonky lately, but I think that signal got through. I lasted about three days before my misadventure took me to the psych ward, but I don’t plan to go back to it. I’d rather have my turkey with texture (and mayonnaise).

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